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Artwork by Sonny Boy Surnit

The consequences of large-scale mining
By Andrea Lim

After the cancellation of a mining franchise due to environmental damage in a local community in Española, Palawan, mining companies have to think twice about the way they implement mining operation procedures.

Two rivers have been put at the risk of being “biologically dead” due to Citinickel Mining and Development Corporation’s nickel mining project.

An environmental and scientist group conducted an Environmental Investigative Mission (EIM) in surrounding areas of the Pulot nickel-mining project on November 2012, and reports revealed mortalities of shellfish, fish, aquatic and coastal plants and other organisms.

The fact-finding mission was in done in response to complaints of local residents that the rivers in the area seemed to cry “crimson tears” every rainfall, noted especially during the heavy rains brought about by the Habagat storms.

According to Finesa Cosico, lead scientist of the EIM, crying crimson tears mean “oxygen depletion and the eventual biological death of the rivers.”

Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) national coordinator Clemente Bautista said that interviews with locals revealed that the productivity of affected fisheries and agricultural lands experienced a radical decline since the start of Citinickel’s mining operations.

There have also been cases of respiratory and skin diseases, among others, that can be attributed to the mining’s effects.

Price to Pay

Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. confirmed that there was an incident of overflowed water with silt, and paid a Php375,000 penalty fine to the government.

It also claims to have stopped their mining operations and immediately cleaned up and rehabilitated the river and some adjacent farm lots that were affected by the overflow.

On the other hand, the damage has already been done and despite this incident, mining companies, with the majority being foreign-owned, continue to operate in the country.

Large-scale mining operations also continue to show how indifferent the Aquino administration is to the demands of the people and the protection of the environment. It has no problem in giving in to the interests of multinational mining corporations.

Recent Developments

Last June 13, Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. have been suspended indefinitely from operating its nickel mine in Española.

The spill happened in Citinickel’s Pulot mine on June 5 when the miner’s siltation control facilities were breached and caused massive discoloration and build up of sediments in the Pasi and Pulot Rivers, the bureau said in a June 10 suspension order.

On-site reports reaching the bureau showed the breach in the silt pond has not been repaired and traces of laterite sediments were still present in the rivers, MGB director Leo Jasareno said.

The mining company is a subsidiary of Oriental Peninsula Resources Group, whose shares are traded on the Philippine Stock Exchange.