Lafayette rejects community claims over spill

Lafayette, an Australian gold mining company operating in Rapu Rapu, Philippines, has hit back at reported allegations it was responsible for a spill of pesticide in the vicinity of the mine.

An Environment News Service story (linked below), carried by CathNews on Wednesday, reported on a petition filed in the Rapu Rapu regional court for a permanent injunction against Lafayette's activities over an alleged "pesticide spill" in Albay Bay by community and church groups on the island.

The report said that over 800 signatures from groups and individuals are on the petition seeking to end the polymetallic operations of the Rapu Rapu mine.

In a letter last week to CathNews from the Managing Director, David Baker, the company claims that "it is not using harmful chemicals in the re-commissioning process," and that "Rapu Rapu mine does not use pesticides in its production process."

"By any measure," Mr Baker continues, "it is mischievous and irresponsible to imply that there is any connection between Rapu Rapu's mining operations and pesticide."

The Rapu Rapu mine was the site of two consecutive cyanide spills in October 2005, and the mining company was ordered to stop operating by regulatory agencies last December.

The Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission, a body commissioned by Philippines President Gloria Arroyo after the cyanide spills and chaired by Catholic Bishop Aruturo Bastes, found in a report that Lafayette and a government department were responsible and liable for pollution and other environmental and social problems.

But contrary to recommendations of the Commission, the mine was given permission earlier this month to "re-commission" with a test run.

The petition filed on Monday seeks a permanent halt to the company's operations, citing threats to people's health and livelihood. The petition also seeks to make Lafayette pay damages to the residents of Rapu Rapu and nearby provinces who were affected by the two cyanide spills.

But Mr Baker has hit back at the allegations, alleging that the actions by the Rapu-Rapu community were motivated by "anti-mining and even anti-development interests to unfairly damage the reputation of the mine and its operators."

"It follows a recent attempt by the same elements to link the mine to allegations of a mercury spill; an accusation and action that was shown to be a shameful hoax because the Rapu Rapu mine does not use mercury in any process areas," he alleges.

"This mercury hoax caused a widespread 'fish scare' that resulted in considerable hardship for the many fisherfolk and their families in the region," he added in the letter to CathNews.

(Photo: Rapu-rapu community mass, Photo by Aubrey Makilan, Bulatlat)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Lafayette Mining (Corporate)
Saving an island (Butatlat, 20-26 November 2005)
Rapu Rapu website

Filipino Bishop disappointed over Lafayette mine decision (CathNews 14/6/06)

Greenpeace worker arrested in Rapu-Rapu (INQ7 26/7/06)
Australian Mine Faces Layers of Lawsuits After Third Toxic Spill (ENS 24/7/06)
Gov't orders evaluation of mining sites after waste spill (INQ7 12/7/06)
Charges to Be Filed Vs LGU Officials in Lafayette MoA (Bulatlat 28/5-3/6/06)

31 Jul 2006