“The mine will only aggravate poverty among the people. DENR has started to unleash an environmental time bomb with the full commercial operation of Lafayette.” – Trixie Concepcion, Defend Patrimony spokesperson and geologist
BY LISA ITO
In complete disregard of the technical findings and recommendations of the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission (RRFFC) issued last May 2006, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes gave the go signal for Lafayette Mining to resume full commercial operations in its base metals plant in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.
The Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) signed the Final Lifting Order (FLO) last Thursday, February 8, claiming that Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI) has fully complied with all conditions set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and authorizing it to immediately resume production of copper and zinc concentrates in its base metals plant.
Secretary Reyes, who also heads the PAB, said that the lifting order “still comes with stringent conditions”, such as the implementation of operational control measures and the immediate expansion of the existing Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) to include representatives from the academe, non-government organizations, and other interested stakeholders.
Lafayette Mining’s permit to operate was suspended following two mine tailings spills in October 2006 and fish kill incidents shortly after.
Rapu-Rapu folk, church leaders, and environmental activists alike quickly registered their condemnation and sounded the red alert over the resumption of mining operations in the island.
“I vehemently object to Secretary Reyes’ decision. I believe that everything about the Lafayette project is still defective and disadvantageous not only to the residents of Rapu-rapu but to the entire Filipino nation,” Sorsogon Catholic Bishop Arturo Bastes said.
Bishop Bastes, who headed the Rapu-Rapu commission, said that the PAB’s decision is tantamount to throwing away all technical findings and recommendations issued by the RRFFC.
Among the RRFFC’s findings was that Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) is guilty of irresponsible mining having started operations prior to the completion of environmental protection infrastructures; that the LPI Group violated 11 out of the 29 conditionalities in its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC); and that RRPI has been operating without an ECC.
The Bastes Commission recommended that a mining moratorium be imposed on Rapu-Rapu island and that existing mining permits in the area be suspended in order to comprehensively study and address the issue of ecological conservation and the problem of acid mine drainage (AMD) found present in the island ecosystem.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the DENR’s decision to allow Lafayette to continue its mining operations. It has completely ignored the community displacements, cyanide contamination, fish kills, landslides, human rights violations, and environmental scourges experienced by the local people as a result of Lafayette’s entry and operations,” said Clemente Bautista, Jr., national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE).
Failure of transparency
Environmental NGOs likewise remain unconvinced by Reyes’ assurances that all will be well after the FLO is implemented, citing the lack of transparency on the part of the company and of the DENR all throughout the duration of the two test runs granted to Lafayette.