MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines Update

Published by MAC on 2006-07-21

Philippines Update

21st July 2006

Controversy continues over the 30 day trial period of operation, granted to Lafayette's Rapu Rapu mine. The company has asked to resume "regular mining operations" even though the trial is not yet over and it now faces a class action law suit by concerned locals and other Philippine citizens.

A US court has accepted a submission by the Provincial Government of Marinduque that Barrick Gold should be included as a co-defendant in the case the government has filed against Placer Dome over the 1996 Marcopper tailings disaster.

Philex Mining, joining the current 'gold rush', has applied to mine inside the Philippine Military Academy, Fort del Pilar. As with quarrying at Biak-na-Bato (recently covered on this website) it seems that the cultural (even political) implications of exploiting such an important location could well bring in new allies to the national struggle against mining.

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.

Groups seek injunction vs Lafayette

Philippine Daily Inquirer

21st July 2006

SEEKING to stop the mining activity in the town of Rapu-Rapu, Albay province, environment groups, concerned artists, and television personalities joined the island's residents Thursday and sought an injunction case against mining firm Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) and Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes. Members of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, personalities Chin-Chin Gutierrez and Miriam Quiambao, and residents of Rapu-Rapu filed the civil suit Thursday morning at the Makati City regional trial court to seek a stop to a 30-day test-run of Lafayette's polymetallic project.

"We learned recently that there was a new spill besides the two spills last year. So what we are saying is the permit for another test-run should have no effect anymore because it shows that their promises could not be fulfilled," said lawyer Howard Calleja.

"Now they promised to be safe, but there's a third mine spill, so what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for a disaster to happen?" Calleja continued, referring to a reported spillage at the onset of the test-run last week. Signed by 800 individuals, the petition asked for the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the Australian mining firm from pursuing the test-run while the court has yet to decide on whether it would issue a permanent injunction.

"...We seek to enjoin respondents from further mining in the Rapu-Rapu area in view of the grave injustice and irreparable damage caused by mining activities and all those that may still be caused by them as a result of ongoing operations," the petition read.

The test-run, granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), sought to check whether remedies the firm implemented to ensure the safety of its operations would be effective.

LPI's operations were suspended in November last year after two tailspills leaked toxic waste into creeks in the island last October. LPI was slapped with a 10.7 million-peso for the spill, blamed for widespread fishkill in the area.

"Future generations, residents and non-residents of Rapu-Rapu alike, are clearly entitled to enjoy the natural resources present in the fragile island ecosystem of Rapu-Rapu. To deprive them of such... will only be a clear and blatant violation of this present generation's role as stewards of the country's natural resources," the petition read.

Bicolanos, Environmental activists file case against Lafayette, DENR

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

19th July 2006

In a new bid to stop the polymetallic mining project in Rapurapu, residents of the island, Sorsogon and Albay, environmental activist groups, fisher folk organizations, church people, militant organizations and television personalities filed a class suit against Lafayette Philippines, Inc., an Australian mining firm, and DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes today at the Makati Regional Trial Court today.

The suit sought to halt the 30-day test run granted by the DENR Secretary to Lafayette, on June 13, 2006. It similarly petitioned for the permanent injunction of the Lafayette mining operation, as it demanded compensation for the damages the company has done to the environment and the surrounding communities.

"We filed a case because we want to stop the destruction La Fayette is causing in our island, in our environment, our future and our children's future. (Sumama po kami sa pagasampa ng kaso upang mapigilan ang ginagawang pagsira ng Lafayette di lamang sa aming kapaligiran kundi sa aming kinabukasan at ng aming mga anak)," says Nenita Cotorno, a 60-year old grandmother of 7 and a local resident of Rapu-rapu.

Another Bicolana and international Beauty Queen Miriam Quiambao also signed as a petitioner. "It is a shame that people's lives and the environment are being put at risk for the sake of the mining operation. I hope that people in the government will make decisions that will be beneficial to more people than a few. Lives, especially people's lives, are too precious.

Television personalities, musicians and environmentalists like Chin-chin Gutierrez, Gary Granada, Chickoy Pura and Roy Alvarez are also petitioners of the suit.

"We are not against mining per se. We are against how mining is being done in this country, without regard to people, without regard to the environment, and the country's future. The present situation is barely enough for economic, social and cultural sustainability of the present generation. Why should people and the environment always have to pay the cost to benefit a few?" averred Chin-chin Gutierrez.

"The petitioners, who are both residents and non-residents of Rapurapu, share a common concern for the environmental, economic and health-related problems caused by the mining operations in the island. They are invoking their constitutionally guaranteed right to a balanced and healthful ecology as well as their right to health," explains Atty. Howard Calleja, one of the lawyers who filed the case.

