Back in November of last year I visited a mining site on Rapu-Rapu island in the Philippines owned by an Australian mining firm.  Oxfam-Australia has used few of my images to illustrate their newly released site report on this tiny island’s open pit mine.

When I visited R2 (which is located across the way from Mt. Mayon in Albay Province) it was just after a reportedly large fishkill (unknown cause of fish death in the surrounding oceans).  It was a beautiful little island with a major problem: a giant gold mine accused of dumping toxic mine waste into the ocean which is the main means of livelihood for the locals.

As one fisher told me “this is a peaceful area, there is no killing or thieves here—no thieves until the mine came.”

Many were hungry when I visited, they relied on handouts from the church (as the government didn’t see the causal link of the mine and the death of fish so provided no support).  Those that did eat the fish became ill.

Mine officials claimed that they were not responsible and that outflow from the mine to the ocean was tested and clean.

I was there with a scientific team led by Dr. E Regis from Ateneo University.  She has been involved in inspecting mines for many years and has visited this location before.

Above you can see Pagcolbon Creek. Outflow from Lafayette mines flow down the creek into the ocean. Multiple tests (at least six) on the water measured the pH at between 2.3 and 2.7.

Dr. Regis’ team was here in 2005 and the creek still had it’s natural colour. It was here that they were met by Lafayette’s private security force armed with Armalite guns and K9 dogs.

The rock brick dam was installed in 2006 (assumedly to hold back the acid water). Geotextile cloth is also used to hold back and filter the water.

Dr. Regis explains that the deep black colour of the rocks in an indicator that high levels of bacteria (which thrive in acidic waters) are present.

To download the complete Oxfam report please CLICK HERE.

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***all images: ©2007 alex felipe / All Rights Reserved.

Please contact the photographer with use inquiries***

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