TAM­PAKAN MIN­ING DAN­GER­OUS— EX­PERTS

The Manila Times - - FRONT PAGE -

KORON­ADAL CITY: In­ter­na­tional and lo­cal ex­perts crit­i­cized the En­vi­ron­men­tal and So­cial Im­pact As­sess­ment (ESIA) of the Tam­pakan Mine Project dur­ing a pub­lic fo­rum held at the South Cota­bato gym­na­sium and Cul­tural Cen­ter on Septem­ber 23.

The Of­fice of the Gov­er­nor and the So­cial Ac­tion Cen­ter of Mar­bel coor­ga­nized the ac­tiv­ity to bring to­gether the con­sul­tants of Sagittariu­s Mines Inc/ Xs­trata and ex­perts from the anti-min­ing groups to present the pos­si­ble im­pact of the Tam­pakan min­ing project to the peo­ple and environmen­t ac­cord­ing to Fa­ther Joy Peliño, di­rec­tor of the So­cial Ac­tion Cen­ter of the Mar­bel Dio­cese

Clive Wicks and Dr. Robert Goodland, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tants and mem­bers of the Lon­don based Work­ing Group on Min­ing in the Philip­pines (WGMP-UK) read and an­a­lyzed the draft En­vi­ron­men­tal and So­cial Im­pact As­sess­ment (ESIA) of SMI/Xs­trata and found that the 3,000-page doc­u­ment fails to dis­close the most se­vere im­pacts of the min­ing project in an area of high seis­mic ac­tiv­ity and is badly flawed in recog­ni­tion of the risks the mine poses.

A shorter ver­sion of the ESIA, the EIS, was equally crit­i­cized. The doc­u­ment is a re­quire­ment of the Depart­ment of Environmen­t and Nat­u­ral Re­sources-En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Bureau (DENR-EMB)—be­fore SMI/Xs­trata can re­ceive the En­vi­ron­men­tal Com­pli­ance Cer­tifi­cate (ECC) nec­es­sary to start the mine de­vel­op­ment.

Af­ter two and a half hours of pre­sen­ta­tion by the SMI/Xs­trata con­sul­tants, Clive Wicks and Filipino ex­perts, lawyer Ipat Luna and Kail Zin­ga­pan, pre­sented their eval­u­a­tion and dis­cussed the real risks of the project that seemed to be cov­ered up in the mas­sive EIS and ESIA doc­u­ments.

Wicks pointed out that SMI own con­sul­tants ad­mit­ted in their Waste Man­age­ment Ap­pen­dix (page 42)—“there is a high po­ten­tial for loss of life and se­vere en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age if the tail­ings dam or rock stor­age fa­cil­ity col­lapse.” He went on to say that in his and Dr. Robert Goodland opinion, there was a strong chance that the fa­cil­i­ties would col­lapse just as 16 tail­ings dams have col­lapsed in the Philip­pines in re­cent years. Many more tail­ings dams have col­lapsed on the Is­land of New Guinea.

“You know that the mine area is on top of stra­to­vol­ca­noes and fault lines, some of which cross each other, and is lo­cated in an area of high seis­mic ac­tiv­ity, and you will build large dams and a rock stor­age fa­cil­ity for 1.6 bil­lion tons of toxic rock that are highly sus­cep­ti­ble to break­age and dis­as­ters. In that event, how many peo­ple will die?” Wicks asked the SMI ex­perts. This was a ba­sic ques­tion he had asked in his as­sess­ment of other plans in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. SMI/Xs­trata con­sul­tants, how­ever, did not an­swer the query.

Wicks also pointed out that SMI/Xs­trata are ex­pect­ing the peo­ple of the three prov­inces to take the risk for­ever in per­pe­tu­ity, while the com­pany only car­ries the risk for about 20 years. The com­pany does not even rec­og­nize many of them as stake­hold­ers. Ev­ery per­son who uses water from the Tam­pakan Moun­tain is a stake­holder and has a hu­man right to clean water. One of the big­gest risks is to the vi­tal shal­low aquifers un­der Koron­adal Val­ley and many other ar­eas. If they are pol­luted by acid mine drainage they can never be cleaned up.

