MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Greenpeace reports of contamination in Rapu-Rapu

Published by MAC on 2006-08-24

Greenpeace reports of contamination in Rapu-Rapu

Posted by, Vinia Datinguinoo -

24th August 2006

GREENPEACE today warned that mining on Rapu-Rapu island in Albay, if allowed to be operated full-scale, will result in “an ecological disaster for the local ecology.” The international environmental group issued its warning as it made public the results of its tests of the Mirikpitik Creek, in the vicinity of the mine site.

Their tests, Greenpeace said, found “very high levels” of heavy metals in the creek, particularly cadmium, copper and zinc.

“These metals were present in dissolved forms at many hundreds of times above general background levels for these metals in river water,” Greenpeace said. Cadmium and copper, the group said, are both “highly toxic” to plants, animals and humans, and exposure to zinc “can also impact aquatic organisms.” (View the Greenpeace report.)

Following Greenpeace’s public release of their inspection results, Lafayette Philippines said it was preparing to sue the group for trespassing. The firm is also seeking the deportation of “three Caucasians” identified as having climbed Lafayette’s conveyor belt to unfurl anti-mining banners.

In October last year, cyanide and other contaminants spilled from the mine into the sea, causing massive fish kills and prompting calls from environment groups for an investigation into the mine operations. The mine — run by the Philippines subsidiary of Australian mining giant, Lafayette — was suspended for several months; in July, a 30-day trial run was started with government’s approval.

The environment department at that time said the “acid test” will determine if Lafayette will be able to mine without violating safety measures. The test run was met by protests.

The Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic mine is considered by government as a flagship project, expected to bring in huge earnings for the country’s mining industry. The mine contains gold, silver, copper and zinc. (Click here for a profile of the mine project, and here for a satellite image of the site.)

Greenpeace scientists took water samples from Mirikpitik Creek on August 2, following reports, the group said, from local residents that there had been fish kills in the stream. Mirikpitik forks into two channels close to its outflow to the sea; samples were taken from both channels.

The samples were then taken for analysis to the group’s research laboratories in UK.

Greenpeace reiterated its call for Lafayette’s mining activities to be halted. “Toxic pollution from the mine would clearly affect the coastal and marine ecosystems of Rapu-Rapu Island,” said campaigner, Beau Baconguis. “Lafayette’s mining operations in Rapu Rapu must be permanently shut down.”

The group called for an immediate clean up and rehabilitation of the mine site and its affected areas.

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