Lafayette Mining Operations No-Win Situation For Rapu Rapu

Greenpeace calls on DENR to uphold Bastes Commission recommendations

Feature story - June 8, 2006
A report entitled ‘Fool’s Gold’ gives strong evidence that Lafayette’s mining operations in the island proves to be no-win situation for Rapu Rapu and its coastal neighbors.

Greenpeace calls on DENR to uphold Bastes Commission recommendations.

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as sea creatures attended the launching of a Risk Asia report entitled ‘Fool’s Gold’ gives strong evidence that Lafayette’s mining operations in the island proves to be no-win situation for Rapu Rapu and its coastal neighbors.

A new report launched on World's Oceans Day today by Greenpeace reveals that a measly PhP2.00 per capita income per day(1) is all Rapu Rapu stands to gain during the seven-year operation of Lafayette's open pit mining project which will seriously damage the island and its surrounding fragile marine ecosystem.

According to the report entitled 'Fool's Gold: the false economic promises of the Lafayette mining project in Rapu Rapu', whatever benefit that the island will obtain from the mine's extractive activities is superficial and will not be sufficient to compensate for the permanent loss of resources, collateral effects to local livelihoods, missed economic opportunities, damage to marine health, and threats to human life and safety in the island and its environs.

"The presence of Lafayette's mining operations in the island is a no-win situation for Rapu Rapu and its coastal neighbors," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis. "The mine will only exacerbate poverty in the island and its outlying areas, depleting their resources and leaving them with little hope for economic recovery after the island and its surrounding seas have been substantially damaged."

Available data shows that the total expected financial benefits to Rapu-Rapu over seven years of the expected mine life would be around PhP176.6 million (PhP5.78 million in Local Government Unit revenue shares, PhP151.2 million in labor incomes, PhP10.8 million in social development funds for the next six years and PhP8.9 million already spent in 2000-2005). This represents a total theoretical per capita benefit of PhP6,092 or PhP2.00 per day for hosting and allowing Lafayette to exploit the 150-hectare current mine site(2).

The life of mine of the current operations in Rapu Rapu is estimated at 5-7 years, after which Lafayette shall have left a toxic legacy in the island's creeks, rivers, and coasts. Acid mine drainage (AMD) which releases heavy metals into the environment is already a prevailing disaster in the island and will continue to be exacerbated by the present mine operations. Siltation from the mine's construction and extraction activities has already affected coral ecosystems by the mine site and will worsen as mining continues.

The total mining interest of the entire Rapu Rapu Polymetallic Project is approximately 79.8% of Rapu Rapu island and this prospect raises fears not only among island residents but also those of the outlying areas and the general public. Threats of another mine spill similar to the past two spills that crippled the livelihood of the area's fishing communities for months after October 2005 remain. The spills offer a sneak preview of the grave risks and threats to people's lives, livelihoods, and environment, which the mine brings.

The report follows the release of the results of the Rapu Rapu Fact Finding Commission presented in May 19, and on which the government has yet to decide. Greenpeace has urged the government to uphold the results of the commission and has launched a signature campaign for a petition to President Arroyo.

"Lafayette should not be allowed to profit from the destruction of the environment and at the expense of the livelihood of already impoverished communities," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaigns Director Von Hernandez. "Instead of supporting activities which destroy our fragile ecosystems, the government should invest in opportunities which promote the protection of our valuable marine resources."

Notes: (1)the amount represents the total financial benefits the whole municipality of Rapu Rapu (population 29,170) can expect from the mine. (2)Fool's Gold: the false economic promises of the Lafayette mining project in Rapu Rapu, pp 49-50.

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