Wicks and Goodland are the au­thors of the book Philip­pines: Min­ing or Food? pub­lished in 2009, a book that doc­u­mented how the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try and com­mu­ni­ties are af­fected by min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the coun­try.

The Tam­pakan mine de­vel­op­ment cov­ers an area of ap­prox­i­mately 10, 000 hectares. The de­vel­op­ment will cut down al­most 4,000-hectares of forests in­clud­ing old growth forests. It will af­fect the water source of com­mu­ni­ties on 6 rivers with ar­senic and acid mine drainage. The Mal river will be the worst af­fected as many streams in its catch­ment will be de­stroyed and re­placed by the tail­ings dam. That will im­pact the Mal River, the re­gion’s big­gest river sys­tem and dam­age agri­cul­ture in Davao del Sur.

Kail Zin­ga­pan of Philip­pine As­so­ci­a­tion for In­ter­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment (PAFID), who worked with lo­cal in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties to pro­duce an im­pres­sive 3D map of the Koron­adal Val­ley and the Tam­pakan wa­ter­sheds, ex­plained what the min­ing project would mean for the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

“This is the peo­ple’s map, we did not in­vent this. The peo­ple showed us where their lands are lo­cated and we just plot­ted them in the map. We showed them the out­come and they saw that the mine de­vel­op­ment area cov­ers their an­ces­tral lands and it seems not all of them were con­sulted or cor­rectly in­formed of the risks by SMI,” she said.

Peo­ple were shocked as Zin­ga­pan placed the sup­posed mine tail­ings dam area on top of the hill, and the fresh water dam right where Mal River is lo­cated. “This is your land, where you live and get your food and needs for ev­ery­day. It is up to you now if you want to see this land dev­as­tated and taken away from you or not,” she said in Bisaya.

En­vi­ron­men­tal lawyer Ipat Luna, on the other hand, ex­plained her le­gal eval­u­a­tion of the EIS, “ The EIS in­ad­e­quately sets out the di­rect losses to be caused by the project and has gaps in terms of other le­gal per­mits and com­pli­ance. The Stake­hold­ers’ De­vel­op­ment Frame­work fails to ap­pre­ci­ate the unique cul­tural iden­tity of the B’laan and merely enu­mer­ates stan­dard so­cial de­vel­op­ment in­ter­ven­tions.”

Af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion of SMI’S EIA and cri­tique, Bishop Din­u­aldo Gu­tier­rez of the Dio­cese of Mar­bel said, “No min­ing project will ever be good for us. Let us con­tinue to sup­port the South Cota­bato En­vi­ron­men­tal Code that bans open pit min­ing.” Bishop Gu­tier­rez re­it­er­ated there is no need for the Sang­gu­ni­ang Pan­lalaw­igan to re­view the said code.

“Un­like Smi/xs­trata who are here to get the ap­proval of the peo­ple to mine their lands, the ex­perts and non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions are here be­cause the com­mu­ni­ties re­quested our help. We are here also be­cause we be­lieve that the claimed ben­e­fits of this min­ing project are clearly out­weighed by the im­pact it will bring to water, agri­cul­ture, forests, bio­di­ver­sity and com­mu­ni­ties.”

To­wards the end, Smi/xs­trata con­sul­tants found it hard to con­vince the peo­ple that their project will not im­pact neg­a­tively on many lives.

When asked, “What if the di­rectly-af­fected peo­ple do not want to leave their lands,” a Smi/xs­trata spokesper­son an­swered, “If you the peo­ple do not want leave and re­set­tle, then we do not have a project to talk about.”

SMI’S prob­lem is that all the peo­ple who de­pend on the up­land area for water will have to give their ap­proval, not just the seven barangays on the top of the moun­tain.

As a re­sult of the fo­rum, Gov. Arthur Pin­goy Jr. as­sured the peo­ple, that he will im­ple­ment the Provin­cial En­vi­ron­men­tal Code Or­di­nance and that there will be no open-pit min­ing in the prov­ince un­less there is an or­der from the Courts.

At the fo­rum at­tended by in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal groups fight­ing against the Tampakan open-pit min­ing

Pro­tect th­ese moun­tains

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