MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Australian Mine In Philippines Accused Over Third Spill

Published by MAC on 2006-07-26
Source: Catholic News

Australian mine in Philippines accused over third spill

Catholic News -

26th July 2006

Lafayette, an Australian gold mining company which has been accused by a Filipino Catholic priest of attempting to pay off local government officials, is at the centre of new allegations over a pesticide spill and fish kill near the mine.

Communities from Rapu-Rapu island has filed a petition with the regional court for a permanent injunction to stop the operations of Lafayette Philippines amid allegations of another pesticide spill in Albay Bay, ENS reports.

The spill occurred over the weekend during test runs of polymetallic mining operations on Rapu-Rapu, located in the Philippines' Albay province, 350 km southeast of the capital Manila.

Over 800 signatures from groups and individuals are on the petition seeking to end the polymetallic operations of the Rapu-Rapu mine.

The petition for a permanent injunction comes one week after a class action lawsuit filed by environment and church groups on 20 July at the Makati Regional Trial Court asking for a temporary restraining order on Lafayette Processing's 30-day test run on Rapu-Rapu island.

Lafayette Philippines corporate secretary and spokesman Julito Sarmiento on Sunday alleged that the spill into Albay Bay was "sabotage." He told the Manila Times the company was being harassed.

The Rapu-Rapu mine was site of two consecutive cyanide spills in October 2005, and the mining company was ordered to stop operating by regulatory agencies last December.

The Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission, a body commissioned by Philippines President Gloria Arroyo after the cyanide spills and chaired by Bishop Aruturo Bastes, found in a report that Lafayette and a government department were responsible and liable for pollution and other environmental and social problems.

But contrary to recommendations of the Commission, the mine was given permission earlier this month to restart with a test run.

The legal action filed on Monday seeks a permanent halt to the company's operations, citing threats to people's health and livelihood. The petition also seeks to make Lafayette pay damages to the residents of Rapu-Rapu and nearby provinces who were affected by the two cyanide spills.

Meanwhile, according to another report in the Bulatlat magazine, Fr Felino Bugauisan, assistant parish priest of Rapu-Rapu and chair of an organisation opposed to mining operations in the island threatened to file charges against local government officials who allegedly accepted P100,000 (A$2500) from Lafayette in return for their support.

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