INDIGENOUS peoples advocate Cordillera Peoples Alliance lauded the Department of Environment and Natural Resource following the closure of Benguet Corporation and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation.

“CPA welcomes the DENR announcement this week on the closure of 23 mining operations in several parts of the country, including BC. While Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company is among those up for suspension, we are fervently pushing for the closure of this company for its historical accountability to the destruction of people’s lands and polluting and silting the Abra River and its tributaries for the past 80 years,” the statement reads.

The CPA added BC’s open-pit mining in Itogon for the past 100 years has removed whole mountains and entire villages from the land surface. After exhausting the gold ore, the open pit in Itogon is now abandoned as the company has shifted to other economic ventures like water privatization, small scale contract scheme and housing.

Benguet Corp., added the statement, had denuded the pine forests of Itogon, Baguio, Tuba, and Tublay including Bobok in Bokod.

“Apart from denuding the forests, the company also ruined the groundwater systems of Itogon with deep exploration drilling and the driving of tunnels then with open-pit mining. And apart from destroying watersheds and groundwater systems, BC also polluted surface water channels, land surfaces, and the air – with sulfurous oxides from the exposure of massive amounts of mineral overburden, acid mine drainage, and huge volumes of mine tailings laden with cyanide, other poisonous ore-processing chemicals, and toxic concentrations of dissolved heavy metals,” CPA said.

CPA added the sediments and contaminants were transported by rivers through Pangasinan to the Lingayen Gulf where they sometimes caused fish kills. Up to the present, sediments from both active and abandoned tailings dams continue to cause flooding and destruction of rice fields and fishponds in the lowlands. They are also quickly silting up the San Roque dam.

“The DENR decision on BC and Lepanto also shows that no amount of ISO certification will speak clearer or louder than the collective voice of communities who suffered from the operations of these mining giants. We hope that DENR’s announcement for the closure and suspension be implemented swiftly, and that accountability and just compensations is ensured,” the statement added.