By: Sally Indira

The ecological destruction in Rapu-Rapu Albay, located at the southern part of Luzon is the death of diverse life species and loss of livelihood of locals in the island. On the other side of the water, the KORES Company, a joint venture of Korea and Malaysia companies (former Lafayette), still maintains the position… “I DON’T CARE”.

The first settlers in Rapu-Rapu, Albay are the migrants of the neighboring island of Catanduanes. After sometime, people from Tobacco, Sto. Domingo (formerly Libo), Bagacay and other places decided to stay permanently at the island of Rapu-Rapu. According to one resident of Poblacion Bro. Martin he stated that:

Ang Rapu-Rapu ay dating kilala sa tawag
na  paraiso, ngunit ngayun ay unti-unti
ng nagiging disyerto (Rapu-Rapu before
was
known to be a paradise, but now
it’s
 getting desertified)”

 

People in the island live peacefully by farming and fishing, their major sources of livelihood. Among the crops raised are coconut, rice, corn, abaca, banana, root crops such as potato or kamote and cassava or kamoteng kahoy. There is also handy-craft making using a grass locally known as caragumoy for making baskets (socio economic and physical profile of Rapu-Rapu, 1999). Others earn their living from passenger boats that ply between the islands and Legaspi City.

And the other natural riches of the beautiful island are the precious metals that are lure mining companies to try their luck with the polymetallic wealth. Without proper technology, the locals have no means to extract the ores, much less no process them. Thus, mining companies come and go, causing environmental and social problem to the people. Companies also tend to promise “a better life” for the people… until disaster strikes.

From Lafayette to Kores, Fishkill in Rapu-Rapu is still on-going due to continuous extraction. Extraction, by definition, is the process where cyanide and mercury are added to the crushed ore to release the potential metal classified as gold, silver, copper, and zinc (iron sulfide). This includes the non target metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and chromium (carrier of toxic heavy metals).

Based on the study conducted by Emelina Gagalac Regis, Ph.D, Director of the Institute For Environmental Conservation and Research (INECAR), there is a problem on the geo physico- chemical characteristic of Rapu-Rapu, Albay.  The island is not a potential area to conduct any kind of mining, especially an open-pit large scale mining!

The factors why Rapu-Rapu Island is not a potential area to conduct mining are as follows:

  • Island ecosystem in the Philippines such as that of Rapu-Rapu is characterized by steeps and Slopes, volcanic nature and faulty lines should not be mined.
  • Endemic species are not able to migrate to mainland.
  • Flora and Fauna is vulnerable to extinction
  • The island has a Type II climate and has no dry season
  • Inhabitants rely on the natural resources of the island such as fish, seaweeds, etc.
  • Typhoon path – the island of Rapu-Rapu inescapably receives the most typhoon devastation, it is also because of its location
  • Iron sulfide rock – naturally Rapu-Rapu has a iron sulfide rock that is capable of generating acid Mine drainage (AMD).

Furthermore, if iron sulfide rock is exposed to water and oxygen, it will cause a natural and chemical reaction that will produce sulfuric acid. Though Rivers with sulfuric acid looks normal, it contain toxins due to iron sulfide precipitation.  Once it is extracted, the Toxic heavy metals will flow to the creek and eventually flow to rivers and seas that will result to contamination of water and soil.

In response, the SARRA or Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance and Virgilio S. Perdigon, Jr. challenged the people behind KORES to

“Go on a picnic and swim in the waters of the creeks flowing from the mine Site to the sea” but they did not accepted the challenge. Undoubtedly, they were afraid to Swim because they are fully aware that the water is contaminated and dangerous.

But still, Kores mining company apathetically remains its “I don’t care” attitude. They never admitted that the Fishkill’s that occurred in the island is their full responsibility. They want the People to believe that the fish died because it drowned; what a ridiculous thought!

Fishkill’s happened in Rapu-Rapu Albay Bicol are the following:

  • October 26-29, 2007- The latest Fishkill occurred after the heavy rains on October 24 and 27, 2007.
  • Prior to the October 2007 Fishkill, there had been three major ones previously documented. The fourth  in Workshop 7 of the National Conference on Climate Change Adaptation held on October 22-24, 2007 in Legazpi City. Minor Fishkill were also observed by residents. Allegedly, Lafayette buys any dead fish retrieved from the sea.
  • October 31, 2005
  • On January 25, 2006 a dead sperm whale was found. Lafayette says only thumb-size fish died. Lafayette people must have very large thumbs!

