Greenpeace statement on the resumption of Lafayette’s operations

Press release - July 11, 2006
Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis said: “The countdown to another oceans disaster has begun. The start of the controlled 30-day test run granted to Lafayette by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) signals the resumption of Lafayette’s operations in Rapu Rapu, and the continuation of the destruction that the mine will wreak on the fragile marine ecosystem around the island, and consequently on the coastal communities that depend upon these waters.”

"Pollution from Lafayette's mining operations will seriously damage Rapu Rapu and its surrounding fragile marine ecosystem. Its toxic tailings and the inevitable acid mine drainage associated with this operation will continue to pollute the seas. More siltation from the mine's extractive activities will continue to choke corals and other marine life in the island's immediate vicinity."

"Another spill is not necessary to demonstrate that Lafayette's mining operations will be severely detrimental to Rapu Rapu and its surrounding waters. This operation is a self-perpetuating ecological disaster that will leave serious, long-term negative effects on the oceans at the expense of the area's outlying coastal communities for generations to come.

"By allowing Lafayette's reopening, the government has once again betrayed  its duplicitous nature- shamelessly mouthing platitudes and clichés for a 'Green Philippines' while willingly condoning long-term damage to the environment in its myopic pursuit of spurious economic gains."

Other contacts: Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner, +63 917 803 6077 Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaigns Director, +63 917 526 3050 Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Media Campaigner, +63 916 374 4969, +63 2 434 7034, loc. 104

Notes: 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. 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 with regard to its operations. (During the Rapu Rapu Factfinding Commission hearings in April-May 2006, Lafayette officials in fact admitted that they mined “too fast, too soon” even while the mine’s structural safeguards meant to minimize environmental damage were not yet completed.) As a result, after heavy rains in October 11 and 31 2005, cyanide and other contaminants from the mine spilled into the sea and around the island, resulting in massive fish kills which Lafayette, to this day, continues to downplay. In January 2006, Lafayette was fined PhP10.7 million, PhP10.4 million for violating the Clean Water Act, and PhP300,000 for violating the conditions of their Environmental Compliance Certificate. They paid only PhP300,000 initially, and contested the rest of the fine, finally only paying up 6 months later on June 20, when payment for the fine was stipulated as a precondition to the mine’s 30-day test run. The 30-day test run period which was granted to Lafayette by the DENR, and which was given despite the mine’s several violations to their ECC, is expected to be a mere prelude to the mine’s complete reopening.