MAC: Mines and Communities

Fear Of Mining Contamination Hounds Villagers

Published by MAC on 2007-08-06
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer ()

Fear of mining contamination hounds villagers

By Bert Laput Mindanao Bureau - http://newsinfo. inquirer. net/inquirerhead lines/regions/ view_article. php?article_ id=80947

6th August 2007

DIPOLOG CITY—The collapse of a wall of the tailings pond in an open-pit gold mine in the village of Canatuan in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, has caused alarm among residents in nearby towns and compelled the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to conduct a “legislative inquiry” on possible dangers of contamination.

“We should know whether the claim of TVI (Resource Development Philippines) that its mine is safe (is true),” Board Member Cedrick Adriatico said in a privilege speech at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Adriatico said Fr. Edgar Agura, Siocon parish priest, confirmed to him the collapse of the wall of a tailings pond at the mine site because of the heavy rains.

Agura was also quoted as saying that trucks of gravel were taken from nearby Pisawak River to rebuild the collapsed part of the tailings pond.

Denial

Adriatico said Agura had claimed that residents were particularly alarmed by the reddish water coming from the tailings pond through a creek and to the Pisawak River that ends at Siocon Bay, about 24 km from the mine site.

But Raymond Acopiado, TVI Public Affairs Officer, said there was nothing to be alarmed of because the reported collapse of their tailings pond is not true.

Acopiado said “heavy rains washed out the clay soil on which (a) concrete wall will be constructed, that’s what happened, and that the reddish water is actually caused by the clay soil.”

Extraction

He explained that the mine has two main tailings pond, the first is a “gossans dam” where wastes for the extraction of gold and silver will be deposited.

The second, which is still under construction, is the “sulphide dam” that will be used for the extraction of copper and zinc.

Disturbing

“What is good is that there will be no chemicals that will be deposited in the sulphide dam,” Acopiado said.

But Adriatico said “disturbing” reports on the safety of the TVI-owned mine persisted.

“Although certified by the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to be safe, residents fear that it (gossans dam) has secret outlets or undeclared exits intended to be used during unabated heavy rains,” the board member said.

This was strongly denied by Acopiado.

“How could we allow secret outlets when the company workers are actually getting water from the same source that others claim to have been contaminated,” he said.

Sacred mountain

Adriatico said that they still need to conduct a “legislative inquiry” to determine whether or not the risk of chemical contamination exists.

He said that the inquiry “will focus mainly on the allegation that the tailings pond at the mine site collapsed.”

The Canadian owned TVI started its full operation in July 2004 on a mountain in Canatuan that was claimed by Subanen lumad as “sacred.”

Although a group of Subanens, called Siocon Subanen Association Inc., has given consent to the mining operations, another group of Subanens with the same name but supported by the Catholic Church and environmentalists have continued opposing TVI.

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