Economic Injustice!

From the defunct www.lafayettemining.com  we have (Perdigon, 2005):

  • Ungay Resource Contained Metal:
  • Gold 589,245 ounces
  • Silver 6,352,797 ounces
  • Copper 87,105 tonnes
  • Zinc 144,944 tonnes
  • Hixbar Resource Contained Metal:
  • Gold 129,000 ounces
  • Silver 676 ounces
  • Copper 16,780 tonnes
  • Zinc 16,780 tonnes
  • If we add up these deposits, obtain their respective prices from the London Metal Exchange, temper the prices with conservative estimates and finally multiply the figures, we get:
Metal Total deposit Unit of measure Unit price (US$) Estimated income for entire mine life(US$)
Copper 103,885 Tons 6000 623,310,000
Zinc 161,724 tons 2000 323,448,000
Gold 718,245 ounces 700 502,771,500
Silver 7,028,797 ounces 13 91,374,361
1,540,903,861
  • US$ 1,540,903,861 x PhP 40 / US$ = P 61,636,154,440
  • With P 61,636,154,440 one can spend P 1M every day and will use up the amount in 169 years – the same period from the Mayon eruption that buried Cagsawa in 1814 . . . to the Aquino assassination in 1983!
  • One can buy 61,636 boats worth P 1M each. if the width of each boat is 4 meters, then they can be lined up widthwise from rapu-rapu Pier 45 kms to legazpi Port in 5 rows and still have an excess of 5,400 boats!
  • One may buy cars worth P1M each and lineup 61,636 of them sideways from Legazpi 90 kms to Naga and still have an excess of 1,636 cars lined over 2.45 kms.
  • No development happened in the community of Rapu-Rapu in terms of food, shelter, clothing, livelihood, education, health, disaster readiness, crime prevention and entertainment. In fact, the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic project is responsible for the destruction of the island’s mountains, creeks and surrounding waters. Also, 14,000 fisherman and farmers grind under the weight of poverty. On the other hand, foreign investors, who pay low taxes needless to say – tax holidays, party every day. (Perdigon, 2005)

There were two direct impacts of mining by Lafayette in Rapu-Rapu:

  • The first was the excavation of the open pit involved blasting by dynamite. The fragmented materials such as iron sulfide rocks are then pulverized. Those with the precious ores were separated for milling and processing through carbon-in leach method (CIL) further creating fine particles. The rest became waste materials, which were used to create the walls of the open pit, tailings pond, and support for the road network or dumped in various places; all of these are exposed to the wind and rain. After the CIL processing, the fine sediments become part of the slurry, which were pumped towards the tailings pond. During the rainy season, especially during heavy downpours, the tailings pond overflowed and these materials are carried by runoff towards the lower levels, onto river/creeks and the sea. These are also joined by loosened particles of dumped waste materials. This is how the situation has impacted the adjacent sea and its coral reefs.
  • The second direct impact resulted from Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), which rendered rivers and creeks acidic and polluted with heavy metals. In the Lafayette mining area, the waste materials previously considered non-acid forming (NAF) are actually also acid forming due to the presence of iron sulfide materials. Thus, toxic heavy metals are released by AMD from these sources. The slurry, which were initially processed with cyanide, also contains toxic heavy metals which are not the target metals of the company. Consequently, during the continuous rainfall of October, 2005, the tailings and cyanide spill resulted in the dispersion of heavy metals into the surroundings, bringing about widespread pollution of the river/creek, the soil/sediments, and the marine ecosystem that impacted the living organism including people and their livelihoods.
  • AMD is the more serious of the two impacts because once it has started; it will not stop until all iron sulfide rocks have been divested of heavy metals contained in the ore. Based on the report of the forest peopled programmed, Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links and World Rainforest Movement (2000), this process takes hundreds to even thousands of years.
  • The Rapu-Rapu Polly metallic project brings sustainable life to foreign investors and their local collaborators, mostly local governments previous and current, but not directly to the residents of Rapu-Rapu, Albay.
  • Furthermore, it brings an internal conflict amongst the residents of the community and has caused division between anti and pro. As a result, the situation produced huge conflict in the community and even inside of the family. This includes separation of couples and misunderstanding between child and their parents. This is one of the profound socio-cultural impacts that the mining company had brought. It ruined everything – the environment, the livelihood, and the families in the community.
  • In addition there are Undocumented Violent incidents involving CAFGUs include the arrest on July 26, 2006 of a Greenpeace activist, David Andrade who was merely gathering soil and water samples in Mirikpitik Creek. On November 16, 2008, Jessie Ecleo was found dead in Sitio Mirikpitik, Barangay Pagcolbon. The suspect, CAFGU Daniel Sumbilon Bongca of San Pablo, Zamboanga del Sur, admitted that he hit the victim with a lead pipe at the head causing instant death. (See Rapu-Rapu police blotter) Bongca surrendered to the police soon after the incident but today he is at large.
  • The mining company will do everything just to extract all minerals that Rapu-Rapu have. Bribing the residents with money is one of the common strategies that most of the mining companies do. It is their way to connect to the community and to make them believe that they are good as a saint!

