MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Protestors want Lafayette out of Albay

Published by MAC on 2005-12-31


Protestors want Lafayette out of Albay

by Bobby Labalan, Gil Francis Arevalo, Philippine Daily Inquirer / RAPU-RAPU, ALBAY

31st December 2005

Anti-mining protesters braved strong winds, rain and the rough seas of the Pacific Ocean to demonstrate their strong opposition to the continued operation of the Lafayette Mining Corp. here.

Packed in huge motor launches, the protesters - composed of fishermen, women, students, senior citizens, church people, members of progressive organizations, local officials, teachers, media men and even children- departed at 7 a.m. Wednesday from three assembly points at Barangay Manlabong, Prieto Diaz, Poblacion, Bacon and Sorsogon City and Barangay Poblacion here.

After an hour and a half of dizzying travel, the placard- and streamer-bearing demonstrators gathered at the sea in front of the seaport being operated by Lafayette.

They took turns assailing the company, which was being blamed for the toxic contamination that caused fish kills and triggered a fish scare in Albay and Sorsogon.

Rogelio Corpuz, general manager for operations of Lafayette Polymetallic Inc., told the Inquirer that they welcomed the challenge posed by the rallyists.

"They must weigh and consider that we're under the laws and recommendations imposed on us by the government through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau. We're working and responding to this issue in accordance with the law," he said.

"Right now, operations are still suspended and we're also waiting for the final study or findings of the independent monitoring team formed by the MGB," Corpuz said.

Councillor Alex de la Cruz and Fr. Lino Bugaoisan, known demonstrators from Rapu-Rapu, Albay, bared sad stories of families who now could barely afford to have three meals a day as there were no buyers of fish caught around the island.

De la Cruz said they were considering declaring a state of calamity so that the local government could use its calamity fund to help more than 60 percent of the population affected by the fish scare.

Mayor Benito Doma of Prieto Diaz, who initiated the move together with Sorsogon City Mayor Sally Lee, said a bigger "fluvial protest" was being worked out to reiterate their opposition to the continued operations of the Australian-based multinational.


Most harmful ConCom proposal

Letters - Philippine Daily Inquirer

29th December 2005

THE INQUIRER PUBLISHED TWO seemingly unrelated news items within a span of six days: the first, on the "Constitution" being proposed by the Consultative Commission (PDI, 12/16/05); the second, on the current fish scare in Rapu-Rapu, Albay caused by the Lafayette mine spills. (PDI, 12/21/05).

While the ConCom's proposal to scrap the 2007 elections is drawing the most heat, its recommendation to allow foreign-owned companies to exploit our lands and natural resources deserves equal, if not more, attention. For this proposal, which no doubt will include our mineral resources, will be the most harmful ConCom recommendation for our country.

The history of mining in the country is the same story that is being repeated, over and over, for years - a story that invariably leads into a disaster as toxic mine wastes spill into rivers and seas and destroy livelihoods and communities. Sadly, the recent spills at the Lafayette mine site add another chapter to that continuing tragic story.

Would it matter who is elected or not in 2007 when our lands are open for the taking by the highest foreign bidder?

What good is a parliamentary system when we no longer have control of our environment and natural resources; and when our rivers and coastal areas are dead, our forests gone, and our mountains disemboweled?

-JAYBEE GARGANERA, national coordinator, Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA), 59 C. Salvador St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City.


Mayors told: Don't blame Lafayette

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2nd January 2006

LEGAZPI CITY-ALBAY GOV. FERNANDO Gonzales cautioned local officials against blaming the Lafayette mine spill for allegedly contaminating the waters along the coastal towns of Sorsogon.

Gonzales said that, as an active member of the monitoring team, he knew that all aspects--including the contamination of detergents used by Lafayette personnel--were being monitored and studied.

"Our findings show the company does not use mercury in processing the ores," he said.

Gonzales said Prieto Diaz Mayor Bonito Doma should not blame the mine spill for the fish scare that had affected the coastal towns of Sorsogon, Doma's town in particular.

The Albay governor said determining the source of mercury would put to rest the issue of Lafayette's culpability in the contamination.

Gonzales said the withdrawal of Lafayette's mining operation would take away very significant investment and employment opportunities, not to mention the taxes and dues the mining firm pays to the provincial government.

Last Wednesday, protesters, led by Doma and Sorsogon City Mayor Sally Lee, staged a "fluvial rally" assailing the mining firm for the toxic contamination that caused fish kills and triggered a fish scare in Albay and Sorsogon.

