Esperanza leads flotilla protest calling for closure of Lafayette mine

Press release - August 23, 2006
After helping mitigate the devastation wrought by the Petron oil spill in Guimaras Island, Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza today led a flotilla in protest against the gold and silver mining operations of Lafayette in the Philippines. The Australian mine was reopened in July despite government investigations, which revealed ongoing leakages of highly toxic chemicals into the pristine waters of the Albay Gulf.

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.

"People rely on the rich marine ecosystem for food and income and have already suffered from continuous toxic contamination from the Lafayette mine," said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner onboard the Esperanza. "The reopening of Lafayette mine has started the clock for another disaster in our marine ecosystem. Lafayette mine must be closed for good."

Late last year, Lafayette was ordered to stop its mining operations after it twice released cyanide and other contaminants into the environment, resulting in massive fish kills. Subsequent investigations carried out  by a Presidential Fact-Finding Commission revealed that not only had Lafayette been operating the mine beyond its capacity but that it had been doing so even before it completed the construction of barriers designed to prevent contamination reaching the sea.

The Philippine government then granted the company a license for a 30-day test run of the mine. 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.

The pristine waters, seagrass beds and mangroves of Albay Gulf create an exceptionally rich fishing ground for fishermen. Dolphins, sea turtles, egrets, and purple herons are frequently sighted 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 threatens the survival of all of these species.

"The Arroyo government's support for the mining operation makes it part of the problem and not the solution," said Baconguis. "Rather than serve the interests of mining corporations the government must act on behalf of the 30 million Filipinos who rely on our rich marine environment for food and livelihoods."

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.

Other contacts: Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner (onboard Esperanza), +4751407986 (sat phone), +639178036077 Arthur Jones Dionio, Media Officer (onboard Esperanza), +4751407986 (sat phone), +639215615305