Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner in protest over the conduct of the 30-day test run which the Department of Energy and Natural Resources granted to Australian mining Lafayette last month.
"Lafayette's 30-day test run which ends today marks
thebeginnings of another imminent disaster on the seas around Rapu
Rapu,"said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Beau Baconguis. In
our view, the testrun has now been exposed as nothing more than a
charade to pave the way forLafayette's untrammelled operations in
Rapu Rapu," she added.
The Australian mining company Lafayette was ordered to haltits
operations late last year after two mine spills released cyanide
and othercontaminants from the mine and into the sea around the
island, causing massivefish kills. Subsequent investigations by a
Presidential Fact-finding Committeein April-May 2006 revealed
admissions from Lafayette officials that the companyhad been mining
beyond its capacity even while the structural safeguards meantto
minimize environmental damage were not yet completed. The DENR,
however,allowed Lafayette to continue operations despite these
lapses by granting thecompany a 30-day test run on July 11,
Recent spills and more to come?
A leak occurred during operations two days into the test run,
but the DENR wasquick to dismiss this as a minor incident. Less
than two weeks later on July18, 2006, residents reported a fish
kill in the island's Mirikpitik creek.Residents have since reported
more fish kills in creeks leading out from themine into the sea,
but so far, aside from dismissing the incidents as resultsof
"sabotage," there has been no active and convincing response onthe
part of the company and the DENR to verify and explain these
"If it proved anything at all, this test run demonstrated very
clearlythat the government will do everything, including turning a
blind eye to whatis now shaping up as another disaster in the
making. The pretence involved inthe test run is so obvious, nobody
is deceived by it," Baconguis stated.
Lack of transparency
Moreover, the heavy presence of military, police, and private
security aroundthe island, including in small, remote barangays
[villages] located well beyondthe mine's boundaries, belie DENR's
and Lafayette's claims of full transparencyduring the 30-day test
run. Monitoring and inspection by independent partiesconcerned
about the negative effects of the mining operation are
activelydiscouraged and even prevented.
David Andrade, a Greenpeace employee sent to investigatereports
of a fish kill was detained at gunpoint while on public land - and
hiswater samples were confiscated.
Meanwhile, in Rapu Rapu Island as well as in Legaspi,inquiries
at local government offices regarding the composition of the
DENR-appointed mine monitoring committee during the test run have
"Controversies have shrouded Lafayette's test run from the
beginning, butthe most glaring of all is its total lack of
transparency," saidBaconguis, "This bodes ill for the future of the
fragile marineenvironment that surrounds Rapu Rapu, and the people
who depend on it - thatis, unless the DENR finally acts in the
interest of the environment rather thanfor myopic corporate and
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