MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Not Just Cyanide: Study Shows Toxic Heavy Metals Also Caused Contamination From Lafayette Mine Spil

Published by MAC on 2006-02-01
Source: Defend Patrimony

Not just cyanide: Study shows toxic heavy metals also caused contamination from Lafayette mine spill

by Defend Patrimony

1st February 2006

In a press conference, environmental activist groups presented recent laboratory results showing evidence that not only cyanide but also toxic heavy metals accounted for contamination from two mine spills from the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project operated by Lafayette Mining Inc. in AlbayThe laboratory tests were undertaken as part of the fact-finding mission conducted by the research NGO Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) and the environmental alliance Defend Patrimony in the aftermath of the mine tailing spillage that occurred first on Oct. 11 and the second on Oct. 31 last year.

The fact-finding team took 34 sediment samples from creeks, rivers and communities affected by or near the mine spill. The samples were analyzed by the Environmental Engineering Department of the College of Engineering in UP Diliman, detecting the presence of heavy metals.

"All samples are acidic and tested positive for the presence of toxic heavy metals such as cadmium chromium, lead, arsenic and mercury. Samples taken near the tailing pond which spilled mine waste last year, exceeded the safety standard for mercury," said Januar Ong, CEC's Research Specialist.

Sediments near the mine spill were found to have mercury content of 0.999 part per million (ppm) or milligram mercury per kilogram of sediments. The government's allowable standard is only 0.20 ppm for industries permitted to dispose industrial wastes.

"These results indicate that the mining operation and mine spill of LMI caused the toxic heavy metal contamination of nearby creeks and communities in Bgy. Binosawan," said Ong.

"It also validates previous studies that the Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) phenomenon which accompanies surface mining is occurring in the area."

AMD is water polluted with high levels of iron, aluminium and sulphuric acid. It is a consequence of mining activities in sulphide-bearing rocks. It was previously confirmed in Bgy Pagcolbon and upper slopes of Sta. Barbara in a research study by the Ateneo de Naga University.

"LMI cannot claim that the high level of heavy metals, particularly mercury, is not of its doing. It uses cyanide leaching method to extract gold, causing the release of mercury and other heavy metals in the ores," explained Ong.

Meanwhile, Andy Salatan of the UP Institute of Chemistry and member of the militant scientists' organization AGHAM says "the presence of toxic heavy metals in Rapu-rapu Island poses great danger to the people and the immediate environment."

"The fish kill that happened and the decrease of fish catch are possible immediate effects of the mine spill. Mercury and other heavy metals bio-accumulate in the bodies of living organism including humans. They cause toxic related diseases and illnesses such as cancer, fetal deformation and mental retardation."

Diseases related to mining were common and documented in several mining communities in the Philippines like in Marinduque, Negros Oriental, Surigao del Sur and Samar. Mr. Salatan said there is a need to conduct a comprehensive study in these areas to determine the real extent of toxic contamination and its dangers to the communities.

"We call for the permanent closure of LMI's mining operation in the island," Clemente Bautista of KALIKASAN-People's Network for the Environment demanded.

"LMI should immediately rehabilitate the affected areas, provide medical assistance and compensate the local people for the loss of income and livelihood brought about by their operation and mining spill. The environmental tragedies and social displacement now taking place in Rapu-rapu and other mining affected communities in the country far outweigh the claimed benefits of corporate mining in the country."

Defend Patrimony spokesperson Trixie Concepcion also denounced the Macapagal-Arroyo administration's "efforts to deceive, pressure, and co-opt the CBCP which has aligned itself with the clamor of the people to stop the 24 large-scale mining projects of the Arroyo administration and the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995."

"What the people want is a mining policy that is geared towards national industrialization, and genuine development that guarantees environmental protection and respects people's rights," Concepcion adds.


Clemente Bautista 9248756, 09283448797
Januar Ong 9209099, 09106545063
Andy Salatan 09178589776,
26 Matulungin St. Central District Quezon City.

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