Fools' gold in Tampakan-A A +A
By Jun Ledesma
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources has finally decided it is not going to issue an Environmental Compliance Certificate to mining giant Sagittarius for its open pit operations in Tampakan.
DENR Sec. Ramon Paje stood four square behind the decision of the Provincial Government which banned open pit mining specifically in Tampakan.
I personally am pleased with that decision in that even as I was critical of Paje in some points in the past, I have to salute him for deciding against what mining Goliath wants to assert and impose.
Tampakan is not just any other mount which is rich with natural resources. Tampakan mountain ranges is a very critical watershed that serve as the recharge area not only for the province of South Cotabato but also for those adjacent to it. The risks and environmental impact cannot be gambled with the purported $6-billion bonanza that the copper and gold mine brings.
SMI wants people to believe that open pit mining is the safest method of mining. I need not argue against that. It is safe for the miners but what SMI is not telling us is that it is also the most hazardous as far as our environment is concerned. Those who assert that small scale mining is risky are not altogether correct. Take the case of what happened in Napnapan, Pantukan in Comval province where not a few miners were buried under the cascading rocks and mud.
Take note that in Napnapan, it is the loose earth from the mountain top and ridges that gave way because of incessant rain. It is not the tunnels of the miners that gave way. The victims were those living in makeshift houses along the path of the cascading earth. In fact, to the credit of DENR and the provincial government of Comval, they had issued series of warning to the intruders in Sitio Biat Napnapan that the area is virtually a no man's land not only for small miners but for those who want to settle there. But some people are so bullheaded they throw away cautions in the air. If it can happen in Napnapan, it can happen in Tampakan.
If the natural land terrain of Napnapan can be that hazardous to settlers and miners, how much more havoc will the mountain of loose excavated earth create if perchance the same volume of rain as those that happened in Matina Pangi in Davao City, Cagayan de Oro and Napnapan will happen in Tampakan? Certainly, this government will not want to see the same catastrophe to happen when everybody knows it can be prevented.
That open pit mining is allowed by law in the Philippines does not give any Tom-Dick-and-Harry the blanket authority to dig for minerals anywhere they wish, including that of a protected watershed area. That is taking their luck too far. SMI can take their money elsewhere.
SMI is not the first and neither is it the last mining company in this world that assures with guarantees that they have addressed all the safety requirements in the mines' operations. We made so much fuss about the 30 or so victims of Pantukan landslides which the big guys in the mining industries are attributing to the decrepit safety apparatus which the small guys are having. But actually, the tragedy has nothing to do with the poor operations of the small miners. It has something to do with a condition where the environmental condition had reached a situation where landslide or mudslide has become eminent.
That environmental condition becomes more eminent in the case of Tampakan because SMI is not creating a molehill; it will be making a crater as deep as one kilometer and transmogrifying a huge mountain of loose soil that is contaminated with toxic elements that are used in extracting the precious minerals from the ore. Can they contain this loose mountain of earth in their mine tailings and prevent seepage of toxic effluents from flowing into the water recharge of the populated communities? Will the effluents not breach their containment infrastructures and then cascade into the rivers and creeks then all the way to Buluan Lake and Liguasan marsh? Will the $6-billion receipt, which some sectors are salivating for, be sufficient to restore the destruction of the watershed? How can an ECC be issued if the fear of such catastrophe is greater than the prospect of a few hundreds of scholarships and 10,000 eggs daily which SMI promises to buy from the local communities?.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 18, 2012.