Rapu-rapu reopening a go-signal for more destructive mining investments — Ibon

May. 31, 2007

MANILA — In the wake of the reopening of the controversial Rapu-Rapu polymetallic mine in Albay last February, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently announced that investments in the mining sector are expected to hit $348 million this year. But whatever benefits such investments supposedly bring would be cancelled out by the severe social and environmental costs of large-scale mining, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

It should be recalled that DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes allowed the permanent re-opening of mining operations in Rapu-Rapu last year amid outcry from residents. Since then, Rapu-Rapu residents dependent on fishing for their livelihoods have complained of declining fish catch. Local farmers also said that blasting in the course of mining activities of Australian firm Lafayette, which operates the mine, has loosened the foundations of their lands, making them vulnerable to landslides.

Despite the many documented social and environmental costs of mining, the Arroyo government is apparently using Rapu-Rapus reopening as a welcome mat to investors. In her state visit to Australia, Arroyo is reportedly set to enter into formal talks with Melbourne-based BHP Billiton to push ahead with its planned multi-billion dollar-nickel project in Pujada Peninsula, Davao Oriental province.

Mining has a major role to contribute in national development but such activities must be done in the context of the welfare of local communities and other stakeholders. Such social considerations are not in the agenda of large foreign mining companies, which only care about exploiting resources for mega-profits. (end)

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.

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