In November, 1998, Australian mining company Lafayette Limited acquired interests in the polymetallic mining site, characterized by copper, gold, zinc and silver reserves. Permissions were granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in spite of absence of a free prior informed consent obtained by the company from local communities, among them the Taboy indigenous group [1;2]. Mining and processing started in April 2005, but was suspended six months later after two heavy cyanide laden spills were released into water bodies, causing the ecological death of rivers and fish stocks .
The government appointed a fact finding mission and investigations, which concluded with serious social and environmental concerns [3;8]. Nevertheless, in 2006, a temporary lifting order was given to operate on a 30-days-trial period, open to the public, to show best environmental practices . However, a Greenpeace member who aimed measuring water quality during this period was arrested , while the trial period was continuously renewed, until a final lifting order was obtained in February 2007, which allowed resumption of mining activities . But Lafayette faced economic troubles due to the previous suspension of revenue flows and went into voluntary administration. It finally sold its shares in 2008 and suspended from the Australian stock exchange market . The mining project continued under a new management, but when the mine was finally decommissioned in 2013, no significant area rehabilitation efforts were conducted by the involved companies (see project details), for which reasons an environmental case was filed against the project .
The mining activities were accompanied by militarization [1;5], low levels of local employment and low tax benefits [1;6], as well as drastic environmental degradation and social impacts, largely related to the irreversible destruction of river and marine fish stocks due to toxic tailing spills and loss of livelihood of farmers and fishermen, depending on these resources as primary livelihood asset [1;2;5;6]. Fish sales went further down due to fears of the population to eat contaminated fish . According to reports, around 14,000 fishermen and their families lost their livelihood; partly or entirely . Research indicated that the island will not recover for decades, while water areas will dry up into deserts . As stated by Antonio Casitas, peasant leader and environmental activist: “Rapu-Rapu island was once so beautiful. It was like paradise. Our lives there were simple — we lived off nature, and we took care not to damage it because we knew it was the source of our livelihood and means of survival. When the mining companies came, everything changed. Now, 97 percent of Rapu-Rapu Island is virtually under the control of these environmental destroyers, and what was once paradise is a wasteland” .
From the first day on, there was large opposition against the mining project, resulting in ongoing mobilizations by local associations, as well as church groups and academics, and international NGOs . Forms of resistance ranged from protests and campaigns, over formal complaints, lobbying and impact studies to company boycott of LG International, holding shares of the mine.
Rapu Rapu, which was promised to become one of the richest areas in the Philippines thanks to large foreign investments, was recently classified to be among the poorest regions , leaving behind irreversible destruction of the island and its communities.