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PHILIPPINES: Lafayette test run cause of water contamination

by Mark Ivan RoblasThe Manilla Times
August 25th, 2006

GOVERNMENT officials and Greenpeace activists have discovered contamination of the waters on Rapu-Rapu Island as the test run for the resumption of the operations of Lafayette Philippines Inc. continues.

Dr. Janet Cotter, a scientist with Greenpeace, said they discovered high levels of toxic metals, like cadmium, copper and zinc in the waters of Mirikpitik Creek.

“These extremely high levels of 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 the local fisheries,” he said.

Beau Baconguis, toxics campaigner of Greenpeace, said it was clear that even with the 30-day trial, La­fayette is causing contamination and the group expects it to worsen if the company is allowed to operate fully.

“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. The immediate cleanup and rehabilitation of the mine site and all affected areas must also take place,” she said.

A reported fishkill on July 18 at the Mirikpitik Creek prompted Greenpeace to conduct a water-sampling test.

Baconguis said they began taking samples in the creek early August and found it to be clearly polluted by acid mine drainage in its lower stretch.

“The creek waters were acidic in this section, and the presence of the characteristic yellow solid precipitate indicated that the creek is significantly impacted due to acid mine drainage,” she said. “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 sublethal concentrations can also impact aquatic organisms.”

Lafayette began operations in April 2005, mining gold, silver, copper and zinc on Rapu-rapu Island.

However, after heavy rains in October 2005, spills of cyanide and other contaminants went into the sea causing massive fishkill.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources stopped the operation after the mine spill but allowed the company to conduct a 30-day test run on July 10.





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