Philippines wooing grave trouble with Australian mining deals, activists say

May. 28, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stubbornly refuses to heed the grim warnings left by the environmental disaster caused by Australian-owned Lafayette Mining in Rapu-Rapu island, Albay and is even courting more danger by trying to seal a multi-billion dollar deal with BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company whose main headquarters is located in Melbourne, environmental activist organization Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said today.

“We fear that GMA’s trip to Australia?combined with the government’s refusal to uphold a moratorium on mining in the environmentally-critical island of Rapu-Rapu in deference to Lafayette’s wishes?will only encourage more mining firms to flock into the Philippines and engage in wanton, plunderous and irresponsible mining operations,” Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista said.

Among the giant mining firms that GMA is wooing is BHP Billiton, which continues to evade responsibility for the environmental disaster it caused in the island of Papua New Guinea, Bautista said.

“GMA is set to formally meet up with executives of BHP Billiton and other mining executives from the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCham) in the course of her visit to Australia. This alone is a grave cause for alarm because BHP Billiton is a giant mining firm which has been facing a $4 billion class suit filed this January 2007 by the Ninerum people of Papua New Guinea for the Ok Tedi environmental disaster it caused,” Bautista said.

“For two decades, BHP Billiton dumped 80,000 tons of rock mine tailings filled with toxic heavy metals such as copper, zinc, cadmium, and lead directly into the Fly and Ok Tedi rivers in Papua New Guinea. This has ruined the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers, poisoned some 2,000 square kilometers of forests, and contaminated two of Papua New Guinea’s largest river systems. The damage is expected to continue for decades, possibly even centuries,” he explained.

BHP Billiton is now eyeing a multi-million dollar nickel project in Pujada Peninsula, Davao Oriental province in partnership with local mining firms Hallmark Mining Corp. and AustraAsia Link Mining Corp, Bautista noted.

“In effect, GMA is actually wooing a giant mining firm that killed a river system in another Asia-Pacific country. And now she is practically begging these same mining fims to operate in the Philippines,” Bautista said.

“GMA’s Australia trip is downright unpatriotic and dangerous to the Filipino people and our patrimony. The President is literally asking for more foreign military troops and giant foreign mining operations in the Philippines without heed to their long-term implications,” Bautista said. ###

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