‘Whale sharks’ protest DENR decision on Lafayette mining

Press release - June 14, 2006
Greenpeace activists today took their campaign to the doorsteps of the department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), warning that the government decision to allow the resumption of Lafayette’s mining operations in Rapu Rapu spells disaster for the island’s fragile environment and surrounding marine ecosystem.

Demanding an end to Lafayette's polluting operations, the activists demonstrated at the DENR compound in Quezon City wearing head gear resembling whale shark (butanding) tails to signify the marine life which will continue to be threatened so long as mining continues in Rapu Rapu, Albay.

"The Reyes decision represents the triumph of  myopic economic considerations over long-term environmental interests.  In effect, by authorizing the destruction of the environment for the sake of short-term profits, the DENR has turned its back on its own mandate," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis. "Lafayette's operations will seriously damage Rapu Rapu and its surrounding marine ecosystem. The island's residents, as well as those in the nearby coastal communities, will be left to bear the grave environmental and financial consequences of this decision."

In a report released last week entitled 'Fool's Gold: the false economic promises of the Lafayette mining project in Rapu Rapu,' Greenpeace revealed that a measly PhP2.00 per capita income per day(1) is all Rapu Rapu stands to gain during the seven-year mine operation. This shows that whatever benefit that the island will obtain from the mine's extractive activities is superficial and will not be sufficient to compensate for the permanent loss of resources, collateral effects to local livelihoods, missed economic opportunities, damage to marine health, and threats to human life and safety in the island and its environs. In short, the mine will only exacerbate poverty in the already impoverished island and outlying areas.

At the end of the seven-year mine life, the waters of Rapu Rapu and its nearby communities shall have been heavily contaminated by Lafayette's acid mine drainage (AMD) and toxic mine tailings. In addition, its coral ecosystems will have been completely smothered by siltation caused ore extraction.

The waters of the Albay Gulf where Rapu Rapu is located is a high priority site for sea turtle conservation, being home to five out of the seven known marine turtle species. The area is also an acknowledged  migration path for whale sharks which are often sighted by local  fishermen. Whale sharks are the ocean's biggest fish and a vulnerable species.

"President Arroyo must reverse this decision as soon as possible and heed the recommendations of  the Bastes commission, which she herself established, " said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign Director Von Hernandez."The government's refusal to draw rational conclusions  from Lafayette's proven episodes of neglect and irresponsibility betrays a serious lack of concern for the environment and for the people who depend on it for their survival."

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environment problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace is committed to defending the health of the world's oceans and the plants, animals, and people that depend upon them.

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

VVPR info: The report “Fool’s Gold: the false economic promises of the Lafayette mining project in Rapu Rapu’ is available at the Press Center of the Greenpeace Southeast Asia website: http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/ Petition to Stop Lafayette from Polluting Our Seas http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/campaigns/stop-lafayette-from-polluting Stop the Mine! Save our Seas! Cyberaction website http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/save-our-seas/ Greenpeace: Defending Our Oceans Webpage http://oceans.greenpeace.org

Notes: (1)The amount represents the total financial benefits the whole municipality of Rapu Rapu (population 29,170) can expect from the mine. (2)Testimony of Reynato Cruz, Project Leader, Pawikan Research and Conservation, Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau during the public hearings of the Rapu Rapu Fact Finding Commission. 7 April 2006.