Another mining town in Vizcaya cries for helpPublished by MAC on 2009-01-19
BAYOMBONG, Philippines - While anti-mining groups seem to be gaining favorable grounds in their campaigns for the stoppage of mining activities in the country, members of a small mining affected community in another remote village in the country's northern province remain to be in a quagmire.
The Runruno Land Owners Association (Rulanas) through its spokesperson, Kathleen Guillao, lamented that a mining firm operating in Quezon town's Runruno village remain unflinching to the plight of residents who claim to be have been repeatedly deceived by the promises of the mining company.
MTL Philippines Mining Corporation, a company which is supposed to be a subsidiary of UK-based The Metals Exploration PLC (Metals Ex), has even confused the Runruno residents since the name was not given a broad disclosure in the Metals Ex's website.
Guillao, a third generation member of a family who has been fighting for their land rights, said that the community that she knew has slowly disintegrated since MTL started to explore the area, gaining followers and creating discontent among oppositionists.
At least five mining companies during the past 40 years have continuously explored the mineral-rich area, the latest being FCF Mining Corporation as the holder of mining exploration permit, from which Metals Ex has forged an agreement with.
With its latest (October 2008) mineral resource estimate, Metals Ex reported that there are approximately 31 million tons at 2 grams per ton of gold containing a total of 2 million ounces of gold and 34.4 million pounds of molybdenum.
Molybdenum is used mainly as a component of alloyed steel but some of its important uses include the manufacture of military hardware, light bulb filaments and automotive parts.
With the enormous find, Rulanas believes that Metals Ex has more reasons to stay and be indifferent to the plight of the residents and to explore more of the much-vaunted rich mineral reserves of Runruno, possibly causing the prolonged exploitation of the area's rich flora and fauna.
Runruno's mineral reserves are said to be several times larger than that of Didipio in Kasibu which is currently being explored by another foreign mining firm OceanaGold Philippines.
According to Guillao, MTL's exploration activities, has already cut out a huge portion of a mountain that towers over several sitios in the village, endangering the lives of many families.
"We are worried about the carved face of the mountain as it may create a landslide that can wipe out whole sitios, "she said.
"We are still lucky that nothing untoward happened to us during the recent heavy rains but it was only because the company (MTL) covered some portions of the bare mountainside with some temporary covering materials, "she added fearing that the company's stop gap solution to possible rock and landslides will not last long.
Four years ago, the two flash floods experienced in Runruno which killed seven people and nearly wiped out one whole village were attributed by residents to the mining company's earth-moving activities.
Initially, Guillao disclosed that MTL was using only smaller machines called diamond drillers, which are used primarily to bore small holes on the ground for mineral analysis. It is capable of boring up to 1,200 meters.
However, Guillao said, giant rigs called Reverse Circulation (RC) drilling machines came rolling down their village just recently.
As RC drilling uses much larger rigs and machinery and can bore depths of up to 500 meters at a time, it is preferred by mining companies because it is cheaper to use than diamond-coring. It can bore more holes at a lesser cost.
Members of Rulanas fear that MTL mining company, with its mammoth machineries, have already stiffen their claim to exploit their land in preparation for large-scale mining operations.
Cutting fluids which contain substances such as biocides, corrosion inhibitors, metal fines, and other biological contaminants are used to prevent wear and tear of drilling bits. The toxins may cause skin rashes, dermatitis, esophagitis, lung disease, and cancer.
Inhalation of cutting fluid aerosols may cause irritation of the throat, nose, and lungs and has been associated with chronic bronchitis, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and worsening of pre-existing respiratory problems.
Exposure may result from touching contaminated surfaces, handling parts and equipment, splashing fluids, and aerosol mist settling on the skin.
It is also feared that legislation if there's any in the proper disposal of toxic waste such as old or used cutting fluid, may not have been not be carried out stringently owing to reports that some community members in Runruno are already suffering from various skin diseases.
Guillao revealed that they can no longer fish at the once clean and bountiful river which is also the source of their drinking and cooking water.
"There used to be an abundance of fish in our river but not now, we are afraid to even wash our clothes there," Guillao said, adding that several hectares of farmland in one sitio has become worthless due either to toxins flowing down from MTLs explorations
area or overlaid with mudflows from past typhoons.
Most residents of Quezon town are against mining, they have seen the injustices brought about by mining company's supposed developmental approach strategies.
A women's organization called Runruno Livelihood Foundation (RLF) was formed through the auspices of MTL. According to the residents, MTL claimed that RLF is formed primarily to cater to the economic needs of the village through a livelihood program.
However, RLF is seen by the villagers only as an instrument of MTL since Rulanas exposed that some staff of RLF are somehow connected with the mining company or not even residents of Quezon. Consultations they say were hardly done or not at all.
Several other livelihood programs were instituted by MTL but Rulanas lamented that all of it failed because it did not cater to the actual needs of the residents but only served as a compliance to their so called "developmental work plan."
RLF is allegedly being used by the mining company as a front for their strong arm tactics. Based on available documents, RLF has filed an application for water rights at the National Water Regulatory Board (NWRB) in Quezon City.
At least 20 river and creeks surrounding the town has been applied for by the MTL backed RLF but members of an irrigators association in Sitio Dipilipig averred that they have already applied for water rights and has been paying their dues since the 1980's.
For fear that their livelihood will be affected in the event that MTL will have control of their water sources, the irrigator's association, lacking legal representation due to lack of funds, filed an opposition at the NWRB claiming that they have complete documents and a valid argument to oppose RLF.
A notice of decision from NWRB however dismissed the petition of the irrigator's association in favor of the new applicant-RLF.