Some of the operations of the Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) have been suspended pending final study or findings of the independent monitoring team formed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

LPI executives said they were supporting an investigation of the cause of the contamination of bodies of water in Sorsogon in a gesture of transparency in the firm's operations.

The firm said it has started repairs in its waste discharge system following the leak of cyanide into several bodies of water in Rapu-Rapu town in Albay, where the mining site is located.

The mining firm also vowed to open up its operations to groups and individuals in a bid to make the mining project as transparent as possible.

Mining has generated at least 1,000 new jobs in the Bicol region and is projected to generate some 1,000 more this year.

Reynulfo Juan, MGB Bicol regional director, said the jobs generated were in accordance with President Macapagal-Arroyo's commitment to create more employment opportunities in the mining sector in Bicol.

Residents of Rapu-Rapu, where Lafayette operates, were among the beneficiaries of new jobs.

The Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project will be the first large-scale metal mine to be developed and operated under the Mining Act of 1995, according to Juan.


Lafayette backs fish scare probe in Sorsogon (Lafayette)

Philippine Daily Inquirer

24th December 2005

MINING firm Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI), operator of the P1.4 billion Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project (RRPP) in Albay, yesterday said it is supporting plans by Sorsogon officials to investigate the source of the fish scare that now grips the coastal towns of the Albay Gulf. "We will be cooperating fully... We will produce any relevant documents they require and they are even free to visit the site to see for themselves what we are doing in Rapu-Rapu," said LPI country manager Rod Watt on Thursday.

Denial

At the same time, however, Watt strongly denied allegations linking the RRPP to findings that fish caught in the Albay Gulf were contaminated with mercury.

"The BFAR report, assuming it is accurate, cannot be used to blame LPI as the source of the mercury," said Watt. "We do not use mercury in our gold processing plant."

He said LPI itself wanted to find out what the real source of the mercury was and was willing to extend whatever assistanceis needed as part of LPI's "good corporate neighbor" policy.

"It is our commitment to work with the community that surrounds our project site and we are willing to do our share to help in anyway that we can...," he said.

Sobriety

The statement also quoted Sorsogon board member Rebecca Aquino as calling for sobriety on the fish scare issue.

"We should first determine if there are really high levels of mercury in the fish catch and, if true, what the real source of the contamination is," Aquino said in a press statement. "That will allow us to make the appropriate response," Aquino said.

Recent reports by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that fish caught off the coastal waters of Prieto Diaz town registered mercury concentrations ranging from 0.699 to 1.288 parts per million (ppm), which are above the standard limit of 0.075 ppm.


Lafayette offer in demand (Lafayette)

by Barry Fitzgerald, The Age (Melbourne)

14th December 2005

MELBOURNE-based Lafayette Mining is to pull in $10 million from a widespread placement of shares at the knock-down price of 11¢ a share to get it over the cashflow squeeze caused by the temporary suspension of operations at its flagship Rapu Rapu polymetallic project in the Philippines.

Lafayette went in a trading suspension yesterday before the placement was completed. Brokers reported strong demand for the placement, the price of which compares with Lafayette's pre-placement price of 13.5¢ a share - a price that was well down on ruling market prices before Rapu Rapu had problems with its tailings disposal system. The first incident occurred within the gold-processing plant on October 11 when there was an uncontrolled spill of about five cubic metres of material from the cascading tailings dam system. It contained low levels of residual cyanide. After investigation by the authorities, permission was given to continue operations.

The second spill was on November 1 after torrential rain. Increased volumes of water in the retention/catchment system forced Lafayette to make a "controlled" discharge.

But concerns with the two spills, and the planned switch at Rapu Rapu to base metals production, prompted the decision to suspend operations in mid-November. Lafayette has a meeting with authorities in the Philippines on Friday, with the expectation being that operations will be able to resume early in the new year.

Rapu Rapu is one of several Australian-backed projects that the Philippines Government is banking on to kick-start a revival of the country's mining industry. The Government has identified 23 priority mining projects that it expects to go on stream between 2005 and 2010.

The projects are expected to bring in foreign direct investments of more than $US6.5 billion ($A8.6 billion). Although a modest operation, Rapu Rapu is meant to lead the charge, a fact reflected by Lafayette managing director Andrew McIlwain recently dining with Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at Malacanan Palace. The invitation reflected Rapu Rapu's status as the first foreign-funded new mine development in the country for more than 30 years.

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