"Lafayette's 30-day test run which ends today marks the
beginnings of another imminent disaster on the seas around Rapu
Rapu," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Beau Baconguis.
"In our view, the test run has now been exposed as nothing more
than a charade to pave the way for Lafayette's untrammeled
operations in Rapu Rapu," she added.
Lafayette was ordered to halt its operations late last year
after two mine spills released cyanide and other contaminants from
the mine and into the sea around the island, causing massive fish
kills. Subsequent investigations by a Presidential Factfinding
Committee in April-May 2006 revealed admissions from Lafayette
officials that the company had been
mining beyond its capacity even while the structural safeguards
meant to minimize environmental damage were not yet completed. The
DENR, however, allowed Lafayette to continue operations despite
these lapses by granting the company a 30-day test run on July 11,
A leak occurred during operations two days into the test run,
but the DENR was quick to dismiss this as a minor incident. Less
than two weeks later on July 18, 2006, residents reported a fish
kill in the island's Mirikpitik creek. Residents have since
reported more fishkills in creeks leading out from the mine into
the sea, but so far, aside from dismissing the incidents as results
of "sabotage," there has been no active and convincing response on
the part of the company and the DENR to verify and explain these
"If it proved anything at all, this test run demonstrated very
clearly that the government will do everything, including turning a
blind eye to what is now shaping up as another disaster in the
making. The pretense involved in the test run is so obvious, nobody
is deceived by it," Baconguis stated.
Moreover, the heavy presence of military, police, and private
security around the island, including in small, remote barangays
located well beyond the mine's boundaries, belie DENR's and
Lafayette's claims of full transparency during the 30-day test run.
Monitoring and inspection by independent parties concerned about
the negative effects of the mining operation are actively
discouraged and even prevented(1). 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 been unsatisfactory.
"Controversies have shrouded Lafayette's test run from the
beginning, but the most glaring of all is its total lack of
transparency," said Baconguis, "This bodes ill for the future of
the fragile marine environment that surrounds Rapu Rapu, and the
people who depend on it-that is, unless the DENR finally acts in
the interest of the environment rather than for myopic corporate
and economic interests."