Philippines: No Such Thing As ‘Responsible Large-Scale Mining’

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    The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) reiterates call for a total mining ban saying that the recent leakage of toxic waste from Philex Mining Corporation’s tailings dam 3 during the onslaught of incessant monsoon rains in Luzon is enough proof that responsible large-scale mining is a myth.

    On August 4, Philex Mining Corporation announced that they were able to plug the leak from tailings dam 3 after affected residents of Barangay Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet reported that mine wastes were flowing down Agno river. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Cordillera ordered Philex to stop operations pending the repair of the dam. As of press time Philex operations is still on hold.

    CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget in an interview stressed that Philex and other mining firms have been boasting that their tailings containment facilities could withstand any weather condition but the leak of tailings dam 3 says otherwise. He said the collapse of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s tailings dam 5A is yet another incident that belies the myth of responsible mining.

    “The leakage of Philex dam 3 is a warning especially to government officials to muster enough political will to stop the onslaught of large-scale mining. They should act now before a disaster happens. Should we wait for the collapse of mine tailings dams of Philex and Lepanto before we say enough to mining?” Bolinget asked.

    He added that the experience of the people of Itogon with the Benguet Corporation, and the people of Mankayan with Lepanto, give enough lessons and solid proof of how devastating and detrimental large-scale mining is to the environment and to people’s lives.

    The CPA chairperson reiterated that Benguet Corporation’s century-old mine operations ravaged Itogon and the continuing operations of Lepanto resulted in the destruction of rivers and agricultural lands due to toxic waste contamination from the mining operations wastes or mine tailings.

    “Let us also not forget the Marcopper mining tragedy in 1996 that killed the Boac River in Marinduque,” he added.

    The Marcopper mining tragedy is considered to be the most dreadful legacy of large-scale mining in Philippine history.

    Bolinget challenged the provincial officials of downstream communities affected by the flowing of mine wastes of Lapanto, Philex and other mining companies in the Cordillera into the Agno and Abra rivers to step up and join the fight against destructive mining. He pointed out that the San Roque Dam serves as a catch basin of toxic wastes that flow down the Agno river. He explained that when the dam releases water just like recently due to incessant rains, contaminated water also flooded adjacent communities of Pangasinan and Tarlac.

    In the same manner, he said the recent Philex dam 3 incident should serve as a wake-up call to downstream communities of Ilocos Sur that serve as repository of toxic wastes.

    “Local government units of affected communities should take a more active role in the fight against large-scale mining before it is too late. They should act now before the whole of Central Luzon and Ilocos is covered with mine waste,” he stressed.

    Bolinget also urged concerned government agencies and officials to make these erring mining firms pay for their crimes. He stressed that the royalties these firms are paying, which are only 1-percent of the total revenues they get out of the country’s resources, are not enough to pay for the long-term environmental devastation and damage to people’s lives.

    “Mining companies should be punished for their crimes against the environment and the people. The government must close down these large mining firms to stop further devastation and give time for impartial investigations,” he said.

    The CPA chairperson also highlighted the impact of large-scale mining on the current climate change and climate disasters the country and the whole world is facing. He emphasized that the region is identified as among the most vulnerable to climate change and disaster.

    He added that the tailings containment areas of these dams were built years back when the problem of climate change was not yet evident. He said it is logical to assume that these tailings dams are not made to withstand the impact of climate change.

    “Philex dam 3 was damaged by monsoon rains alone. With the erratic weather brought about by drastic changes in our climate, how can we be sure that the tailings dam will be able to withstand upcoming typhoons?” he stressed.

    He further said that should the tailings dam collapse the owners and top officials of these mining companies are not the ones who will suffer. “If only the silt and mine toxic wastes could be directed into the homes of mine firm officials so that they will experience firsthand the devastation their operations cause,” he said.

    “This is a challenge to government at various levels — to declare a moratorium on mining, scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, EO 79 and all other mining laws that serve the interest of corporate greed and pass the peoples mining bill and reorient the mining industry to be more environment-friendly and adaptive to climate change,” he said.

    Source: The Cordillera Peoples Alliance