Greenpeace reveals new evidence of highly toxic contaminants in Rapu Rapu

Press release - August 24, 2006
Greenpeace and government officials from Rapu-Rapu today conducted an inspection of the island's Mirikpitik Creek, which is found to be contaminated by the Lafayette mine. Water samples taken from the creek, which leads out from the mine and into the sea, showed very high levels of toxic metals such as cadmium, copper and zinc.

"These extremely high levels of the heavy metals found in the samples are toxic to plants, animals and humans. The proximity of the mine to the sea means that the marine organisms such as corals are likely to be impacted causing harm to the fragile coral reef ecosystem. Such impacts on the reef would be a disaster for marine biodiversity, including the whale shark, and also local fisheries," said Dr Janet Cotter, Greenpeace Scientist onboard the Esperanza.

In April 2005, the Australian firm started mining gold, silver, copper and zinc on Rapu Rapu Island. The poor environmental safeguards resulted in spills of cyanide and other contaminants from the mine spilled into the sea and around the island, resulting in massive fish kills after heavy rains in October 2005. The mine stopped processing but in July this year a 30-day trial run commenced to see if the mine could operate without causing contamination.  

On July 18, a fishkill occurred in Mirikpitik Creek, one of the creeks leading out of the mine premises. Greenpeace sampled the creek at the beginning of August and found it to be clearly affected in its lower stretch by acid mine drainage. The creek waters were acidic in this section, and the presence of the characteristic yellow solid precipitate indicated that this creek is significantly impacted due

to acid mine drainage.  This acid mine drainage has resulted in very high levels of heavy metals in this creek, particularly cadmium, copper and zinc. These metals were present in dissolved forms at many hundreds of times above general background levels for these metals in river water. Cadmium and copper are both highly toxic to plants,

animals and humans and many aquatic species are very sensitive to cadmium and copper. Ongoing exposure to zinc at sub lethal concentrations can also impact aquatic organisms.

It is clear that even from this 30 - day trial, Lafayette is causing contamination of the waters on Rapu Rapu. If full-scale mining is allowed on Rapu Rapu, it will be an ecological disaster for the local ecology.

"Toxic pollution from the mine would clearly affect the coastal and marine ecosystems of Rapu-Rapu Island. Therefore, Lafayette's mining operations in Rapu Rapu must be permanently shut down. Immediate clean up and rehabilitation of the mine site and all affected areas must also take place," said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace campaigner onboard the Esperanza.

The Esperanza is in the Philippines on the latest leg of her global Defending Our Oceans expedition to highlight the wonders and the environmental threats to the world's oceans and to campaign for the establishment of marine reserves. Scientists recognize the Philippine archipelago as the world's centre of marine biodiversity, but is also the most highly threatened, citing the danger of mass extinction in a scale similar to that of the destruction of the Brazilian rainforests.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation, which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner (onboard Esperanza), +47 514 07986 (satellite phone), +63 917 803 6077 Janet Cotter, Scientist, Exeter Labs, Greenpeace Intl, +47 514 07986 (satellite phone), +639273434020 Arthur Jones Dionio, Regional Media Campaigner (onboard Esperanza), +47 514 07986 (satellite phone), +63 921 5615305