Rapu-Rapu mine rehab faces bleak future

By Rhaydz B. Barcia THE FIRM (Rapu-Rapu Mineral, Inc.) provided a service vehicle as we proceeded to the mine site with Edward Deblois, 27, a resident of Barangay Malobago who works in the mine as a maintenance man serving as our tour guide. Waterways (creeks) from the mountain emptying into the sea were evident as we crossed the unpaved access road. The rusty mine facilities, equipment and offices along the way were evidently on the brink of rotting. At the open pit mine site, tiny patches of green cogon grass within the east side towering over Barangay Pagcolbon facing the Pacific Ocean withstand the barren and acidic terrain here. But most of the cogon grass planted on the north side facing Barangay Binosawan where two consecutive incidents of toxic spillages were reported to have occurred in 2005 withered tremendously. The tailings dam embankment is totally bare sans soil erosion control or safety nets. The erstwhile barren and acidic embankment used before to deposit mine waste is now covered with soil and boulders with stored rain water on them. The rain water, according to Alonzo, is non-toxic but nevertheless acidic. To control acidity, the firm had applied lime carbonate on mined out areas. The tailings dam was covered according to DENR standard, Alonzo claimed. The west side of dam is about 200 meters above sea level facing Malobago while the east side is 135 meters above the sea level facing the Pacific Ocean. Pipelines for tunnel drain section were put up towards the tailings dam to allow rain water to flow down to the water treatment facility. Alonzo, during the interview, said that the objective of the rehab of open pit is to cast out the acidity. When this reporter asked Edward where the stored rainwater ends up, he said it empties into the sea. The management allowed taking photographs of the open pit and mined out areas, except for the mine processing plant itself, as requested by his Korean bosses according to Edward. The processing plant is located on top of the mountain. Adjoining the plant is the 135-meter open pit above sea level with stored water that exudes sulphuric smell. The waste water according to Alonzo was pumped out with discharge permit from Environmental Management Bureau. Barely eight months ago, Albay Provincial Board Member Raul Rosal, former committee chairman of the environment and natural resources, visited the mine site on August 25, 2017. He was accompanied by fellow Provincial Board Members Dante R. Arandia and Josephine Eva L. Ribaya, as well as Bicol MGB Regional Director Guillermo Molina, 1V and other DENR employees to personally look into the status of mine rehab under the management of LG Kores. Engr. Melvin Alonso, RRMI president, presented the mine development area composed of 180 hectares where 90 hectares of it are set aside as reserve. Alonzo also presented the rehabilitation and decommissioning plan. According to the Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan (FMRDP), the open pit will be filled-up from elevation 60 to elevation 90 with blasted materials from the southern walls of the mine pit. This will be done to cover the area where the ore was mined and where the sulphides are located in order not to cause acid mine drainage. The water from the open pit which is acidic that comes from precipitation or rain fall will be neutralized using hydrated lime and will be pumped out from the pit going to the creek through a proposed 150-meter tunnel. The mined out area will then be back-filled with clay and planted with grass, covering the exposed stones to lessen the natural surface draining of acid. The slopes of lower and upper tailings storage facilities will be covered with clay and abaca coil matting, to be hydro-seeded with grass and planted with coconut, pili, abaca trees. The company has a two-year rehabilitation and post mine land use plan with a budget of P309.8M. Based on the rehab plan, the total budget amount will be prorated according to the following: P55,403,807.00 for open pit; P6,189,200.00 for UTSF; P63,387,340.00 for LTSF; P16,831,116.00 for water treatment; P26,367,300.00 for decommissioning with a total budget of P168,178,800.00. Of the remaining amount, P108,503,500.00 will be allocated for G&A and P33,201,900.00 as VAT for a grand total of P309,884,200.00. Based on the multi-partite monitoring report as of first quarter of 2016, around 27 percent has been accomplished from the P125M that was withdrawn in 2014 as approved by the Contingent Liability Rehabilitation Fund Committee (CLRFC) headed by the MGB director, co-chaired by EMB director, with officers from the Bureau of Forestry, Bureau of Lands and BFAR as members. TO BE CONTINUED Editor’s Note: This reportage has been produced by the author through the support of Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) 2018 Journalism Fellowship, in partnership with Philippine Press Institute.