MAC: Mines and Communities

Villagers Watchful Of Lafayette Mining

Published by MAC on 2007-02-15
Source: National Inquirer

Villagers watchful of Lafayette mining

By Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer

15th February 2007

VILLAGERS living near the Lafayette mining site in Rapu-Rapu, Albay say they remain vigilant, as they continue to have qualms about the government's decision to allow the full resumption of the company's operations. "Maybe there's nothing more we could do to oppose the mining. But we would be in favor of it, if only the mining process is done correctly," said Milo Asuncion, 47, councilor of Barangay Pagcolbon.

He said the residents were also afraid of the risks posed by the mining operations, especially during natural disasters, which may threaten fishing, their main source of living.

Aladin Valenzuela, 56, of Barangay Linao, however, said he was in favor of mining because it could give jobs to the villagers.

In fact, Valenzuela's 21-year-old son and nephew were jobless until they were hired as laborers for the mining site.

"I used to plant coconut and abaca but since the typhoons destroyed my crops I could no longer earn a living. We now rely on my son's earnings from Lafayette," he said.

However, there were not really many jobs created by the mining company in the community, he said.

"Many would apply and spend money for the application but only a few could be employed in the company," Valenzuela said.

Rally Environmental activists, however, staged a rally in front of the DENR central office and shaved off their heads to protest "Lafayette's denudation of Rapu-Rapu island."

The Kalikasan-PNE, in a statement, called on the government to investigate the cause of reported mysterious deaths at Sitio Acal, some 15 kilometers away from the mining site.

Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator, said the reported Sitio Acal deaths have been initially verified by field reports from the DENR-Bicol and the Rapu-Rapu Municipal Health Office documenting at least four persons dead and two sick.

According to the report, the fatalities include a certain JV Ebrada, 17 years old, with swollen legs and feet. Among the sick were a certain Victor Ebrada, 40, who had swollen legs and feet and Maribel Dorado, 22, whose entire body was swollen.

"We are not inclined to take deaths from local communities lightly, especially if these may be related to environmental problems," the group stated, adding:

"Whether or not the Lafayette mining operations is the culprit in the Sitio Acal deaths, we take this opportunity to assert that the real threat of heavy metal pollution on the local communities' health will remain and will intensify for as long as Lafayette mining is allowed to operate in Rapu-Rapu."

But Lafayette branded Kalikasan-PNE's allegations as "baseless and irresponsible" citing the mining site's 15-km distance from Barangay Mananao where the reported deaths occurred.

"Initial findings showed the deaths to have been caused by high fever or infection. Efforts to further verify these by getting official medical reports and death certificates are underway," Lafayette said in a statement.

It added that Kalikasan-PNE and other groups have used similar tactics in the past and somehow succeeded in using the media to scare people unnecessarily.

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