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Rapu Rapu polymetallic mine, Philippines


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 [1].

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 [1]. However, a Greenpeace member who aimed measuring water quality during this period was arrested [3], while the trial period was continuously renewed, until a final lifting order was obtained in February 2007, which allowed resumption of mining activities [1]. 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 [1]. 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 [4].

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 [1]. According to reports, around 14,000 fishermen and their families lost their livelihood; partly or entirely [5]. Research indicated that the island will not recover for decades, while water areas will dry up into deserts [5]. 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” [5].

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 [1]. 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 [6], leaving behind irreversible destruction of the island and its communities.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Rapu Rapu polymetallic mine, Philippines
State or province:Province of Albay, Southeastern Luzon
Location of conflict: Barangay Binosowan, Pagcolbon and Malobago; Rapu Rapu island
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Silver

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Rapu Rapu island has a size of 5,589 ha [1]. The Rapu-rapu polymetallic project covers 4,538.7955 ha [5].

In 2008, mine production data were forecasted with annual revenues of $350 million from yearly production of around 11,000 tons of copper and 13,000 tons of zinc [7].

Prior to the administration of Lafayette Limited Inc. (December 2007), the Rapu Rapu polymetallic mine was operated by RRMI - Rapu Rapu Minerals Inc. (mining), and RRPI - Rapu Rapu Processing Inc. (processing Inc.); both companies were subsidiary of Lafayette Phillipines Inc (LPI), owned by Lafayette Mining Ltd (74%) and Philco Resources (26%). Philco Resources is further owned by LG International and Korean Resources Crop (KORES). Also Rapu Rapu Holdings Inc (RRHI), owned largely by F&N Property Holdings Inc. held a share of RRMI [1].

After restructuration (2008) Lafayette Mining Ltd. Sold its shares to Philco Resources and Malaysian Smelting Corp. (MSC) [1].

An international consortium of banks financed Lafayette that invested in the mine, with an investment size amounting up to 268 million USD [1]. Among them was Australian ANZ Banking group as the most important financier; other involved banks were ABN AMRO BANK NV, Investec Bank Mauritius Limited, Standard Chartered First Bank (Korea) Limited; FA International Limited [1]. ANZ, ABN AMRO BANK and Standard Chartered First Bank are signatories of the Equator Principles, which should provide guidelines for responsible banking and investment [1].

Note that this is not the first mine on Rapu Rapu; already in the 1960s, a relatively small mine was operated by Filipino Hixbar Mining Company. Acidic run-offs from the site are still affecting the island [1].

Villages with direct impact of the mine were: Barangay Binosowan, Pagcolbon and Malobago. Indirect impact areas included Barangay Poblacion, Santa Barbara, Linao and Tinopan [1]. Around 14,000 people were reported to suffer negative livelihood impacts [5].

Project area:4,538
Level of Investment:loan size: 268,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:14,000
Start of the conflict:01/11/1998
Company names or state enterprises:Philco Resources Limited from Republic of Korea - mining
LG Electronics International (LG) from Republic of Korea - technology
Rapu Rapu Minerals Inc. (RRMI) from Philippines - mining
Rapu Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI) from Philippines - mining, processing
Lafayette Phillipines Inc. (LPI) (LPI) from Philippines - mining
Lafayette Mining Ltd. from Australia - mining
Korea Resources Corporation (KORES) from Republic of Korea - industry
F&N Property Holdings (F&N) from Philippines - property development
Malaysian Smelting Corp (MSC) (MSC) from Malaysia - metals, tin, smelting
Relevant government actors:Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
International and Finance InstitutionsANZ Bank group Australia (ANZ) from Australia - banking, finance
ABN Amro Bank (ABN AMRO) from Netherlands
Investec Bank (Mauritius) Limited from Mauritius - banking, finance
Standard Chartered First Bank (Korea) Limited from Republic of Korea - banking, finance
FA International Limited from United Kingdom
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Save rapu rapu alliance; Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP); Sagib Isla Sagip Kapwa; Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC); Kalikasan People's Network; Eucumenical Bishops Forum (EBF); Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP); Greenpeace; Oxfam Australia, and others.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Indigenous Taboy
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Boycotts of companies-products


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Air pollution, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:The central alternative defended by local opponents was to stop mining completely, which could not be achieved.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The reason why the mine was decommissioned was due to exhaustion of mineral reserves.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Executive Order No. 79 (July 2012) Institutionalizing And Implementing Reforms In The Philippine Mining Sector Providing Policies And Guidelines To Ensure Environmental Protection And Responsible Mining In The Utilization Of Mineral Resources

Philippine Mining Act of 1995

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] OXFAM 2008. Mining Ombudsman case report: Rapu Rapu polymetallic mine. (accessed 24/03/2015)

[2] Mineral Policy Institute 2006. Backgrounder on the Rapu Rapu Mining Operation. (accessed 24/03/2015)

[3] Cathal Doyle, Clive Wicks and Frank Nally 2006. Mining in the Philippines Concerns and conflicts. Report of a Fact-Finding Trip to the Philippines. July-August 2006. (accessed 23/03/2015)

[8] DENR Assessment of the Rapu Rapu polymetallic mining project (accessed 24/03/2015)

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[4] Environmental Case filed against the Rapu Rapu Polymetallic Project, (accessed 24/03/2015).

[5] online (11/10/12) : "From paradise to wasteland: Environmental destruction, rights violations abound in Bicol’s mining industry" (accessed 24/03/2015)

[6] Blog on the case, maintained by residents (accessed 24/03/2015)

[7] Thomson Reuters article (24/10/2008): "Rapu Rapu copper/zinc mine in Philippines allowed to resume production" (accessed 24/03/2015)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Interview with local activist Antonio Casita, leader of the Sagip Isla -save the island- coalition

Meta information

Contributor:A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) /arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update28/03/2015



Toxic sites


Protests organized by the church


Boat protests by locals and greenpeace

Source: www.

Contaminated rivers