April 4, 2005
Lafayette Mining Inc. not a responsible miner, DENR Official admits DENR Bicol Regional Director of Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) Reynaldo San Juan admitted that Lafayette Mining Inc. (LMI) which operates a polymetallic mining project in Rapu-rapu Island Albay is not a responsible miner. "LMI did not do a "best practice" based on the two mine spills that happened last year. Because of this we suspended and penalized them," says MGB Director San Juan to the Rapu-rapu Fact-finding Commission (RFFM).
The RFFM, headed by Bishop Arturo Bastes, was commissioned by the Office of the President to conduct investigation on the mine spill and operation of LMI. RFFM held their first public hearing at the PAWB office in Metro Manila this afternoon. Earlier they held similar hearings in Legazpi City, Rapu-Rapu in Albay province and Prieto Diaz in Sorsogon province.
In the Quezon City hearing, MGB Director San Juan, also the head of the DENR Monitoring Team that checks the compliance of LMI with environmental safety and technical standards, admitted that they did not include the monitoring of weather condition in the mining area. Engr. Gregorio Tabuena, a mining engineer and a member of RFFM was surprised to know that the weather conditions were not monitored by the DENR Monitoring Team. He said that the weather condition was in fact a major factor for the mine spills in Rapu-rapu Island.
In the committee hearing, MGB Regional Director San Juan said that they have not made any laboratory research on the presence of mercury and other heavy metals in the mine tailings sediments that spilled during the two incidents.
During the hearing, Dr. Aloysius Baes, a geochemist and member RFFM, questioned that there was no revalidation of mercury presence in the samples that Bureau of Fishery and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) done in Sorsogon. "What BFAR did is a timeline sampling that determines the presence of certain chemicals in the environment, like mercury. The fact remains that the first laboratory results that BFAR made in November 3, 2005 that found mercury content in fishes beyond threshold level remains factual and valid," says Dr. Baes.
This was supported by the statement of BFAR National Director Malcolm Sarmiento that as far as BFAR is concerned, they have not made any allegation on the integrity of the samples submitted to them by affected fisherfolks in Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon nor did they made any judgment beyond what the laboratory results showed.
There were 8 fish samples that were tested by BFAR last November 3, all were found to have high mercury content ranging from 0.600 parts per million (ppm) to 2.119ppm. The Food and Agriculture Organization threshold for mercury for fish is 0.500 ppm. BFAR conducted two other laboratory testings on December 6 and December 10, 2005.
"The statements made by the DENR and BFAR officials belie the allegations made by La Fayette Mining Corporation and the Vice Governor James Calisin of Albay that the the mine spill incidents last October 11 and November 1, 2005 were minor incidents and the mercury contamination in Sorsogon is just a hoax," said Trixie Concepcion, spokeperson of Defend Patrimony. "There is much reason to believe that there was mercury contamination and the fish kill that happened in Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon could be attributed to the operation of LMI and their mine spills," she added.
"We praise Bishop Bastes and the RFFM in their work to uncover the truth behind the mine spill and environmental destruction made by Lafayette Mining Inc in Rapu-rapu Island. We hope they could further show the culpability not only of LMI but also of the local environmental officials who colluded with LMI to cover the truth and failed to ensure the protection of the welfare and safety of the people of Sorsogon and Rapu-rapu as well as their environment," says Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of environmental activist organization Kalikasan-PNE. ###