The Manila Times



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

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