LIMA, Peru (AP) — More than a month after toxic slurry from a major copper mine sickened scores of people in one of Peru's highland communities, villagers complain that the mining company and the government have done little to help and have even failed to tell some parents that tests showed their children had been poisoned.

Testing eight days after the July 25 pipeline rupture found six children with unacceptably high levels of copper and one with similarly high levels of lead, but none have received any special care, Mayor Felipe Lazaro of Cajacay told The Associated Press.

In fact, he said authorities haven't even identified by name exactly which of the 18 children they tested were poisoned.

Villagers say some children still suffer nose bleeds, nausea and headaches.

"I don't know whether it's ill-will, neglect or what, but I don't understand how the government, after learning which of the children were poisoned, can refuse to identify them," Lazaro said by phone over the weekend. "How are they going to be treated if they haven't even been identified?"

At least 350 Cajacay residents were sickened by the spill of 45 tons of copper concentrate, a mineral stew of volatile compounds. At least 69 were children.

The mine's owner, Antamina, has not responded to repeated AP phone and email requests to identify the toxic components of the slurry and details on medical care it is providing for the spill victims. A document obtained by the newspaper La Republica shortly after the spill described the mixture as "highly toxic."

The company did provide initial medical treatment for the villagers, including 42 who were hospitalized in the community for up to 11 days after the spill.

Mining is the engine of Peru's region-leading economic growth. The country is the world's No. 2 producer of copper, silver and zinc and it is No. 6 producer of gold. But the mining and lax environmental regulations have taken a toll on communities, waterways and livestock.

A deputy environment minister, Mariano Castro, told the AP in mid-August that the government had examined the Cajacay slurry and expected lab results as soon as the following week.

Dr. Ted Schettler, science director of the U.S.-based Science and Environmental Health Network, said results identifying toxic components are key to treating victims properly.

A Health Ministry official, Percy Minaya, told the AP that the poisoned Cajacay children "if they have not been identified will be shortly." The rest of the villagers will know by Sept. 15 if they have been intoxicated, Minaya added.

Last month, Antamina said in a statement that it was "offering the necessary medical support of diverse medical professionals" to the children with unacceptable metal levels.

In all, 18 children between the ages of 2 and 12 and 34 adults had their blood and urine tested for copper, arsenic and lead by the government's occupational and environmental health agency, CENSOPAS. In addition to the poisoned children, one adult was found to have copper above acceptable levels, the agency said.

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says children are especially susceptible to damage from high levels of copper, which can cause liver damage.

"My little boy is still sick. I am not going to stay silent even if I must fight with the government and Antamina, which for me are one and the same," Wilfredo Moran, a 34-year-old villager, told the AP by phone on Friday.

He said his 4-year-old is nauseous nearly every day, vomits after eating and has lost weight.

Yasira Sotela, a 9-year-old who was hospitalized immediately after the spill for profuse nose bleeding "continues to bleed from the nose at least twice a week," her mother, Ines Valverde, told the AP on Friday.

When she goes to the village's medical clinic, "they only give us paracetamol (an over-the-counter analgesic) and say, 'Nothing's wrong. Go home. Don't worry,'" she said.

Senior Peruvian environmental officials answered evasively when asked on Monday about the slurry test results and the villagers' claims of inadequate medical care.

"The state is sometimes accused of being slow," Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said during a meeting with international press when the AP inquired about the two issues. "We are trying to change that."

He said Antamina was in discussions with local authorities and villagers about compensating those affected and establishing a way to cope with health concerns.

Pulgar-Vidal said the government is trying to stiffen penalties for polluters by doubling the top fine, which is currently $13.3 million. Immediately after the spill, he called for the top fine for Antamina.

Antamina is the world's third-largest zinc mine and eighth-biggest producer of copper. It is owned by a consortium including Australia-based BHP Billiton Ltd., Xstrata of Switzerland, Teck-Cominco Ltd. of Canada and Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan.

Critics say Peru's Environment Ministry, established in 2008, is statutorily weak, and President Ollanta Humala's government has proposed legislation that would put it in charge of environmental impact studies for mines, a responsibility currently of the Mining and Energy Ministry.

The Andean nation, which gets more than 60 percent of its export earnings from mining, currently faces more than 100 different social conflicts, most related to environmental contamination or fears of it.

___

Associated Press writers Carla Salazar and Frank Bajak contributed to this report.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Upper Big Branch

    Twenty-nine <a href="http://www.facesofthemine.com/faces-of-the-mine-upper-big-branch-memorial-page/" target="_hplink">miners</a> died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine on April 5, 2010. The mine, located in Montcoal, W.Va., was owned and operated by the Performance Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Energy.<br><br>The Mine Safety and Health Administration <a href="http://wvgazette.com/News/montcoal/201009170861" target="_hplink">has said</a> that sparks from a worn-out piece of machinery combined with a buildup of coal dust caused the accident. Massey Energy has <a href="http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2011/01/28/massey-continues-to-dispute-msha-on-ubb-cause/" target="_hplink">continued to say</a> that a buildup of methane gas caused the explosion.<br><br>At a public meeting detailing the federal investigation, Kevin Stricklin, coal administrator for mine safety and health at MSHA, said that there were two sets of books on mine conditions kept by Massey workers -- an accurate log that included safety problems, and a separate, watered-down version for federal and state inspectors to see.<br><br>The Upper Big Branch explosion was the <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450604576415683464733192.html?KEYWORDS=upper+big+branch" target="_hplink">worst</a> U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years.

