BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Peru has proposed loosening air quality regulations in parts of the country, a move that could clear the path toward attracting a new operator for a nearly century-old polymetallic smelter.
In a decree published late on Saturday, the Andean country's Environment Ministry proposed modifying several components of the country's environmental quality standards, including raising the sulfur dioxide emission limit to levels in line with other countries in the region including Chile, Colombia and Mexico.
Finding a buyer for the paralyzed La Oroya plant and a small copper mine is part of President Pablo Kuczynski's plans to ramp up Peru's refining capacity to add value to the world's second-biggest copper producer's exports.
But in a setback for Kuczynski's market-friendly administration, three auctions this year to sell the complex failed to attract bids as interested companies waited to see the new standards, which could reduce the cost of needed upgrades.
The government plans a new round of auctions before an August deadline to sell the plant.
The proposed standards are now open to a 10-day period of public comment.
Doe Run Peru, controlled by New York billionaire Ira Rennert's Renco Group, was the smelter's most recent owner, but it went bankrupt in 2009 without finishing needed upgrades.
(Reporting by Ursula Scollo; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by James Dalgleish)