Mining Company's toxic test run in Philippines

Feature story - 26 July, 2006
The countdown to another oceans disaster has begun. The start of the controlled 30-day test run granted to Australian mining company Lafayette by the Philippine government signalled the resumption of the company's operations in Rapu Rapu. This is expected to be a mere prelude to its ongoing operations, despite cyanide spills, pollution, extractive damage and violations of requirements for the Environmental Compliance Certificate.

Siltation from mine operations in steep Rapu Rapu island threatens to smother vital coral habitats in the surrounding waters.

Update (July 26th): David Andrade, aGreenpeace Philippines staffer, was  detained by police today at gunpoint whilecollecting water samples from a creek on public land, while investigatingreports of a fish kill.  After beingsearched and harassed, the police confiscated his water samples and eventuallylet him go.

More details here

Negligent mining operations: "too fast, too soon"

During its few months of operation, the mining company showed negligence with regard to its operations. (During the Rapu Rapu Fact-finding Commission hearings in April-May 2006, Lafayette officials in fact admitted that they mined "too fast, too soon" even while the mine's structural safeguards meant to minimize environmental damage were not yet completed.) As a result, after heavy rains in October 11 and 31, 2005, cyanide and other contaminants from the mine spilled into the sea and around the island, resulting in massive fish kills which Lafayette, to this day, continues to downplay.

In January 2006, Lafayette was fined PhP10.7 million (about $206,850 USD), PhP10.4 million (about $201,060 USD) for violating the Clean Water Act, and PhP300,000 (about 5,800 USD) for violating the conditions of their Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

They paid only PhP300,000 initially, and contested the rest of the fine, only paying up 6 months later (on June 20), when payment for the fine was stipulated as a precondition to the mine's 30-day test run.

The toxic test-run

The 30-day test run period was granted to Lafayette by the DENR, and was given despite the mine's several violations to their ECC, is expected to be a mere prelude to the mine's complete reopening.

"Another spill is not necessary to demonstrate that Lafayette's mining operations will be severely detrimental to Rapu Rapu and its surrounding waters. This operation is a self-perpetuating ecological disaster that will leave serious, long-term negative effects on the oceans at the expense of the area's outlying coastal communities for generations to come," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics campaigner Beau Baconguis.

"By allowing Lafayette's reopening, the government has once again betrayed its duplicitous nature- shamelessly mouthing platitudes and clichés for a 'Green Philippines' while willingly condoning long-term damage to the environment in its myopic pursuit of spurious economic gains."

Defending our Oceans

The Esperanza is on its way to the Philippines as part of the Defending our Oceans expedition to highlight the destruction wreaked by land based marine pollution and the need for ongoing protection for the Philippine's marine environment such as establishment of more marine reserves in the country.

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Help Ocean Defenders in the Philippines protect their seas.