MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining Disaster Looms In Sipalay City

Published by MAC on 2006-04-15
Source: Bulatlat ()

Mining Disaster Looms in Sipalay City

Sipalay City faces another mining disaster with the operation of Colet Mines, says an Environmental Investigation Mission.

BY KARL G. OMBION, Bulatlat - http://www.bulatlat.com/news/6-10/6-10-mining.htm

9th 15th April 2006

Bacolod City – Sipalay City is facing a repeat of of the mining disasters in the 80s and 90s, when a mining company starts its full-blast operations this year.

Mining engineer Efren Fabila warned that the operations of the Colet Mines might cause havoc comparable to those caused by the Maricalum Mining and Philex Gold Mines in the past two decades.

Fabila headed the three-day Environmental Investigation Mission that surveyed Sitio Dung-I, Brgy Manlocahoc, Sipalay City on April 5 to 7. Sipalay City is 155 kms. south of Negros Occidental.

Sitio Dung-i is in the heart of the Colet Mines operations, which has an approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) covering 2,965.1041 hectares.

The three-day environmental investigative mission was conducted by Defend Patrimony, a broad alliance of environmental activists that include the Negros Concern for Environmental Protection, Paghidaet sa Kauswagan Development Group, Builder Inc., Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Mapisan farmers Federation, Binhi foundation, National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and partylist Bayan Muna.

Diverse flora and fauna

Sitio Dung-i is a farming community with 537 households. It has an estimated 97-hectare rice fields with a year round supply of water. It has five cropping seasons within a two-year period.

The area has 15 creeks and three river systems which drains into Sipalay River. Three natural springs are also located inside the sitio and serves as the only source of potable water for the community.

The area has 80 hectares of forest cover supporting a diverse flora and fauna, such as bakatin, or the local term for wild pig.

Also found in the area are endangered species such as the Red Spotted Deer and globally-threatened bird species such as the Philippine Cockatoo, Blue-naped Parrot, Tarictic Hornbill and the Green-faced Parrot finch.

The creeks and rivers are home to fishes and other freshwater aquatic resources such as banag, awis, busog, haluan, sili, tilapia, uyagbang and ulang.

Destruction looms

“With the entry of Colet Mines, local folks have no other recourse but to gear for a renewed struggle in defense of their land resources and the environment,” Fabila warned.

He said, “The socio-economic and cultural impact of the opening of Colet Mines far outweighs the purported economic gains that may be achieved from the mining operations.”

Fabila said that their mission found out that the deposition area of the planned open pit mine of Colet poses a frightening scenario.

“Though Colet Mines is still at the final stage of its exploration, the head waters of Montoboy and Caiwanan creeks that join the Sipalay River, register an extremely high level of acidity of 3.2 PH, far from the normal 7 PH. These creeks are almost dead, unhospitable to living creatures,” Fabila revealed.

“The waters of the creeks is reddish and coconut trees are dying along the banks of the creeks. A hectare of rice land was already covered by siltation from exploration drilling sites, ” he added.

Fabila also said that once Colet Mines operate full blast at Lepanto mountain, Montoboy and Caiwanan creeks and the head waters of Sipalay River will be covered by mine waste. All of the farms downstream will also be heavily silted. Toxic affluents of mining operations will pollute the whole Sipalay River system.

He said the fertile rice lands of Sitio Dung-i where the mine tailings dam will be constructed is capable of producing 9,500 cavans per cropping or 23,750 cavans per year.

The pollution of the Sipalay River System will adversely affect the rich marine ecology of Sipalay coastlines, Fabila said. It would in turn have a negative impact on the tourism industry of the city which recently won the top “Hiyas ng Tourism Best Diving Site” award.

“It is ironic that while Mayor Oscar Montilla promotes tourism, he also allows the pollution and destruction of its rivers and coastlines with toxic mining effluents,” Fabila added.

Militarized area

During the mission, the local residents reported that they are constantly harassed by military troops, their paramilitia and local assets.

Soldiers belonging to the Army’s 12th Infantry Batallion reportedly told the people not to support groups outside their community. They added that before the mission came, they were warned not to cooperate because they will only be used for their money-making and propaganda against the government.”

Greg Ratin, Secretary General of the DEFEND PATRIMONY who led the investigative mission said that they were harassed by military intelligence operatives and their assets posing as “vendors selling VCD players and stereo radios.”

Alternative people’s mineral policy

Trixie Concepcion, a geologist from Defend Patrimony national office, clarified that they are not against mining, but stand for a mineral policy that is part of a national industrialization plan.

“We cannot just allow a king of mining policy that allows mining companies especially multinational companies to search, open, rake our minerals, destroy environment and communities, and leave the country with their super profits,” she said.

She said that the government’s mineral policy should be selective, responsive to the needs of national industrialization, protective of natural resources and the people.

“Such policy must be comprehensively and carefully planned by the government and all the stake holders,” she added.

“What we have now is a destructive policy, favoring only foreign interests,” she stressed.

Cha-cha to worsen plunder in the Philippines

The team also chided government statements that Cha-Cha will protect the country’s national economy and patrimony from plunder.

“Cha-cha will not improve the mining policy in the country, but will only worsen it. The advocates of cha-cha want to completely remove the remaining constitutional obstacles to the sell-out of our resources to foreign interests,” said Peter Benayres, a forester and former researcher of DENR-Environmental Research Bureau.

Benayres said: “We must muster a stronger and broader forces, and wage sustained advocacy not only to frustrate the cha-cha scheme of the government, but also protect our resources from all forms of exploitation and plunder.”

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