Philippines priest appeals for fair media coverage of mine spill

A local priest in the central Philippines island of Rapu Rapu has accused the media of being biased in favour of an Australian owned mining company, Lafayette Mining, in their coverage of a mine spill on the island as the government decides on the mine's fate.

INQ7 reports that Fr Fedelino Bugauisan, assistant parish priest of the St Florentina Parish in Rapu-Rapu and spokesperson of the Anti-Lafayette Mining Alliance, appealed for balance media coverage of the mining situation as local organisations marked on Tuesday the first anniversary of a mining spill caused by the operation of the Lafayette.

According to Fr Bugauisan, the media tended to be biased in favour of Melbourne-based Lafayette.

Fr Bugauisan accuses the company of damaging the environment through the development of its copper and gold polymetallic project.

The mine based in Rapu Rapu was ordered by the government to suspend operations last November after the spills on 31 October 2005, which affected local creeks.

Lafayette paid a fine of A$270,000 for the two spills, the company said in July. The closure was costing $50,000 a day in lost production, the company said last year.

The venture has since restarted work under government supervision, pending full clearance from the authorities that practices are safe.

As the government nears a decision, members of another anti-mining alliance, Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance (SARA), held a forum and symbolic march on Monday to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to urge the Department to produce the results of the test run the government did on the Lafayette operations.

One of the event's organisers, Virgilio Perdigon Jr, said he received reports that Lafayette would resume operations on 8 November but local officials had not been informed of the results of the test run.

Corporate Secretary for the mining company, Julito Sarmiento, said results of the 90-day extended test run had not been released as it will end 7 November. He expressed confidence the Department will lift the suspension order on Lafayette and allow it to resume full operations.

The spokesperson said the mining company had spent $A18-20 million to ensure ecologically safe mining operations.

However, a lawyer for SARA said Lafayette was facing a suit for possible violations of the country's mining sharing agreement. The new case would be the second filed by SARA against Lafayette this year.

Environmentalists ask for fair media coverage of Albay spill (INQ7, 1/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Lafayette Mining
Saving an Island (Bulatlat, 20-26 November 2005)

Priest threatens to take Aussie mine to court (CathNews, 8/9/06)
Oxfam weighs in on debate over Australian mine in Philippines (CathNews, 10/8/06)
Fish kill confirmed near Australian mine in Philippines, priest denies sabotage (CathNews, 16/8/06)
Lafayette rejects community claims over spill (CathNews 31/7/06)
Filipino Bishop disappointed over Lafayette mine decision (CathNews 14/6/06)

2 Nov 2006