Rapu-Rapu Residents Face New Threats As Destructive Mining Resumes

More than three years after Lafayette, an Australian mining company, wrought havoc on Rapu-Rapu and its neighboring communities, residents are still reeling from the effects of the mine-tailings disaster. And they fear more threats as the mining operations resume.


RAPU-RAPU ISLAND, Albay — The two cyanide-laden tailings spills of the mining operations here in 2005 destroyed the source of staple food and livelihood of residents.

Three years of protests and dialogues initiated by the affected communities and environmental groups forced Lafayette Mining Ltd. of Australia to declare bankruptcy and stop its operations.

But in April 2008, Korean and Malaysian companies took control of Lafayette and the operations resumed. Although there has been no report of cyanide-laden spills since the resumption of mining operations, the residents of the 13 barangays (villages) of Rapu-Rapu island are again facing threats of environmental degradation, health risks, human-rights violations and loss of livelihood. Another battle is imminent.

The town of Rapu-Rapu consists of three islands, namely Rapu-Rapu, Batan and Guinanayan. The seat of the Rapu-Rapu government is on Rapu-Rapu Island. The province of Albay lies within the country’s typhoon belt and a major fault line, making Rapu-Rapu prone to natural disasters and earthquakes.

Magayon (Beautiful). The shoreline of Tinopan, Rapu-Rapu, Albay. Two fishermen are busy preparing to sail the following morning, hoping to catch malasugi or blue marlin, a type of tuna that Rapu-Rapu is known for. (Photo by Janess Ann Ellao/Bulatlat.com)

The communities in the municipality primarily derive their livelihood from fishing. The town is known for its malasugi or blue marlin. Aside from this, the residents occasionally earn from selling abaca (Manila hemp), coconut and other farm products. The residents of Rapu-Rapu share their rich marine resources with the neighboring communities in Sorsogon and Catanduanes provinces. The island also lies in the migratory route of the butanding , the famed whale sharks of Donsol, Sorsogon.

The mining operations of Lafayette, which had 80 percent of mining claims in the eastern part of Rapu-Rapu island in mid-2005, generated protests from the residents. They had said early on that open-pit mining would cause environmental degradation, health risks and loss of livelihood. They were proven right after the two tailings dam of the mining company burst in October 2005, wreaking havoc on the communities.

Fish were found dead in the creeks and throughout the shorelines of Rapu-Rapu. Residents from other cities and towns refused to buy fish caught near the island for fear that these might be contaminated with cyanide. Without their main source of livelihood, widespread starvation took place. Children were most affected as they are more vulnerable to sickness, even death.

The residents were still recovering from the impact of the disasters in October 2005 when another fish kill was documented in October 2007. This generated more protest actions from the communities and environmental groups. Before that year ended, the Board of Directors of Lafayette decided to close down the operations, saying they were unsuccessful in their effort to recapitalize to keep the mining project going.

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7 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Tsaka panu kung biglang pinasara ang minahan sa rapu-rapu…tapos naiwang nakatiwangwang ang lupa..cnu rin ba ang apektado diba ang mga tao sa lugar…mawawalan ng trabaho, mga benipisyo sa kompanya at iba pang mga bagay na pdng makatulong sa tao

  2. Tama ka jan sara…ang lahat ng mga naninira sa lafayette ay yung mga taong gusto rin malagayan ng pera ang bulsa…and ginagawang instrumento ang mga lokal na tao para sa kanilang mudos..kaya kayo mga anti mining sory nalang kayo…bebebebebebe wala na kayung magagawa

  3. ok lang yan basta ako nakikinabang sa lafayette….bwuaahahahahahahaha!

  4. ika nga there are two sides to a story. nakapunta na ako dun nung 2006 as a student pero maayos naman na naexplain nila yung kanilang operation at inikot pa kami sa site. sabi nila, ang mga naninira sa kanila ay yung hindi man lang nakapunta dun at ang maga nakukuhang reaction ay galing lang lahat sa mga antimining. ako naman ay open minded, suggest ko lang punta din sila dun…ika nga, to see is to believe. shocked nga ako dhil una kong nasagap bago pumunta dun, may nagwarning sa amin na wag pumasok at baka masalvage kami. nung mameet namin mga staff at officers nila, disente at mababait naman pala sila. lahat na tanong namin tungkol sa fish kill at mga environmental at social commitments nila ay maliwanag na naexplain at mas naliwanagan pa nang iikot kami. nakapunta kami sa open pit, tailing ponds at planta.

  5. mahusay! 🙂

    badtrip talaga ang mining industry sa pinas. hindi na nga maayos ang safety measures, hindi pa mga pinoy ang nakikinabang sa mga minerals natin! at mas masahol pa, nagdudulot pa sila ng paninira sa kalikasan ng bansa natin. at mas marami pang posibleng ganitong scenarios kapag nailusot pa ng GMA administration ang economic amendments sa cha-cha! kaya naman,

    no to cha-cha!

    fight for sovereignty!

    oust gloria!!!

  6. hi ja!! so proud of your article again! true blue bicolana! haha. =) glad you've been practicing and pursuing journalism.. clap clap….specially upbringing the women! =) awwww…=)

  7. Dear JANESS,


    I'm so happy and proud that you've immediately published your report! Though we've both personally witnessed the island, I still get teary eyes when you narrated the story of Nanay Antipas. She's only one of the living testimonies that we have to see and hear inorder to inspire not only our leaders, but all of us to be vigilant in protecting human dignity and respect to our nourishing environment.

    We all have to overcome our self/egoistic greediness (luciferic influence) and materialistic needs (Arimateic influence) for us to preserve humanity and our environment. We should always be in communication with our Creator for whom is the only source of Goodness/Energy.

    Let us all be inspired by the actions of the communities in Benguet and Ifugao wherein they performed their respective "cleansing rituals": SAREY in Kabayan, Benguet, performed by their Mambunong, and LAWIT in Tinoc, Ifugao, performed by their Mumbaki following the tragedy that struck the two areas to appease the evil spirits and re-establish the serenity of their lands. This is one the importance of not only embracing, but also, defending our own culture and our own land.

    Let us also remember that our "Environmental Health reflects Human Health"!



    Please let your mamita update me with the hemogram results that i've requested (if ever they have complied), and other updates regarding papito thru my mobile # (0915) 771-4347.

    Sorry rin po kung matagal ako reply 'coz i seldom browse my e-mail and use my cp. I just don't want to rely too much on these technologies which, as we all know, imbued our generation. The reason why some of the authors label our present generation as TECHNOLOGICAL BARBARISM – 'coz technology can actually destroy our humanhood especially if we let technology clinch on ourselves.

    More GOOD ENERGIES! More POWER to you!

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