MAC: Mines and Communities

Ngos Urge Bank To Drop Lafayette Funding

Published by MAC on 2007-04-24
Source: Manila Times ()

NGOs urge bank to drop Lafayette funding

By James Konstantin Galvez, Reporter, Manila Times

24th April 2007

Environmental activists on Monday held a picket at the office of the Netherlands-based ABN-AMRO bank, to protest its funding of the controversial Lafayette Mining project on the island of Rapu-Rapu in Albay.

The protesters numbering close to 100 and belonging to the Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment and other cause-oriented groups trooped to the bank's office Monday about 11 a.m. and staged a brief program dramatizing the alleged risks posed by the project to the people's health and the environment.

"We want ABN-AMRO to pull out their financial investment in Lafayette's destructive and dirty mining project on Rapu-Rapu Island. The bank made a mistake in financing the project, which has already caused environmental tragedies, economic dislocation and social miseries to the local people," said the group's national coordinator, Clemente Bautista.

Activists in Legazpi City, Albay, where the project is located, also staged a similar rally.

He said that the risk is very high for the highly respected banking institution to invest, adding that Lafayette Mining Ltd., an Australian company which owns and operates the mine, has yet to fully address the issue of acid mine drainage caused by the project's mine tailings.

The protesters also tried to present a copy of an international petition signed by over 800 environmentalists from 27 countries and local residents, exhorting the bank to withdraw financial support to the project but no bank representative attended the half-hour rally.

Bautista said the mass action was part of an internationally coordinated protest against the Dutch institution with protest actions also taking place in Hong Kong and at the bank's main office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

In an e-mail message, Theo Droog, chairman of the Nederlans-Filippijnse Solidariteitsbeweging, a Dutch-Filipino solidarity group in the Netherlands, said they would try their best to let the Dutch public know that the bank is funding a mining project without social acceptability of the local communities where it is located.

"We are very concerned about the situation on Rapu-Rapu Island not just over the environmental damage, but also over the social impacts. We fear that the Philippine government will use its security forces to try to silence opposition to the mining projects as it did in the past," said Droog's message, adding that they will get the support of the Dutch people, especially the bank's clients to pressure the institution to withdraw their financial investment.

ANZ of Australia, KFSX of South Korea and the United Kingdom-based Standard Chartered Bank are also funding the controversial project.

It was part of the flagship project of the Arroyo administration to revive the country's ailing mining industry and give a boost to the local economy and generate taxes to the government's coffers.

According to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the 4,663 hectares project has a reserve of about 5.9 million metric tons of mineral ores with an annual production of 10,000 metric tons of copper, 14,000 of silver and 600,000 ounces of zinc.

NEDA estimated potential gross sales of $41 million annually with the government gaining some $800 million in taxes a year and an employment of 274 during commercial operations.

But the project was dogged by controversies. In October 2005 the project's open-pit mining resulted in two mine tailings spills that caused cyanide contamination and fishkills in the area, while in December last year, heavy rains from Supertyphoon Reming hit the mining area causing its mine infrastructure heavy damage.

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