With Lafayette mine reopening: Gov’t Unleashed Environmental Time Bomb, Group Says

“Secretary Reyes has been speaking of a Technical Working Group and of a Multipartite Monitoring Body, (but) who and where are these people? How independent are they from Lafayette and the Chamber of Mines? Where are their reports and outputs?” asked Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phils) Executive Director Frances Quimpo.

“The CEC itself has asked for copies of the DENR’s monitoring reports since October 11, 2006 and to this day we are still waiting for these reports,” lamented Quimpo.

Quimpo noted that Lafayette has yet to open the mine site to independent scrutiny by oppositors.

“If Lafayette finally has an honest to goodness “state of the art” mining facilities in Rapu-Rapu, they should be flaunting it most especially to local folks and its critics. Yet, the folks in Rapu-rapu have complained of harassment from Lafayette guards all throughout the ‘test run’,” she added.

Quimpo said that Secretary Reyes, upon his decision to grant the Lafayette Mining a “test run” last July 2006, promised outmost transparency over the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project.

However, what ensued since then was far from it, she said.

Quimpo noted that Reyes issued a memorandum in July 2006 ordering his officials to closely monitor and evaluate all mining activities and critical mining facilities. Among the important directives of the memorandum were 1) immediate reporting for proper action of any impending danger or damage at the tailings ponds and waste dams, 2) identification and determination of the magnitude of the damages caused by geo-hazards such as landslides and floods; 3) geo-hazard mapping; and 4) close coordination with RDCC regarding geo-hazards to forewarn the population of any impending catastrophe.

“The absence of these reports amid continued publicities about Lafayette’s claims, and DENR’s similarly-sounding press releases, makes the [FLO] decision suspect,” Quimpo said.

Since the issuance of the memorandum, the Rapu-Rapu project has sustained damage from two major typhoons. Landslides occurring in the direct impact areas of the mine in the aftermath of these storms have also resulted in fatalities among the local populace.

The Lafayette FLO reflects a serious failure of transparency and serious failure of governance for the people and the environment, she said. “It is but another decision that the current administration has been forcing on the people without sound reason and scientific basis,” Quimpo concluded.

Gov’t courting more disasters

Kalikasan-PNE said that the Arroyo administration was opening its arms to more environmental disasters with the reopening of RRPI’s mining operations.

“The Arroyo administration and the DENR are courting more disasters with such decisions. Like what happened before in Rapu-rapu and other mining-affected communities in the country, Bicolanos should brace for more frequent and widespread soil erosion, toxic contamination, mine wastes, water depletion and marine degradation as a result of Lafayette Mining’s open-pit operations,” Bautista said.

Defend Patrimony, an anti-corporate mining alliance, asserted that Lafayette Mining would exacerbate the current environmental damage left by other mining operations in Rapu-Rapu, Defend Patrimony spokesperson and geologist Trixie Concepcion said.

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