Rapu-Rapu mine rehab faces bleak future

By Rhaydz B. Barcia THE biggest activity out of it [rehabilitation plan] was the backfilling of the Lower Tailings Storage Facility with 823,101 cubic meters of rocks, boulders and clay and soil materials. They have initially planted the Tailings Storage Facilities Embankment with 5,600 sacks of Wedelia, Daloydoy, Brachiaria and Colopogonium by utilizing the residents of Binosawan, Malobago and Pagcolbon for the planting job. But these grasses and plants proved to have lower survival rate due to harsh weather conditions. They also dispatched 4 backhoes, 3 dump trucks, 1 bulldozer, 1 compactor and 1 million liters of diesel at the site. They also dismantled the bametal plant, ball mills, the 12.2 mega power plant and other facilities in the area. But there are still remaining more than 600,000 tons of base metal gold that came from the open pit but were not brought to the process plant due to the lower price of zinc and copper. It contains 2.5 grams of gold or less than 1 gram of gold per ton and were already mixed with 823,101 cubic meters of back-fill materials that were dumped in the lower tailing storage facility (LTSF). Engr. Alonso said they are still waiting for the release of more funds. The company deposited about P338M before in escrow account and P125M was released to the RRMI for the purchase of equipment. In the revised FMRDP, eco-tourism was considered for land use in addition to agro-forestry development. The total cost in the approved revised FMRDP is P309,883,173.00 to undertake activities for decommissioning and reclamation at open pit, upper tailings storage facilities, lower tailings storage facilities, water treatment facility, ROM pad, general and administrative and value added tax. As of June 6, 2014, the balance of the FMRDF was P338,627,540.67 as indicated in the FMRDF bank book. The DENR secretary issued a special order dated July 10, 2014 creating a committee for the implementation of FMRDP of Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project. On June 11, 2014 the company requested for the fund withdrawal from the FMRDP thrust fund corresponding to accomplishment from November 2013 to May 2014 amounting to P23,434,200.00 and asking for advance payment for June to September 2014 work activities amounting to P102,549,152.00 for mobilization, equipment purchase and labor cost. The request was endorsed to MGB Director Leo Jasareno on July 3, 2014 for approval. Engr. Guillermo Molina, 1V, MGB Bicol director, also presented the status of the rehabilitation fund of RRMI/RRPI. The P125M was withdrawn in 2014 had so far already been spent for rehabilitation work. The amount, however, was questioned by the CLRF since it was allegedly withdrawn without the authority given by the CLRFC, according to Molina. The amount was withdrawn during the incumbency of Molina’s predecessor, Engr. Theodore Rommel E. Pestaño. As of 2015, the expenses utilized in the rehab reached P178M based on the audit made by the monitoring rehabilitation fund committee (MRFC). Financial performance is placed at 58 percent but physical performance was only 27 percent based on the multipartite monitoring team. Such accomplishment corresponded to an amount of about P84M, hence, there was still a remaining balance. It is only in July of this year that the first year of the FMRDP was approved with a budget of P68.9M and the said fund is deposited at DBP Legazpi. The withdrawal of P125M was questioned by the steering committee of the CLRFC due to the alleged absence of proper clearance or authority. Molina stated that he was not yet the one authorized as signatory when the P125M was withdrawn; the CLRFC, through the MGB, wrote a letter to the company to refund the entire amount. Guillermo added that MGB central office is already doing its investigation on the matter. Engr. Melvin Alonzo said that the questioned rehab fund worth P56M would be returned. Since 2005 to 2013, the mining firm has paid a total amount of P2,363,763,003.78 in taxes to the government, P1,346,164,686.45 of which was paid to the national government while P267,348,907.77 was paid for local taxes. Provincial Board Member Ralph Andes had requested for the exact amount of excise tax remitted by the BIR to the provincial government of Albay. While the RRPI’s average employment of at least 1,081 workers came from the different province of the Bicol Region for the past 10 years, a total of 568, or 53 percent of them, were residents of the Municipality of Rapu-Rapu, the host town. The amount of investment for the mining project was placed at $34M, or P1.72NB as of January 2016. It had a gross output P21.50B as of March 2016. Copper at 180,218.73 DMT valued at P8.4B, zinc 144,398.63 DMT valued at P3.4B; gold 4,302.57 DMT valued at P7.8B; silver 65,571.21 DMT valued at P1.9B. As to export, the mining firm accounted at least P22.44 billion; copper 186,068.28 DMT valued at P9.3B, zinc 136,742.94 DMT valued at P3.2B, gold 5,351.02 DMT valued at P7.9B; silver 95,345.65 DMT valued at P2.04B. South Korea is the company’s major market. Taxes paid in local and national coffers totaled to P2.40 billion. Local and national taxes, fees and royalties generated contributed to the Philippine economy from 2004 to 2017. The mine site is located in the southeast portion of Rapu-Rapu island town that could be reached through four-hour boat ride from Legazpi City seaport to Barangay Malobago as jump-off village heading to the mining camp. Rapu-Rapu, an island town, has a population of 36,920 as of the 2015 census.some 374 km southeast of Manila and approximately 45 km east of Legazpi City is Albay’s last frontier in the Pacific Ocean with 10 months of bad climate wherein strong velocity winds in the country pass through the South-eastern of Luzon where Rapu-Rapu is located. Rapu-Rapu Island town has been known to be rich in mineral deposits. It has a long history of mining activities believed to have started as early as the Spanish time. A succession of ownership and management of mining activities in the island have been recorded since 1936 based on report by Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional office in Bicol. TO BE CONTINUED.