MANILA, Philippines -- The recent financial woes of Lafayette Philippines Inc. that brought the Australian-owned mine operator to the brink of bankruptcy has its roots in a past dispute between the firm and its supplier, according to officials familiar with the issue.
In an interview, a government mining regulator told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the "final straw" in
"The debt supposedly became due at the end of October  and their supplier declared them in default two weeks later," he said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the issue.
The official said that declaring
Back then, a new management team led by former Agriculture Secretary Carlos Dominguez was appointed by
"I understand that the new team displaced Leighton when they came in," the official said, adding that the old dispute could be one reason why
For his part, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza pointed out that
"They've been in talks with prospective investors for some time now," he said. "They need more capital, and negotiations are faltering."
Atienza said his primary concern at this point is to ensure the protection of the environment around the mining facility in the event that the Rapu-Rapu mine ceases operations.
"We need to make sure that the environment is not compromised," he said.
"We've been informed of their status," the Environment and Natural Resources chief added. "We're monitoring the situation closely."
Company officials estimate that the mine could earn up to $180 million a year, from its gold, silver and copper output, given the strong prices of commodities on the world market. The Rapu-Rapu mine has an estimated life six years, assuming that no other exploration is done in the area.