(Add details and appointment of resigning chief of staff)
LIMA, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Peru’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Rubén Ramírez, announced on Monday the temporary stoppage of the loading and unloading of hydrocarbons from the Repsol refinery into the sea, after a spill of more than 10,000 barrels. of oil that occurred more than two weeks ago and that has caused environmental damage.
The Government’s decision was considered by the Spanish Repsol “disproportionate and unreasonable” and stated in a statement that it will make “the greatest efforts to avoid the risk of shortages of essential products” in the country.
Repsol’s La Pampilla Refinery, which supplies 40% of the Peruvian fuel market according to the company, is the largest in the Andean nation and accounts for 54% of its refining capacity.
Ramírez said on Twitter that the suspension of these activities will be until the firm “offers technical guarantees that another spill will not occur; also (because) it has not shown clear cleanup actions” in the affected areas.
The crude oil spill took place in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Lima on January 15, and Repsol’s La Pampilla Refinery attributed the event to unusual waves caused by the eruption of an underwater volcano thousands of kilometers away in the island of Tonga.
The announcement of the suspension of refinery offloading operations comes as leftist President Pedro Castillo announced the removal of his cabinet, including Prime Minister Mirtha Vásquez.
The now former head of the cabinet said on twitter, among other things that she had worked in her portfolio, that she had been preparing an international lawsuit “at the height of the seriousness of Repsol’s environmental disaster. I hope that this management continues and meets the citizen’s request for justice socio-environmental”.
Repsol has faced widespread backlash over the spill and has said it will not finish cleaning up the oil in the sea and on the coast until the end of February. Peruvian President Pedro Castillo described the event as the greatest ecological disaster that has affected the country in recent years.
Prosecutors are weighing criminal charges against the executives for the spill and managed to get a judge to bar four of them, including the chairman of the Repsol subsidiary, from leaving Peru for the next 18 months.
Peru’s government, which is also considering seeking compensation from the company for damage caused, has said the spill involved 11,900 barrels of oil, while Repsol said it was 10,396 barrels.
The Spanish oil company said that 35% of the spilled oil has already been recovered.
(Report by Marcelo Rochabrun and Marco Aquino. Edited by Javier Leira)