"The most compelling reason to restrain Lafayette's mining operation is the occurrence of acid mine drainage (AMD). This environmental concern is something that even the DENR admits Lafayette could not control," added Calleja. "Rapurapu should be immediately rehabilitated. The acid mine drainage and its effects in the island should be addressed, not exacerbated by allowing the island to be mined further by Lafayette," said Frances Quimpo of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines.

"It is very difficult to understand how the government can allow Lafayette to continue mining when it has already seen how Lafayette violated our laws, cheated the government of taxes, undermined the safety of the communities, and caused irreversible damages to our environment," pointed out Antonio Casetas, Head Servant of Sagip Isla, Sagip Kapwa, an island-wide environmental organization in Rapurapu.

"We have remained vigilant and have continued to protest in the streets, in spite the fact that the island is now being militarized, because this is the only way we can express our position. Our once peaceful island is not only being destroyed, it is now wrapped in apprehension and fear. We hope Lafayette and the government will let us be, " averred Ariel, leader of Lambat-Bicol, a fisherfok federation in the Bicol region.

Meanwhile, Defend Patrimony Spokesperson Trixie Concepcion asserted that Lafayette's operations in Rapu-rapu are still rife with irregularities, including under-declared revenues and falsification of public documents. "We are asking the Court to stop what DENR itself further affirmed as a grossly unfavorable mining project to the government," adds Concepcion. "The mining issue in Rapu-Rapu is a matter of public interest in view of the environmental hazards and adverse health impacts that Lafayette mining operation poses. The people of Sorsogon are supporting the class suit, and we hope we can get justice," says Bishop Aruturo Bastes who headed the defunct Rapu-rapu Fact-Finding Commission.

"We do not trust that the Arroyo Administration, including the DENR, will heed our demands. She has after all already demonstrated her bias for the Australian mining firm and has intransigently clung to her mining liberalization policy to protect the interest of foreign transnational mining," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the environmental activist group Kalikasan-PNE. "This class suit is a fight not only against Lafayette but also a fight in defense of our patrimony," added Bautista.


Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756
Fax No. +63-2-9209099



21st June 2006

Boac, Marinduque - Judge Brian E. Sandoval of the United States District Court in the District of Nevada, USA, granted on July 19, 2006 the motion of the Province of Marinduque that Barrick Gold Corporation be joined as a defendant in a civil case filed originally against Placer Dome, Inc.

On October 4, 2005, the Provincial Government of Marinduque filed a case against Placer Dome, Inc. in Nevada state court in relation to the series of environmental disasters, health and livelihood impacts of the 30-year mining operations of Marcopper Mining Corporation in the Island-Province of Marinduque. The province insisted that Placer Dome, Inc. managed and operated the local mining operations during the period 1968 until it divested its interests from the mines in 1997 following the infamous Boar River Disaster of March 24, 1996. On October 27, 2005 the case was moved to the Nevada District Court on motion of the defendant.

However, on January 19, 2006, it was announced that Barrick has already acquired 81% of Placer Dome's shares and has replaced nine of the twelve members of PDI's Board of Directors with those from Barrick. Gregory Wilkins, Barrick's President and CEO also replaced PDI's President and CEO. Since then, Barrick was in full control of all Nevada subsidiaries and mines of Placer Dome, Inc.

Atty. James D. McCarthy, the Lead Counsel for the Province emphasized that "Placer Dome has apparently ceased to exist, or ceased to exist in any meaningful sense. It is no longer incorporated in British Colombia, no longer has any assets or properties in Canada or elsewhere, no longer has any ongoing operations, and has been fully subsumed by (and amalgamated into) Barrick. What Placer Dome once had (both assets and liabilities) has either been transferred to Barrick or been sold by Barrick."

The Counsel further stated that "Barrick is now liable for and responsible for any judgment that the Province might obtain against Placer Dome in this proceeding. Considerations of equity and efficiency, as well as a need for realism, therefore demand that Barrick be joined as a named Defendant in this litigation, if only to insure that no additional proceedings to collect against Barrick are required."

He finally argued that "because Barrick has long been aware of this lawsuit, and has long been involved in this lawsuit, it is not prejudiced by its addition as a party. That lack of prejudice is especially obvious in the circumstances of this lawsuit, where - despite its eight month tenure in the courts - no Defendant has filed an answer or given any discovery, even the jurisdictional discovery that Placer Dome now concedes to be proper, and no Defendant has done anything whatsoever to address the merits of this lawsuit."

These information were obtained by the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns from official records of the case regularly furnished to it by the law firm which represents the Province of Marinduque in the lawsuit.

MACEC's Executive Secretary Myke Magalang is hopeful that "the inclusion of Barrick in the case will give meaningful victory for the province and the people who were directly affected by the series of mining disasters in our province. Otherwise, we can only expect a ceremonial victory against Placer Dome because it has no more assets to use in case the court decides on our favor."