Way back to the history of mining in Rapu-Rapu Albay.

  • Mining has been part of the history of Rapu-Rapu since the Japanese occupation during the World War II in the 1940s. Mr. Apolonio Ortonio, a long time resident of Rapu-Rapu and who used to work with Hixbar mining company, recounted that limestone, quartz and massive sulfide deposits characterize the island. In this sulfide rocks, gold, silver, copper, nickel and zinc intersperse with pyrite and other metals such as lead. Another resource person, the late Mrs. Flavia V. Quintano, who used to visit the mine in Sta. Barbara (formerly Carogcog, Saday) during Japanese Occupation, described mining conducted by the Japanese imperial Army during World War II. There, the company abandoned the mine in 1976. Other ventures followed but mining companies left due to various reasons such as end of World War II, Marcos interest, lack of efficient technology and Acid Mine Drainage (Regis et al., 2001)
  • Historical Notes. The Lafayette Philippines, Inc. used to own the Rapu-Rapu mine. When the Australians left, Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc. acquired the mine in 1999. Mine resumption run into a few snags causing delays in production. Although the mine’s comprehensive environmental impact assessment was firmed up soon afterwards, the feasibility study was tightened up to clinch the nod of stockholders and the banks early on, and its environmental protection and enhancement program hurdled even the most stringent government procedures and was approved in no time at all, a strong typhoon that hit the place sent the mine’s production timetable out of kilter. It took some doing before the “misaligned” got straightened up again. Resumption of production took off only in 2004.
    • In 2008, fresh capital infusion revitalized production. This gave birth to the consortium, the Korea Malaysia Philippines Resources Inc. (KMPI), where LG International (LG), Malaysia Smelting Company (MSC), and Korea Resources Corporation (KORES) are members. The consortium appointed Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc. and Rapu-Rapu Processing, Inc. to run the mine operations.

    On March 3, 2010, the 15th anniversary of the Philippine Mining Act, the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance publicly announced the Boycott LG Campaign!

  • Because LG International Corporation owns 42% of the Rapu-Rapu mine (28% by Korea Resources Corporation and 30% by Malaysia Smelting Corporation) . . .
  • Because LG, Kores and MSC own Lafayette Philippines, Inc. which in turn owns Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc. (RRMI) and Rapu-Rapu Processing, Inc. (RRPI), the local operators of the Rapu-Rapu mine . . .
  • Because the Rapu-Rapu mine continues to destroy the surrounding areas of Rapu-Rapu and Albay Gulf . . .
  • Because the Rapu-Rapu mine has caused the growing poverty among 14,000 fishermen dependent on Albay Gulf and 9,000 residents of the island while only a very small minority (918 as claimed) benefit from jobs it purportedly generates . .
  • Because LG sells products in our locality . . .
  • We call for a boycott of all products with the LG mark – cellphone, washing machine, computer monitor, aircon, refrigerator, etc.!

Save the Island, Boycott all LG products

Find ways to make Korea Resources Corporation and Malaysia Smelting Corporation accountable too!

Fight for our right over our natural resources against the greed of foreign big business and those in positions of political power who are their local junior partners!

The Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance is calling on everyone to boycott LGI products – cell phones, air cons, flat screens, washing machines, etc. and strike a blow for justice. Make them feel how it is to lose income the way the fishermen around Albay Gulf have lost theirs. We still do not know how to strike back at MSC. Perhaps, we can call on all Malaysian environmentalists to support us. The people of Rapu-Rapu are calling for help to save their island!

SAVE RAPU RAPU ISLAND, BOYCOTT ALL LG PRODUCTS

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