MAC: Mines and Communities

Siocon Residents Contract Skin Disease from Polluted River

Published by MAC on 2005-01-13

Siocon Residents Contract Skin Disease from Polluted River

Reported by DCMI

13th January 2005

Skin caused river problems by waterCandiz, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte – Aida Balaway suffered from amysterious skin disease for over a month without knowing the cause. It was only when her husband and a friend also contracted the disease that she became suspicious of the water from the local river.

On November 22, 2004, Aida went down to the Lituban River in Sitio Cristal with her husband Gorgonio Balaway and a friend Ponciano Abacial. Aida was going to wash clothes and bathe while the men were fishing.

The group reached the water at five o'clock at the evening. The men had been casting their nets for an hour before realizing that clear water was turning a muddy brown colour. Fearing that a flood may be on the way, the three hurriedly crossed the river to get home. As they were crossing the water they noticed that their skin began to itch and sting.

For almost twenty years the farmers have fished, bathed and washed clothes in this area with no ill effect. Recently, however, things have been changing. The Libutan River is now just six kilometers downstream from the mining tailings dams of TVI Pacific Inc.

That night they all had trouble sleeping as their skin became increasingly inflamed and sore. In the following days the farmers tried some local and herbal medicines in an attempt to relieve the irritation. When these failed to help, the three went to the Sicon Health Center to be treated by Dr. Vidal Micubo. Dr. Micubo examined them and diagnosed them with a fungal infection resulting from chemical involvement.

kin caused river problems by waterOn November 30th, Aida Balawag, Gorgonio Balawag, and Ponciano Abacial signed affidavits attesting to the fact that it is no longer advisable to catch fish, wash clothes, swim or bathe in the Lituban River. In the affidavit the fishers also noted that many of the fish caught recently in the river have had rotten skin and damaged flesh which smells bad.

TVI started open pit mining in the area in April 2004. The company has repeatedly claimed that they are safely disposing of the toxic chemicals that it uses for processing gold. Recent reports, however, seem to contradict that claim.

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