MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Experts Review Denr 's Permanent Lifting Order, Find No Scientific Basis For Rapu-rapu Mine Re-open

Published by MAC on 2007-03-22
Source: Kalikasan-PNE

Experts review DENR 's Permanent Lifting Order, find no scientific basis for Rapu-Rapu mine re-opening

Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) PRESS RELEASE

22nd March 2007

Unscientific, haphazard, and fraught with technical loopholes.

Thus concluded a member of the four-person panel of independent experts which recently scrutinized the DENR's basis for the Permanent Lifting Order (PLO) issued for the Lafayette mine in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

The panel was convened last February by the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phils) and is composed of four scientific and environmental experts who reviewed and critiqued the reports that have informed the DENR's decision to reopen the RRPI mine to full commercial operations:

l Dr. Carlito R. Barril : Retired Professor of Chemistry, University of the Philippines in Los Banos

l Engr. Efren Favila (mining engineer)

l Dr. Emelina G. Regis : Director for the Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research (INECAR) of the Ateneo de Naga University

l Mr. Ricarido M. Saturay, Jr : Geologist, Faculty at the University of the Philippines Diliman National Institute for Geological Sciences (UP NIGS), and a member of Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya Para sa Sambayanan (AGHAM)

The four experts identified major deficiencies and inadequate action on four respective areas of immediate concern, all of which were not considered in the DENR evaluation. These are:

a. Acid Mine Drainage (Dr. Barril, et al) / b. Biophysical Consequences (Dr. Regis) / c. Geological Factors (Mr. Saturay) / d. Mine Structures (Engr. Favila)

The four issued separate reviews of various DENR documents evaluating the test runs. Dr. Barril reviewed on the Final Report of Carlos Primo c. David and Rustica G. Romero on The Evaluation of RRPI's Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) Abatement And Control Strategies. Mr. Saturay reviewed the 2006 Test Run of the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project. Dr. Regis reviewed the Evaluation Report of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), on the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project under the test run conditions (dated Dec. 19, 2006).

All of experts generally concluded that the RRPI to date lacks the capability to effectively manage, abate, and remediate the damage caused by Acid Mine Drainage.

Engr. Favila said that the RRPI mine lacks important emergency infrastructures that are crucial to preventing another disastrous mine spill. The studies also failed to consider geological factors that may adversely affect land areas surrounding the mine site and water supply systems, Mr. Saturay said. Dr. Regis stressed that the unmonitored and unregulated presence of physico-chemical and trace metals (particularly toxic heavy metals) in the mining-affected areas, waterways, and ground had an adverse effect on marine species and will continue to pose a threat to marine and human life in the small island ecosystem.

"We find the study made by Dr. David and his partner as unscientific, carried out haphazardly and superficially, and fraught with technical loopholes and shortcomings, so much so, that the results generated are not only so limited but also of doubtful and unreliable quality. We find the results of the study inconclusive and unreliable and should not have been used as one of the bases for lifting the suspension order, " Dr. Barril said.

On the basis of the existing studies' technical flaws, methodological shortcomings and inconclusive results, the team strongly recommended a repeat of the DENR study and the pursuit of more detailed studies on the RRPI's mining operation in Rapu-Rapu.

"[More] detailed studies may be exhaustive and expensive but it is a justified pre-requisite for mining in a small tropical island with a significant population depending on the island's limited resources ," Mr. Saturay said.

Dr. Regis also urged the RRPI's remediation of the Acid Mine Drainage now seen in waterways in mining-affected areas and a responsibility and accountability from the concerned public and company officials in the event of mining-related and untoward incidents that may occur.

"The deficiencies noted by the experts indicate how RRPI and the DENR rushed the opening of the Lafayette mine in Rapu-Rapu. This undue haste to open the mine to commercial operations has put the lives of the island's residents and its marine and terrestrial ecysystems into more danger than before ," Kalikasan-PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista, Jr. said.

Bautista stressed that "the unremediated deficiencies and unresolved problems with the mine (such as the lack of emergency infrastructure noted by Engr. Favila) practically guarantees another mine spill ".

"The experts have also noted that Acid Mine Drainage has already started in some mining-affected sites and will continue to worsen. This will eventually poison the island's waterways and may even seep into the freshwater supply and adversely affect marine and terrestial organisms and even human life. The DENR does not seem to understand nor care about the alarming implications of this development ," Bautista said.

"The people of Rapu-rapu are living next to an environmental time bomb with the mine's reopening and with the onset on AMD. We could be dealing with another environmental disaster as large if not larger than the Marcopper tragedy in Marinduque in the mid-90s," Bautista warned.

"We demand the suspension of RRPI's operations in Rapu-Rapu," Bautista stressed.

CEC-Philippines convened the panel shortly after the DENR issued the PLO based on the test run evaluation this February, and refused to approve requests from NGOs and people's organization to launch an independent probe in the mine site.

Reference: Clemente Bautista, Jr. Kalikasan-PNE National Coordinator Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) #26 Matulungin St., Barangay Central, Diliman, Quezon City (0922-844-9787)

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