In a related development, MACEC is preparing to present to the officials of the Provincial Government a declaration of support to the Nevada Case signed by an estimate of 9,500 Marinduqueños and resolution of endorsements from various barangay councils in the province.

Magalang noted that "while MACEC supports the filing of the case in Nevada in order to obtain justice for the people and environment which we failed to get from the Philippine judicial system, we also have some reservations because of the non-inclusion of the directly affected individuals as plaintiffs in the said case. Nevertheless, we believe that this is an important venue in our fight for environmental justice. Our task is to ensure that the poor victims of the mining disasters in the province will be given priority in case compensatory awards are granted by the Nevada court to the province."

Myke R. Magalang
Executive Secretary
Tel. Nos. (042) 332-2713
Sacred Heart Diocesan Pastoral Center
Second Floor, Cathedral Compound, High Town,
Boac, 4900 Marinduque
Tel. Nos. (042) 332-2713

Fort del Pilar threatened with mining operation


18th July 2006

Mining projects are usually found in the most remote mountainous areas inhabited by marginalized farmers and indigenous people. This is not necessarily because these are the only areas with mineral deposits. The value of what will be destroyed by the mining operation is simply less, from an economic point of view, than the revenues and profits to be generated. Economist Bernardo Villegas, quoted in Philippine Star, pointed out the obvious that "mining is usually in the boondocks." A majority of the poor are in the rural areas, Dr. Villegas said, and in his opinion neither agriculture nor manufacturing has the potential to bring progress to these areas. Mining has.

Mining projects are usually found in the most remote mountainous areas inhabited by marginalized farmers and indigenous people. This is not necessarily because these are the only areas with mineral deposits. The value of what will be destroyed by the mining operation is simply less, from an economic point of view, than the revenues and profits to be generated. Economist Bernardo Villegas, quoted in Philippine Star, pointed out the obvious that "mining is usually in the boondocks." A majority of the poor are in the rural areas, Dr. Villegas said, and in his opinion neither agriculture nor manufacturing has the potential to bring progress to these areas. Mining has.

Philex Mining Corp. is applying for a permit to mine inside the Philippine Military Academy, Fort del Pilar, Baguio City. A PMA alumnus told me that the mining operations would displace the academy. Philex, he said, is using Dr. Villegas, who is conducting free lectures to the cadets, to gain support for the project. Is Fort del Pilar (named after Gen. Gregorio del Pilar) the boondocks? The PMA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are reportedly against Philex' mining project but there is pressure on both the academy and the AFP to change their stand. The area is a military reserve, and the AFP's clearance is required as provided for by Section 15 of RA 7942, the Mining Act of 1995.

Mining operations could potentially raise millions of dollars and create jobs and livelihood opportunities. A farmer-leader from Toledo City, Cebu, told me that many farmers welcome the reopening of the Atlas mine. The mine used to employ thousands of workers and the economic benefits to Toledo were obvious. However, there are concerns about mine tailings disposal. Neither the company nor the government is providing any information about how and where mine tailings will be contained and discharged. Thirty years ago, the untreated waste was dumped directly into the sea but this practice is now banned by RA 7942. A mine tailings pond will have to be constructed.

Mine tailings ponds occasionally overflow and breach. The subsequent spills cause destruction to the environment, health and livelihood as witnessed in Marinduque and Rapu-Rapu. The companies responsible for these disasters and the government agencies tasked to implement the law demonstrated little foresight and competence in dealing with the spills. While the findings of the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission lacked credibility, thanks to Bishop Arturo Bastes, who chaired the commission, the spills and the damage mining has caused are real. The first spill occurred only three months after the Rapu-Rapu mine started producing gold.

The government has declared mining as a priority investment area. Mining is included in the 12-point agenda of the DENR. But once mined, the minerals are gone forever. The government must ensure the highest possible dividend on these finite resources. Yet, on top of the incentives provided by the Mining Act, some mining areas, including the Rapu-Rapu mine, are also granted status as economic zones. Additional incentives mean less income for the government.

The PMA has a value far beyond that of the gold in its underground. The academy is priceless and it is a pride of the people of Baguio. It is the country's premier military training institution. It would be the ultimate irony if the PMA is turned into an open-pit mine at a time when an outstanding PMA alumnus heads the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Secretary Angelo Reyes was among the top 10 graduates of PMA Class 1966 and in 2001 he received the academy's Cavalier Award for Public Administration.

The PMA website carries the immortal words of Gen. del Pilar: "I am surrounded by fearful odds that will overcome me and my valiant men; but I am pleased to die fighting for my beloved country." Today the odds are fearful that mining operations shall overcome the PMA and its valiant men and women who face the prospect of displacement because of mining, hardly a fate with which the legendary general would have been pleased.

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