EFELima

More than 90 percent of the crude spilled in the Peruvian Amazon due to two breaches of an oil pipeline has now been recovered, President Ollanta Humala said.

In a visit to the Las Bambas mine in the southern Andean region of Apurimac, Humala lamented the spills and pledged to identify those responsible and determine the appropriate penalty for state-owned oil company Petroperu, the operator of the North Peruvian Pipeline, the conduit affected by the ruptures.

"We can't have this uncertainty that a breach can occur at any time. There needs to be maintenance work and monitoring of the pipeline," Humala said Tuesday.

The president denied accusations that Petroperu had hired minors to collect crude and clean up areas damaged by the spill.

"These are malicious affirmations," he said, though adding that "if there's proof that children were hired for this work then those responsible will be punished accordingly."

Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said Saturday that Petroperu had not properly maintained the North Peruvian Pipeline and that the company would be fined up to 60 million soles (around $17.2 million).

The first breach occurred on Jan. 25 in Chiriaco, a municipality in the northern region of Amazonas, causing between 2,000 and 3,000 barrels of crude to spill over the three days it took for Petroperu to repair the conduit.

An unspecified amount of crude spilled in a second rupture of the pipeline on Feb. 3 in Datem del Marañon province, located in the neighboring region of Loreto.