MAC: Mines and Communities

Lafayette seeks DENR okay to resume regular mining operations at Rapu-Rapu

Published by MAC on 2006-07-20

Lafayette seeks DENR okay to resume regular mining operations at Rapu-Rapu

By Rocel C. Felix, The Philippine Star

20th July 2006

Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI), the local subsidiary of Australian mining company Lafayette Mining Ltd., is set to ask the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to allow the resumption of normal operations of the company's polymetallic mine and processing facility in Albay.

The company successfully completed last week the first phase of a 30-day test run for its base metals plant. The test run was allowed after RRPI satisfied all conditions set by the DENR.

"Upon successful completion of the last stage of the test run, RRPI intends to apply for a permanent lifting order enabling it to commence normal operation," Lafayette said in a disclosure to the Australian Stock Exchange yesterday.

Lafayette said the first test run involved the circulation of water into the system to test for leakages. That phase was completed in three days, two days ahead of schedule.

The second stage involves the processing of non-ore bearing materials to test the electro-mechanical systems within the base metals plant.

Lafayette expressed confidence RRPI will successfully complete the second stage of the test run and in due course, receive authorization to move promptly through the remaining stage of testing, involving the use of ore bearing materials and chemical reagents.

In November 2005, Lafayette voluntarily suspended its operations following two mining spill incidents in October.

The DENR-approved test run was subjected to specific conditions such as the payment of P10.4 million in fines and penalties for violation of environmental laws.

The other conditions set by the DENR included extending the validity of its surety bond, installing dam monitoring instruments to gauge the stability of the dam, emergency control mechanisms to stop or minimize the damages in case accidents happen during the test run.

Lafayette officials are hoping RRPI can resume full operations and start delivering the first of its contract shipments this September.

Meanwhile, Sorsogon Bishop emeritus Jesus Varela said he supports the test run of Lafayette's Rapu Rapu polymetallic project, saying it would show if the corrective measures put in place by the company meet the standards for safe and responsible mining operations.

Varela, who personally toured the project last week, said in a statement that the Church is not against mining itself but is opposed to irresponsible mining. He added he wanted to find out for himself if the objections of anti-mining groups to LPI's continued operations are valid or not.

"If the risks of mining in Rapu Rapu can be avoided or substantially mitigated while the benefits can be palpably felt by its affected communities, then the company under its new Filipino management must be given a chance to conduct responsible mining; otherwise it should be closed down," Varela said.

The DENR allowed the test run so the company can test if its corrective measures run properly before it is allowed to resume mining operations.

The three-stage test run first involved the circulation of water into the system to test for leakages. This stage of testing had been completed and DENR issued an order confirming that the project had fully complied with all the requirements of the first stage of testing and can proceed to the second stage which involves the processing of non-ore bearing materials to test the electromechanical systems.

Lafayette said it is confident the project will successfully complete the second stage within the allocated period of nine days and in due course receive authorization to proceed with the third stage which would involve the use of ore-bearing materials and chemical reagents.

On full operations, the project will employ about 900 people on top of the thousands more that would be generated by support businesses it would generate. The project is also expected to spend about P320 million each year largely for supplies from Albay and Sorsogon, making it the single biggest growth driver in the area.

The new management team under Carlos G. Dominguez took over the project in mid-January following government sanctions for spills involving process water in October.

Dominguez, LPI chairman and president, had promised the host communities around the mine that the project would be a model of responsible mining.

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