GREENPEACE  STATEMENT  ON  REOPENING  OF  LAFAYETTE  MINE  IN  RAPU  RAPU

MANILA
, FEBRUARY 10, 2007 (via Internet) The Department of Environment and Natural Resources through the Pollution Adjudication Board released today a Permanent Lifting Order on the ban on the mining activities of Lafayette Philippines, Inc. in Rapu Rapu Island, Albay Province.

Beau Baconguis, Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia said:

“The DENR decision today is hardly surprising, especially since the government has always wanted to project Lafayette as a model mining operation. From the start we knew that the process initiated by the DENR would eventually lead to this, given the government’s aggressive efforts to promote mining in the country.

“While the decision is good for Lafayette, it is a grim one for the coastal communities within and around Rapu Rapu Island. With the issuance of the Permanent Lifting Order, the DENR, the government arm mandated to protect the environment, has endangered these communities and their rich marine resources. Lafayette now has the license to suck out the life of Rapu Rapu island and leave the people mired deeper in poverty and in a severely degraded environment.

“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.

“Greenpeace has consistently maintained that Lafayette’s operations will seriously damage Rapu Rapu and its surrounding fragile marine ecosystem. The mine is precariously located along the country’s typhoon belt, in a small and fragile island environment. Its toxic tailings and the inevitable acid mine drainage will continue to pose a clear and present danger to the surrounding environment and the communities who depend on it.

“The typhoons late last year proved the dangers of operating the mine in the island. The mine had to undergo extensive repairs to their damaged infrastructure which repeatedly and considerably delayed the test run.

“Greenpeace calls on the DENR to reconsider their decision and re-evaluate their priorities. Instead of promoting activities such as mining which destroy our fragile ecosystems, the government should invest in opportunities which promote the protection of our valuable resources.”

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.

For more information: Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner, +63 917 803 6077 Lea Guerrero, Media Campaigner, +63 916 374 4969, +63 2 434 7034, loc. 104

-- Lea Guerrero Media Campaigner Greenpeace Southeast Asia tel: +63 2 434 7034 fax: +63 2 434 7035 mob: +63 916 374 4969 skype: leaguerrero lea.guerrero@ph.greenpeace.org

DENR chief assures compliance by Lafayette By Perseus Echeminada The Philippine Star 02/11/2007

Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes assured stakeholders and concerned non-government organizations yesterday that everything has been done to protect the environment as mining operations resumed at Rapu- Rapu island.

He gave the assurance after some sectors protested Lafayette Corp.’s resumption of its mining activities on the island, located off the coast of Albay and Sorsogon provinces.

Reyes said Lafayette was allowed to conduct test operations at the site since July 9 last year to ensure that the mine tailing spills, which occurred in 2005, would never happen again and that the environment would be kept clean and healthful despite operations.

He said that in evaluating Lafayette’s test performance, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was guided by the findings of the Rapu-Rapu fact-finding commission, headed by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes. The DENR also consulted with scientists and experts from other government agencies, the academe and the science community.

"This only shows that the government is serious in ensuring that only responsible mining is done in the country. We are willing to go to great lengths to make certain that decisions on mining are transparent, scientific, realistic and complies with the law and regulations," Reyes said.

To allay the fears of critics, Reyes said the effects of the strongest possible typhoons that might hit the Philippines have already been taken into consideration in the decision to allow Lafayette to resume regular mining operations.

"The decision to authorize full mining operations in Rapu-Rapu is entirely in accordance with the Mining Act, and with the policy of the government to utilize to the full our natural resources to improve the living standards of our people not only of the present but also of future generations," he said.

Reyes appealed to the religious and civic groups in the Albay-Sorsogon region to view more objectively the mining situation and prospects in the area from the standpoint of the general economic and social welfare of the population.

However, a movement against the liberalization of the mining industry had earlier debunked claims by the government and mining firms that the repeal of the mining law and revocation of mining permits would result in an economic backlash for the country.

The Defend Patrimony Alliance, which is working to repeal the Mining Act, said there are only 120,000 people employed in mining – less than one percent of the country’s labor force, pegged at 35.86 million in 2004.

Clemente Bautista, who leads the alliance, said the mining industry contributes less than two percent to the gross national product, contrary to claims of huge economic gains from the mining sector.

He said foreign mining companies are fast depleting the country’s mineral resources and bring the risk of environmental tragedies to areas where they operate.

Bautista said the real reason why foreign investors go into the mining industry is because the government has granted them economic privileges and rights, such as 100 percent repatriation of capital and profit; five to nine years of income tax holidays; duty-free importation; and rights to water and timber.

These privileges allowed mining companies to extract and export billions of dollars of minerals annually while the people are left with pollution, toxic waste and health hazards from mining operations, Bautista said.

"The mine tragedies in Marinduque, Negros Oriental and Samar are living proof of this mining devastation. We have so much to gain and nothing to lose if we cancel the large-scale mining projects of transnational companies and scrap the mining act," he said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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