06/12/2008 | 05:23 PM
MANILA, Philippines - A senior Catholic bishop demanded Thursday the total closure of a hotly contested Korean-controlled copper and zinc mine on Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay province in Bicol.
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes claimed the people would definitely be "too happy" if the Korea Resources Inc (Kores) and LG International Corp will leave the area.
"The government should impose total closure of the mining there. It has ruined not only the environment but also our economy," Bastes said in a statement on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website.
Bastes noted Korean state-run mining companies took over control of the project in April after its previous operator, Lafayette of Australia, pulled out over environmental issues.
He said Lafayette got "bankrupt" after its investors backed off due to public clamor against environmental destruction.
"They (Lafayette) have no more investors. They can't even pay their personnel anymore. It's no longer financially viable," he said.
He said Rapu-Rapu mining is supposed to be the government's "flagship" project in its revitalized mining industry program but it turned out to be a "fiasco."
Bastes also said Lafayette still has over P130 million pesos balance of taxes payable to the government.
The Rapu-Rapu mine was forecast to generate revenues of $350 million a year from annual production of 11,000 tons of copper and 13,000 tons of zinc.
Korea's Kores and LG Group acquired Lafayette's majority stake shortly after the mine was fined for spills which contaminated surrounding waters in 2005.
Earlier, some 40 fisher folks and residents of Rapu-Rapu picketed the South Korean Embassy in Makati City to stop Korean investors from taking over the mining operation.
Joining them were environmental activists and peasants, who urged Ambassador Hong Jong-ki to provoke the pullout of the investments of Kores and LG International in the mining operation.
"There is no reason to continue the Lafayette mining project. It's three-year operation in Rapu-rapu island has brought so much environmental destruction, community displacements, human rights violations and livelihood loss," environmental group Kalikasan claimed in a statement.