MAC: Mines and Communities

Villagers Told To Keep Watch Over Closed Mining Site

Published by MAC on 2007-08-20
Source: Inquirer

Villagers told to keep watch over closed mining site

By Tonette Orejas, Inquirer -

20th August 2007

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO , Philippines -- No landslide or water spill has occurred at a closed mining site in Zambales following strong rains by typhoons "Chedeng" (international codename: Pabuk) and "Egay" (Sepat).

However, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Central Luzon has advised the Dizon Copper-Silver Mines Inc. (DCSMI) to step up measures to reduce the hazard to lives and environment in San Marcelino and Castillejos towns, a report from the agency's regional office showed.

The MGB said it is concerned with the conditions of the Kaline pit, Bayarong tailings dam and the Camalca silt dam at the DCSMI's site in the upland village of Buhawen in San Marcelino.

"These have held on but the hazards still remain," said Edgardo Zapata, MGB senior environmental management specialist, in a phone interview on Monday.

The agency continued to assess the situation at the mine site in compliance with a Department of Environment and Natural Resources memorandum to conduct "strict monitoring of all environmentally damage-prone areas in the country," Zapata and senior science research specialist Nixon Dalapus said in their report.

A close watch was needed because, according to the report, the open pit had collapsed before 1997, prompting the DCSMI and its partner, the then Benguet Consolidated (now Benguet Corp.) to stop mining after 18 years of operations. The pit was the major source of ore.

The tailings and silt dams, on the other hand, had breached at various times before and after Mt. Pinatubo 's 1991 eruptions, causing overflows and breakout of mine wastes that contaminated the Mapanuepe Lake and its tributaries.

At least five communities of Aeta and upland farmers had complained about the pollution of their fishing grounds and irrigation sources since 1998.

The DCSMI has so far done "selective maintenance" on the structures, "particularly the Bayarong tailings dam," the report said.

In July, the MGB recommended repairs mainly on the two dams to "prevent further siltation of the downstream areas." The mine site is about 2 kilometers from San Marcelino and Castillejos where 200,000 people live.

Barangays Buhawen, a former village of mine workers, and Camalca are the nearest areas to the mine site.

"It is evident that some physical hazards exist in the mine site of DCSMI. The wall of Kaline pit showed active landslides. The pit is presently filled with water and the level of which [is] 3 meters below the pit spillway," the report said.

A member of the Dizon family said while the company had planned corrective measures before closure, the repairs had been slowed by business feuds among the heirs of Don Celestino Dizon, the first person to stake mineral claims in the area in 1935.


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