A MINING company was handed a cease and desist order by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Davao Region on January 17 to suspend its operations in the area following the siltation and discoloration incident of Mapagba River and the coastal areas in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental on January 14.

In a press conference on Monday, DENR-Davao Director Bagani Evasco said a show cause and cease and desist order issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Davao and a Notice of Violation issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-Davao were released on January 17 suspending the mining activities of Arc Nickel Resources Inc. (Anri).

“Based on the initial assessment, the potential source of siltation and discoloration along the Mapagba River was attributed to active mining activity of Arc Nickel Resources Inc., operator of the Riverbend Consolidated Mining Corporation,” said Evasco in a press conference.

Evasco said the siltation pond in the production area of Anri, located at Kilometer 9, Banaybanay, Davao Oriental, was saturated following the heavy rains on January 13 to 14, and thus overflowed to the Mapagba River.

“There were identified areas with overburden and waste material that broke the mitigating measures and drains towards the siltation pond. Intense rains last January 13 to 14, 2022 pushed overburden materials that contributed to the overflowing of silt pond draining towards the Mapagba River. For the Pintatagan River, the potential source of silt which attributed to its discoloration and heavy siltation was from the proposed ongoing prepile yard facility of Anri located at Kilometer 9 slope dumping of steep overburden from the production area was saturated during the heavy and continuous precipitation from January 13 to 14, 2022. Siltation traps and control measures are being observed but the siltation traps are not sufficient to control the amount of the precipitation,” Evasco said.

Evasco said in their emergency meeting on January 17 with DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, the secretary gave an immediate order on the suspension and stoppage of the mining operations in Banaybanay.

EMB-Davao Director Engr. Mario Bulacan said based on the existing Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), Anri has three violations “Specifically ECC condition 1, condition number 4, and ECC condition number 18 administratively it has a corresponding administrative penalty of P50,000.”

Bulacan said the mining company is also facing possible sanctions under Republic Act 9275, or the Clean Water Act.

He said the notice of violation is partial as it is still based on violations of the ECC and depending on the laboratory result from the water samples they can issue a notice of violation based on the Clean Water Act.

Field personnel already have gotten water samples from the affected river that will determine if they have polluted the river.

“Based on the Clean Water Act, we have a sanction. We will issue again another notice of violation based on the Clean Water Act and at the same time, i-elevate natin sa (we will elevate it to the) Pollution Adjudication Board for the determination of the case so with regards sa penalty, mas lalaki (it will be higher),” said Bulacan.

Meanwhile, the Anri is only allowed to implement environmental and engineering measures for the purpose of mitigating siltation, particularly the construction of a mega-siltation pond within five to seven days after the order is issued.

“Specifically, stop po natin yung production ng any extraction sa taas ng bundok, pero di sila mag stop sa paggawa ng environmental and engineering measures (Specifically, we will stop the extraction activities in the site but they will continue with the environmental and engineering measures),” said lawyer Jasper Lascano, EMB-Davao director.

Aside from engineering measures, Anri has deployed its personnel to do cleanup in the affected river. Food packs were also given to residents affected by the siltation.

The Riverbend Consolidated Mining Corporation, operated by Anri, has a total mining tenement area of 6,363 hectares, encompassing the towns of Banaybanay in Davao Oriental and Pantukan in Davao de Oro. It started its operations in September 2021.

Evasco also said that the mining company will be subject to strict monitoring and compliance.

“Together with MGB, EMB, Penro-Lupon, and the concerned LGU of Banaybanay, Davao Oriental shall conduct regular monitoring or as often as necessary until this incident is addressed,” he said. (With PIA-Davao)