* Congress votes to give company 30-month extension
* Thousands of jobs at stake
* Smelter town one of the world’s most polluted places
* Company says operations could restart “in weeks” (Adds company comment, operations, deadline)
By Teresa Cespedes
LIMA, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Peru’s Congress voted on Thursday to give the financially troubled Doe Run Peru smelter a 30-month extension on its environmental cleanup deadline, possibly paving the way for a restart of operations.
Doe Run Peru, owned by privately held U.S.-based Renco Group, stopped production at its La Oroya smelter in June, when it ran out of money after banks cut off credit.
The company has said it could regain access to loans and restart production at the world’s most diversified smelter if its deadline was extended.
The current deadline had been set to expire in October.
Congress passed the 30-month extension, which was 10 months more than a joint commission had recommended, by a vote of 85-to-1.
Almost 20,000 jobs are at stake in La Oroya, one of the most polluted towns in the world, according to an environmental study.
One policeman died and at least three others were injured this week in a clash with protesters demanding the government reopen the smelter.
RESTART OF OPERATIONS?
Jose Mogrovejo, the company’s vice president of environmental affairs, said late on Thursday that Doe Run would comply with the congressional extension and that operations at the smelter could restart within weeks.
The company had previously said it would need 36 months to complete the cleanup.
The 30-month extension now passes to Peruvian President Alan Garcia, who is expected to sign it into law.
“We can’t give an exact date, but I can tell you it’ll be in a few weeks,” said Mogrovejo about the possible restart of operations.
Doe Run Peru says it has so far spent $307 million scrubbing the smelter and may need to spend $150 million more to complete the cleanup. It owes some $110 million to its suppliers. (Reporting by Dante Alva and Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Leslie Gevirtz)