MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Cyanide blamed for Albay fish kills

Published by MAC on 2005-11-07


Cyanide blamed for Albay fish kills

07th November 2005

http://news.inq7.net/regions/index.php?index=1&story_id=56639

LEGAZPI CITY -- Villagers living near the premises of Lafayette Mining Corp. in the Rapu-Rapu town of Albay province have claimed that cyanide found in mine tailings that spilled when the company's pump malfunctioned on Oct. 11 caused fish kills in their area since last week.

Jon Sarmiento of the environmental group Alamin said the fish kills on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 had angered the residents.

Jun Narvaez, Bicol area manager of Tanggol Kalikasan, said that when the tailings pump of the multibillion-peso Rapu-Rapu polymetallic project failed, tailing materials spilled from an emergency pond of the mill into the surrounding mill site, including the supposed fully protected "immediate drainage."

Rey Juan, Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional technical director, said an MGB team had already checked the situation and made sure that mitigating measures had been undertaken by Lafayette.

The damage and threat had been contained, he said.

Juan said he had received a report that the tailings pond overflowed again due to continuous rains on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. He sent another team to investigate the matter.

"The cyanide content of the tailings pond is indeed heavy, so I immediately dispatched a team at the Binosawan area where the spill took place," Juan said.

He said he expected the team to submit its report today.

Inaccurate

Rapu-Rapu Councilor Eric de la Paz claimed that the MGB findings were inaccurate since several fish kills had already occurred in the villages of Binosawan, Pagcolbon and Malobago since the tailings pond overflowed.

"Right now, the majority of us in the Sangguniang Bayan [town council] are unanimous in passing a resolution to stop the mining operations and declare null and void the proclamation of the area as a special economic zone in Bicol," De la Paz said.

He said the council was closely coordinating with concerned sectors and "feel grateful for the initiative of the local parish headed by Fr. Felino Bugawisan in mobilizing the people of these barangays."

Measures

Narvaez confirmed that based on the inspection of their team in Rapu-Rapu, Lafayette had taken measures to contain the effects of the overflow.

He said Lafayette's technicians had immediately removed the dead fish.

Lafayette refused to comment on the issue, saying it stood firm on the findings of the MGB.

On Oct. 22, the bureau said the tailings spill was confined within the mine site, only about two kilos of marine organisms affected by the cyanide were gathered during the first day, and that toxic waste soon dissipated to standard level.
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