MANILA, Philippines -- The financial troubles of Lafayette Mining should prod the government to close down the Australian firm's mining project in Albay, an anti-mining alliance said on Wednesday.
Lafayette Mining, which owns 74 percent of Lafayette Philippines that runs an open pit mine in Rapu-Rapu island, entered voluntary administration Tuesday to avoid bankruptcy.
"The recent bankruptcy of Lafayette should once and for all convince the government to totally close the mining operations on Rapu-Rapu island,'' Defend Patrimony convener Clemente Bautista Jr. said in a statement.
Executives of Lafayette Philippines squelched speculations they were shutting down, and said they would continue to operate.
Activists from the alliance picketed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ask Secretary Lito Atienza to support the closure of the mine on Rapu-Rapu island.
They said Atienza should set in place the mechanisms for the rehabilitation of the mining area, and the remuneration for the communities adversely affected by the operations.
"More than a financial mess, the Lafayette mine is an environmental and social failure,'' Bautista said.
The Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Mining Project, the administration’s flagship project, has been under criticism since it caused spills in late 2005 that resulted in a series of fishkills and toxic metal contamination.
The government suspended its operations in January 2006 months after it spilled mine tailings in October 2005, but gave its clearance for its resumption in February 2007.
Defend Patrimony welcomed news of the Lafayette's near-bankruptcy and viewed this as "strategic victory'' in the campaign against "mining plunder.''
"This is a step towards victory for the people of Rapu-Rapu and their supporters who have tirelessly united and campaigned for the mine's closure since 2001," Bautista said.
By entering voluntary administration, Lafayette has gone bankrupt and paved the way for banks to take over its operations, according to Bautista
"The bankruptcy of the Arroyo administration's flagship mining project shows how defective the government's current mining liberalization program is. No one except for Lafayette's owners and foreign investors has benefited in the course of the mining operations,'' Bautista said.
So far, the project failed to yield substantial benefits for the residents of Rapu-Rapu island, he said.
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, for his part, also expressed his jubilation and vindication over this.
"This is a very welcome Christmas gift to all Bicolanos. This will surely boost the morale of many other communities throughout the country that are fighting for people's rights, national patrimony, and environmental protection," Bishop Bastes said in a statement.