Esperanza leads flotilla protest calling for closure of Lafayette mine

Feature story - August 23, 2006
Like a ticking clock in a time bomb that’s set to go ‘boom!’ The reopening of the Lafayette mine has started the countdown for another disaster in our marine ecosystem.

Flotilla of local boats accompanies Greenpeace ship Esperanza in a protest calling for the closure of the gold and silver mining operations of Lafayette on Rapu-Rapu Island, Philippines. The Australian mine was reopened in July despite government investigations which revealed ongoing leakages of highly toxic chemicals into the pristine waters of nearby Albay Gulf.

A delegation from the Greenpeace led protest flotilla speaks with management from Lafayette Mine Company, Rapu Rapu Island, Philippines. Left to Right: Fr. Lino Bugamisan Parish Priest of Rapu Rapu island. Lucas Baldin - Fishermans representative. Joey Cubias, P.R. Director of Lafayette Mining Company went out to receive the petition from communities. Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza today led a flotilla in a protest calling for the closure of the gold and silver mining operations of Lafayette on Rapu-Rapu Island, Philippines. The Australian mine was reopened in July despite government investigations which revealed ongoing leakages of highly toxic chemicals into the pristine waters of nearby Albay Gulf.

Flotilla of local boats accompanies Greenpeace ship Esperanza in a protest calling for the closure of the gold and silver mining operations of Lafayette on Rapu-Rapu Island, Philippines. The Australian mine was reopened in July despite government investigations which revealed ongoing leakages of highly toxic chemicals into the pristine waters of nearby Albay Gulf.

This mine was temporarily closed after two toxic spills last year, but the Philippine government then granted the company a license for a 30-day test run of the mine in spite the recommendation of a presidential fact finding commission upon which initial ecological and health studies on the Rapu-Rapu mine warned of heavy metal contamination, siltation and other acute and long-term impacts on the marine ecosystem, including the complications of acid mine drainage.

During the test run, several toxic leaks occurred. Residents have since reported more fish kills in the creeks leading out from the mine into Albay  Gulf.

In response to this impending threat the Esperanza sailed into Rapu-Rapu Island accompanied by villagers from the provinces of Sorsogon and Albay on board some 70 bancas (traditional outrigger boats) bearing banners saying "Stop Lafayette" and "ABN-Amro, ANZ Stop Funding Marine Pollution".  ABN-Amro and ANZ are providing financial backing for the mining operations.

The pristine waters, seagrass beds and mangroves of Albay Gulf forms an exceptionally rich fishing ground for fishermen. Dolphins, sea turtles, egrets, and purple herons are a frequent sight in these waters. Five of the seven marine turtles in the world are found in the Albay Gulf, while the eastern coast, including Rapu Rapu, is a migration path for whale sharks. The Lafayette mine serves as a threat to the survival of all of these species and the survival of the people who rely on the rich marine ecosystem for food and income.

The Esperanza's tour in the Philippines is part of a 15-month global Defending Our Oceans expedition. Greenpeace's other ships; the MY Rainbow Warrior and the MY Arctic Sunrise are also engaged in challenging the threats to our oceans. The Rainbow warrior is confronting tuna fleets destroying the last of the great fish in the Mediterranean and the Arctic Sunrise is exposing the hidden face of illegal fishing of the North and Baltic Seas. The Defending Our Oceans expedition aims to highlight the wonders of and the environmental threats to the world's oceans and is campaigning for the establishment of marine reserves covering 40 % of the world's oceans.

Click here to read more about the flotilla

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