MAC: Mines and Communities

Canatuan Community Stands By The Reported Tvi Sulphide Dam Collapse

Published by MAC on 2007-07-31
Source: Unknown

Canatuan community stands by the reported TVI sulphide dam collapse

By Tito Natividad Fiel and Daniel Castillo

31st July 2007

Mount Canatuan, Tabayo, Siocon Zamboanga del Norte – The residents who witnessed how the water from a heavy rainfall broke through TVI Pacific's Sulphide Dam at Canatuan on 11 July 2007, stood by their reports that it was a full dam collapse. Shirly Bulagao, one of the residents living close to the sulphide dam, personally witnessed the incident and confirmed the collapse to investigators sent by the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) of Department and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Catholic Church.

The MGB investigation team were despatched by the Region 9 office based in Zamboanga City, while the church was represented by the staff of the Diopim Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI), a committee monitoring mining activities in Zamboanga Peninsula. Ms Bulagao, when asked in the course of the investigation, said that she and her family saw the overflowing water from the Sulphide Dam early morning on 11th July. Later, they saw a section of the dam collapse, that was approximately 15 meters high and 4 meters wide.

The statement of Ms Bulagao corroborated the statement of Engineer Reste Patejan, who was in-charge of construction at the Sulphide Dam that early morning of July 11, that the water from heavy rainfall developed and overflowed the dam wall of the sulphide dam. Engineer Patejan told investigators that at around 11am that morning the over-flowing water gradually ate away at the dam wall, but he reduces the term from a collapse to "soil erosion", which is the term used by the TVI top management for the incident. He admitted that there was a huge volume of soil from the dam that travelled downstream, and that they have to recover and replace in the course of the dam’s reconstruction.

Engineer Patejan admitted that there was huge damage caused by the dam failure, but claimed that he was not in a position to discuss the actual cost of the dam damage. But Engineer Yulo Perez, Vice President for Operation of TVI Canadian Mining Firm-Philippines quickly defended the incident as not major, but a minor one, which would not hamper their activities. He admitted there was a problem with their sulphide dam due to the recent heavy rainfall, but quickly reduced the term for it from 'collapse' into 'soil erosion', and then blamed DCMI for circulating the news of a collapse in order to worry their investors. He also criticized the picture released by DCMI to different networks, which was published on different websites.

But DCMI representatives told TVI that the residents who actually witnessed the incident were the ones who had taken the picture, and explained its contents. When Engineer Leo Ver, the head of the fact-finding team, was asked by DCMI for his initial finding, he also used the term soil erosion. DCMI representatives are worried about the conclusions the DENR investigating team will come to, due to their limited access to information on the incident, owing to the fact that they are investigating the collapse 15 days after it happened.

In addition there are concerns that the DENR will rely too heavily on the testimonies from the staff and management of TVI in Canatuan, rather than asking the residents who actually witnessed the collapse. Since the entry of TVI to Mount Canatuan in 1995, the Subanon People have accused them of committing different forms of human rights violations against the local Subanon and settlers. But on June 17, this year, TVI's top management asked forgiveness for the first time from the Subanon people under the leadership of Timuay Jose “Boy” Anoy for the human rights violations committed by its armed security for several years. Construction on the company’s sulphide dam was started on October 2006, but there was an initial collapse on April 2, 2007. It was then reconstructed, but there was a subsequent collapse on July 11.

Despite photographic evidence and eye witness accounts, TVI management vehemently deny that both incidents are anything more than runoff of soils, soil erosions and many more. On July 24, DCMI received an invitation from the MGB Region 9 office to join their investigation into the reported TVI dam collapse.DCMI representatives met the DENR Fact Finding Team head in R.T. Lim Zamboanga Sibugay early morning on July 26 and travelled together to the TVI mining site on the said date. However, DCMI staff noted that a geologist from the MGB, who was part of the team, chose instead to stay with TVI the day before the investigation started.

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