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Townsfolks Sickened After Peru Toxic Spill

Stocks in this article: BHP

But Health Minister Midori de Habich said Saturday in a radio interview that no one had been badly sickened at Cajacay.

"There have been no serious cases," she said. "We are looking at the community to see if there's any matter for concern but happily there have been no regrettable cases."

Habich also said the Fortaleza river that Cajacay's residents depend on was not contaminated.

Most villagers are subsistence farmers who grow lima beans and raise sheep. About two in five children in the highlands region suffer from malnutrition and anemia. The town has no running water or sewage system.

People treated at the San Pablo hospital said they requested but were denied results of their blood tests or any other documentation that would attest to their hospitalization, which Antamina paid. Hospital director Raul Guisse refused to discuss the cases with The Associated Press.

Last week, nearly the entire village packed into a green cement building on Cajacay's main square for a nearly four-hour meeting with five Antamina executives, who arrived in late-model SUVs along with their bodyguards.

The company's executive president, Abraham Chahuan, sitting on a white plastic chair in jeans and purple sweater, spoke little as the villagers unleashed a barrage of questions.

He and Ricardo Morel, a vice president, referred to the spill as "the incident." Morel took constant notes. They said they were open to compensating people with health damages but that would depend on "technical and medical reports" that Morel said would be complete by Sept. 22. He did not say who was doing the studies.

"In the name of the company I want to thank you for the community's active assistance during the events of last week," Chahuan said. "I only want to say that accidents occur everywhere in our daily life."

Villagers also demanded an explanation for why they have not seen the promised $10 million reservoir to provide the town with water that the company promised in 2000 as a condition of laying the pipeline. Morel said Antamina would consult with national and regional officials.

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