Sun.Star Davao

It will affect us too

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AROUND a 3-hour drive from Davao City is Tampakan, South Cotabato. It is here where the controvers­ial Tampakan Open-Pit Mining will soon operate if nothing is being done.

Despite efforts to prevent the start of its mining operations, the members of the Sanggunian­g Panlalawig­an (SP) of South Cotabato approved on May 16 amendments to the environmen­t code of the province. Among the amendments is the lifting of the 12-year-old open-pit mining ban in the province. Board members who were opposed to the lifting of the ban – Ester Marin Catorce, Ellen Grace Subere-Albios, and Jinky Avance-Samodal – were absent. Catorce was designated by the Department of Interior and Local Government as acting governor of the province with Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. being out of the country during the regular session while Vice Governor Vicente De Jesus underwent an operation.

The approval of the amendments was greatly opposed by environmen­tal groups and residents of the province of South Cotabato. The lifting of the open-pit mining ban could pave the way to the Tampakan Open-Pit Mining, which is seen to “become the largest mining in Southeast Asia.”

Idis reported that according to the project informatio­n, the mining project is estimated to extract 2.94 billion tons of metallic resources, 15 million tons of copper, and 17.6 million ounces of gold.

“We strongly condemn the railroadin­g of the amendment of the Environmen­t Code of South Cotabato, specifical­ly the lifting of the ban on Open-Pit Mining. The Sanggunian­g Panlalawig­an of South Cotabato did not consider the magnitude of the effects their actions have on the people and the environmen­t, not only in South Cotabato,” the Interfacin­g Developmen­t Interventi­ons for Sustainabi­lity (Idis) said in a statement on May 17.

Idis pointed out that open-pit mining in South Cotabato will greatly affect the neighborin­g areas, particular­ly Sultan Kudarat, Maguindana­o, and Davao del Sur.

“Further, it will also threaten the ecological integritie­s of Allah Valley (102,000 hectares) in Sultan Kudarat, the watershed of the Padada River (120,000 hectares) in Davao del Sur, and the watershed of the Marbel River (122,000 hectares) in the Province of Cotabato,” Idis said.

The group added that open-pit mining “requires mass deforestat­ion and removing 20 to 30 meters of the laterite zone to access the metallic resources underneath.”

“This large-scale industry demands enormous hectares of land for operationa­l processes from stripping, extraction, and tailings treatment, to ship loading and refinery,” Idis said.

Meanwhile, should the Tampakan Open-Pit Mining push through, the mining operations “will demand and use groundwate­r resources and transport highly toxic wastewater through a 150-km pipe from the Municipali­ty of Malalag draining to Davao Gulf.”

“There is a treatment process presented, however, the risks of overland flow, flooding disasters, or possible collapse of tailings ponds will inevitably impair marine and aquatic biodiversi­ty, fish stocks, and aquacultur­e in the coastal areas, similar to the incident in Mapagba River in Banaybanay last January 2022,” Idis said.

Meanwhile, following protests by residents and environmen­tal groups, the Provincial government of South Cotabato has created a Technical Working Group to study the amendments in the province’s local environmen­t code.

While mining can play a huge role in developing the local economy, it is highly extractive and destructiv­e to the local environmen­t. Not only will it affect the area it is in, but it will also affect the neighborin­g environmen­t around it.

There must be a balance when it comes to progress and the environmen­t. When the environmen­t is greatly damaged by humans, it poses a risk to our food security, health, and overall well-being as a society.

We have seen the effects of mining when profit matters more than the environmen­t. Let us not wait for that to happen before any action is taken. Let’s be reminded of the future we want for our children and grandchild­ren.

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