  • Crandall Canyon Mine

    On Aug. 6, 2007, six miners were trapped in the Crandall Canyon Mine in Huntington, Utah, after roof-supporting pillars <a href="http://www.msha.gov/genwal/ccSummary.asp" target="_hplink">failed</a> and ejected coal over a half-mile area. Ten days later, three more people were killed by a subsequent collapse during the rescue effort.<br><br>According to the <a href="http://www.msha.gov/genwal/ccSummary.asp" target="_hplink">official</a> accident investigation summary released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the catastrophe was the result of "an inadequate mine design." Unsafe pillar dimensions and an poor engineering management review contributed to the collapse.<br><br>In the above photo, family and friends carry the the body of Dale Black -- one of the rescue team members -- to his burial site at Huntington City Cemetery.

  • Darby Mine No. 1

    On May 20, 2006, five miners were killed in an explosion at Darby Mine No. 1 in Holmes Mill, Kentucky. According to information <a href="http://www.usmra.com/saxsewell/darby.htm" target="_hplink">released</a> by the United States Mine Rescue Association, the explosion was the result of methane gas that was ignited by the cutting of a metal roof strap.<br><br>The miner who was working on the roof strap with a cutting torch had a functional methane detector tucked away in his pocket, a sign that it was not being used to check continuously for the potentially lethal gas. The USMRA also says a cutting torch should not have been used at the time.

  • Sago

    On Jan. 2, 2006, an <a href="http://www.msha.gov/sagomine/sagomine.asp" target="_hplink">explosion</a> at a mine in Sago, W.Va., killed 12 workers and severely injured one. The 13 miners were <a href="http://www.msha.gov/Fatals/2006/Sago/ftl06C1-12.pdf" target="_hplink">forced</a> to barricade themselves within the mine after the explosion -- caused by elevated levels of carbon monoxide and methane -- destroyed 10 seals used to separate a closed area of the mine.<br><br>Ben Hatfield, CEO of the International Coal Group, which owned the Wolf Run Mining Company that ran the Sago Mine, received criticism when the families of the fallen miners were falsely informed that the 12 men had lived. In an interview with NPR, workers and family members who were present when Hatfield broke news of the deaths <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5134307" target="_hplink">described</a> the scene as "chaos."

  • Scotia

    In March 1976, a succession of explosions at the Scotia Mine in Oven Fork, Ky., claimed a total of 26 lives.<br><br>The first blast happened on March 9, killing 15 men. During rescue efforts on March 11, a second explosion killed 11 more.<br><br>Investigators <a href="http://www.usmra.com/saxsewell/scotia.htm" target="_hplink">concluded</a> that both explosions were caused by the ignition of a methane-air mixture inside the mine.

  • Consol No. 9

    An explosion at the Consol No. 9 mine in Farmington, W.Va, killed 78 people on Nov. 20, 1968. The explosion was followed by raging <a href="http://www.wvculture.org/history/disasters/farmington02.html" target="_hplink">fires</a> that brought rescue operations to a halt.<br><br>A <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97115205" target="_hplink">memo</a> from a federal investigator that surfaced in 2008 revealed that a safety alarm on a ventilation fan had been deliberately disabled before the explosion. The alarm, which hadn't been working for as long as 90 minutes before the blast, could have saved the lives of the 78 miners.<br><br>The tragedy at Farmington led to the <a href="http://www.msha.gov/mshainfo/mshainf2.htm" target="_hplink">passage</a> of the federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act in 1969. That act paved the way for the <a href="http://www.msha.gov/REGS/ACT/ACTTC.HTM" target="_hplink">Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977</a>, the legislation that currently governs the Mine Safety and Health Administration's activities.

  • Cherry Mine

    On Nov. 13, 1909, a fire killed hundreds of workers in a coal mine in Cherry Hill, Illinois.<br><br>According to <a href="http://www.usmra.com/saxsewell/cherry.htm" target="_hplink">reports</a> from the United States Mine Rescue Association, kerosene torches were used that day after the mine's electrical system broke down. Hay brought into the mine to feed mules that worked underground caught fire after being parked under one of the torches.<br><br>The fire quickly spread, causing the deaths of 259 men and boys who worked in the mine.

  • Monongah Nos. 6 And 8

    On Dec. 6, 1907, explosions occurred at a pair of nearby mines in <a href="http://www.msha.gov/disaster/monongah/monon1.asp" target="_hplink">Monongah</a>, West Virginia, killing 362 men and boys. The blast could be felt as far as eight miles away.<br><br>It wrecked the mine's ventilation system, allowing toxic gas to fill the area and hinder rescue efforts. Though investigators aren't certain of the <a href="http://www.usmra.com/saxsewell/monongah.htm" target="_hplink">cause</a> of the explosion, it was probably started by the ignition of firedamp -- combustible gas made up mostly of methane -- and coal dust within the mine.