MAC: Mines and Communities

La Fayette Mining in Rapu-rapu will impoverish the Bicolanos and devastate the environment

Published by MAC on 2005-05-27

Environmentalists, artists and militant groups hound GMA visit in Bicol
"Say La Fayette Mining in Rapu-rapu will impoverish the Bicolanos and devastate the environment."

Defend Patrimony! Alliance Press Release

May 27, 2005

Militant activist groups BAYAN-Bicol, Defend Patrimony! Alliance, Umalpas-ka Bikol and Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) staged a protest in Legaspi City, Albay and Naga City, Camarines Sur while the SOS Volunteers for Environment composed of artists, environmentalists and church people conducted a cultural protest in the coastline of Bgy. Dankalan, Donsol, Sorsogon.

The protest actions expressed outrage over the polymetallic mining operation of the transnational mining company La Fayette Mining Ltd and other priority mining projects of the visiting President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the Bicol Region.

The La Fayette open-pit mining project in Rapu-rapu , Albay has an initial mine life of six years. It will have an annual production of approximately 10,000 tons of copper, 14,000 tons of zinc, 50,000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver. La Fayette Limited is owned by La Fayette NL of Australia, LG Collins and KORES of South Korea, and Toronto Ventures Inc. of Canada.

In a statement of Defend Patrimony!, an alliance opposing the Arroyo's mining liberalization program, said that the mining operation of La Fayette will not lead to economic development of Bicol region but to more impoverishment of Bicolanos, now and in the future.

"Mining has been part of Bicol economic activity for more than a century. But the industry remains backward and has hardly uplifted the lives of the local population. Instead, foreign corporations like La Fayette, and their government sponsors are the only ones profiting in wiping out our rich mineral resources", said Beverly Quintillan, spokesperson of Bayan-Bicol and member of Defend Patrimony!

"A mine has no business being inside the priority conservation for whale sharks. Whale-watching has helped raise Donsol's status from a 5th to a 4th class municipality," said Carina Escudero, a cinematographer and scuba diver. "Can the government not see that they are destroying rather than supporting local efforts at poverty alleviation and sustainable development?", she added.

Fr. Josefino Caavenia of Kalikasan-PNE said, "The problem with the GMA administration is that it is so short-sighted and elitist to grasp the real impacts of its mining liberalization program on the poor people and the environment."

In a 2004 study conducted by Dr. Emelina G. Regis, Director of Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research, Ateneo de Naga University, she claims that gold mining in Bicol did not alleviate poverty but actually deepens poverty of local communities. She cited the two case studies of gold mining communities in Luklukan Sur, Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte and Sta. Barbara, Rapu-rapu Island, Albay province.

The study concluded that aside from, environmental degradation, pollution and health problems brought about by gold mining operation, poverty deepens more when government fails to rehabilitate the degraded ecosystems on which the people depend to eke out a living.

In the town of Donsol, known as a haven for Butanding (whale sharks), hundreds of local residents, Church people, artists, environmentalists and militant groups went out into the beaches in the wee hours of the morning, to await for the president to express their protest.

Bgy. Capt. Teresa Avisado, spokesperson of SOS Volunteers for the Environment said that mining operation in Rapu-rapu will negatively affect the conservation and eco-tourism program of the Municipality of Donsol. "Donsol is very near to Rapu-rapu Island. "The mine wastes and pollutants that are coming from the mining operation of La Fayette are already degrading the sea which serves as a fishing ground and home of Butanding," she quipped.

The protesters hang colorful banners and streamers that read "GMA: Go Mining Away", "Protect our Seas, protect our Butanding, No to La Fayette Mining!"

"The mining project of La Fayette, is continuous proof that President Arroyo will always put premium to the interests of foreign transnational companies than the safety and welfare of Filipinos and the environment," pointed Fr. Caavenia.

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