MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mayors told: Don't blame Lafayette

Published by MAC on 2006-01-02

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.

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