In many places, pollution from mining operations damages marine
habitats and contaminates seafood consumed by local people,
threatening our oceans and ultimately ourselves and our future.
In the Philippines, Bicol's
immensely beautiful marine environment and its fragile sea
creatures face a grave threat-toxic pollution and siltation caused
by mining operations in Rapu Rapu Island in Albay.
The pristine waters of the Bicol
region are acknowledged as the feeding grounds and migratory route
of the whale shark, the largest fish in the sea. It is also home to
five of the seven known marine turtles in the world, and its rich
seagrass beds and mangroves, which make for a high marine
biodiversity index, have turned the area into exceptionally rich
fishing grounds for the region's fishermen.
The Philippine government allowed
Australian firm Lafayette Philippines Inc to start the extraction
of gold, silver, copper and zinc within Rapu Rapu in April 2005
despite strong opposition from local and national groups concerned
that toxic mine tailings will be released into the sea. Clearly,
the island is a dangerous place for a mine: not only is it situated
along the country's typhoon belt, but also along a major fault,
making it a high-risk area for mining catastrophes. During its few
- months of operation, the mining company showed negligence and
government agencies, such as the Environmental Management Bureau
and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, failed to act on behalf of
the people and environment. In October and November 2005, cyanide
and other contaminants from the mine spilled into the sea and
around the island, resulting in massive fish kills.
On May 19, 2006, a
government-commissioned report recommended canceling the license of
Lafayette in Rapu Rapu and a moratorium on all mining at Rapu Rapu.
Greenpeace is running a petition to President Gloria Arroyo to
follow the recommendations of the Rapu Rapu Factfinding Commission.
The Greenpeace petition calls for permanent closure of the mine and
obligation or Lafayette to clean and rehabilitate the mine site so
that further damage can be avoided.