MAC: Mines and Communities

857 Abandoned Mines Pose Health Menace, Say Ngos

Published by MAC on 2005-10-11
Source: The Manila Times Reporter ()

857 abandoned mines pose health menace, say NGOs

By RONNIE E. CALUMPITA, The Manila Times Reporter

11 October 2005

Environmental groups claimed on Monday that there are 857 abandoned mines that cause health and environmental problems. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has failed to immediately rehabilitate them, they said.

At a press conference, Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment, said the government should have focused on rehabilitating abandoned mines before seeking new foreign mining investors who would further degrade the country's natural resources.

"While aggressively seeking new mining investors, the government has remained oblivious to the issues of abandoned mines. There are 857 abandoned mines which continue to cause havoc, endangering the people's health and lives in the mining communities," he added.

Albert Diego of the Alliance of Peasant in the Kordillera said the abandoned mine sites of Thanksgiving Gold Mine, Black Mountain Copper Mine and Boneng-Lobo Copper Mine in Benguet have continued polluting the Agno, Sangilo and Dalupirep rivers in the Cordillera because their mine tailings go to these bodies of water specially during heavy rains.

Diego, a farmer from Barangay Ucab, Itogon, Benguet, said he has problems, like where to get water for their crops specially during dry season, because they could no longer get water from the contaminated rivers.

"We only rely on rains," he said in an interview. "We also buy water for our crops and household use because of lack of water," he added. Water tankers of Baguio Water District sell P30 a drum of water.

The engineer Michael Cabalda, chief of the DENR's Mining Environment and Safety Division of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, refuted allegations that there are 857 abandoned mines.

"There's no truth to that [NGO reports]," he said in a telephone interview. "We only have seven major abandoned metallic mining sites and we target their rehabilitation within the next five years."

These major abandoned mine sites are Basay Copper Mine in Negros Oriental, Black Mountain Copper Mine, Boneng-Lobo Copper Mine and Western Minoko Mine in Benguet; Palawan Quick Silver Mine, Consolidated Mine in Marinduque, and Bagacay Copper Mine in Samar.

Cabalda said there are also inactive mines, but many of them are subject for mineral exploration. The Lafayette Mining firm on Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay is one of the companies that acquired inactive mine sites for exploration and extraction but they are required to rehabilitate them.

Under Republic Act 7942, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and DENR Administrative Order 9640 containing the law's implementing rules, Cabalda said there is a strict policy on environmental protection that mining firms must complied with to prevent accidents.

"There should be a rehabilitation plan and contingent liability and rehabilitation fund for rehabilitation purposes. Mining firms allocate money for this (contingent liability and rehabilitation fund). There is also the multipartite monitoring team composed of government officials, local government units and nongovernment organizations to ensure that mining firms are following environmental laws," the official explained.

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