LEGASPI, 23 AUGUST 2006 — After helping mitigate the devastation wrought by the Petron oil spill in Guimaras Island, Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza today led a flotilla in protest against the gold and silver mining operations of Lafayette in the Philippines. The Australian mine was reopened in July despite government investigations, which revealed ongoing leakages of highly toxic chemicals into the pristine waters of the Albay Gulf.
The Esperanza sailed into Rapu-Rapu Island accompanied by villagers from the provinces of Sorsogon and Albay on board some 70 bancas (traditional outrigger boats) bearing banners saying “Stop Lafayette” and “ABN-Amro, ANZ Stop Funding Marine Pollution”. ABN-Amro and ANZ are providing financial backing for the mining operations.
“People rely on the rich marine ecosystem for food and income and have already suffered from continuous toxic contamination from the Lafayette mine,” said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner onboard the Esperanza. “The reopening of Lafayette mine has started the clock for another disaster in our marine ecosystem. Lafayette mine must be closed for good.”
The Philippine government allowed Australian firm Lafayette Philippines Inc to start the extraction of gold, silver, copper and zinc within Rapu Rapu in April 2005 despite strong opposition from local and national groups concerned that toxic mine tailings will be released into the sea. Clearly, the island is a dangerous place for a mine as it is situated in the country’s typhoon belt and along a major fault, making it a high-risk area for mining catastrophes. During its few months of operation, the mining company showed negligence and government agencies, such as the Environmental Management Bureau and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, failed to act on behalf of the people and environment. In 2005, cyanide and other contaminants from the mine spilled into the sea and around the island, resulting in massive fish kills.
On May 19, 2006, a government-commissioned report* recommended canceling the license of Lafayette in Rapu-Rapu and a moratorium on all mining at Rapu-Rapu. Greenpeace is running a petition to President Gloria Arroyo to follow the recommendations of the Rapu-Rapu Factfinding Commission. The Greenpeace petition calls for permanent closure of the mine and obligation of Lafayette to clean and rehabilitate the mine site so that further damage can be avoided.
Stop the mine! Save our seas! Sign the petition online http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/save-our-seas/act-now