BY KARL G. OMBION
Sipalay City faces another mining disaster with the operation of Colet Mines, says an Environmental Investigation Mission.
Bacolod City – Sipalay City is facing a repeat of of the mining disasters in the 80s and 90s, when a mining company starts its full-blast operations this year.
Mining engineer Efren Fabila warned that the operations of the Colet Mines might cause havoc comparable to those caused by the Maricalum Mining and Philex Gold Mines in the past two decades.
Fabila headed the three-day Environmental Investigation Mission that surveyed Sitio Dung-I, Brgy Manlocahoc, Sipalay City on April 5 to 7. Sipalay City is 155 kms. south of Negros Occidental.
Sitio Dung-i is in the heart of the Colet Mines operations, which has an approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) covering 2,965.1041 hectares.
The three-day environmental investigative mission was conducted by Defend Patrimony, a broad alliance of environmental activists that include the Negros Concern for Environmental Protection, Paghidaet sa Kauswagan Development Group, Builder Inc., Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Mapisan farmers Federation, Binhi foundation, National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and partylist Bayan Muna.
Diverse flora and fauna
Sitio Dung-i is a farming community with 537 households. It has an estimated 97-hectare rice fields with a year round supply of water. It has five cropping seasons within a two-year period.
The area has 15 creeks and three river systems which drains into Sipalay River. Three natural springs are also located inside the sitio and serves as the only source of potable water for the community.
The area has 80 hectares of forest cover supporting a diverse flora and fauna, such as bakatin, or the local term for wild pig.
Also found in the area are endangered species such as the Red Spotted Deer and globally-threatened bird species such as the Philippine Cockatoo, Blue-naped Parrot, Tarictic Hornbill and the Green-faced Parrot finch.
The creeks and rivers are home to fishes and other freshwater aquatic resources such as banag, awis, busog, haluan, sili, tilapia, uyagbang and ulang.
“With the entry of Colet Mines, local folks have no other recourse but to gear for a renewed struggle in defense of their land resources and the environment,” Fabila warned.
He said, “The socio-economic and cultural impact of the opening of Colet Mines far outweighs the purported economic gains that may be achieved from the mining operations.”
Fabila said that their mission found out that the deposition area of the planned open pit mine of Colet poses a frightening scenario.
“Though Colet Mines is still at the final stage of its exploration, the head waters of Montoboy and Caiwanan creeks that join the Sipalay River, register an extremely high level of acidity of 3.2 PH, far from the normal 7 PH. These creeks are almost dead, unhospitable to living creatures,” Fabila revealed.
“The waters of the creeks is reddish and coconut trees are dying along the banks of the creeks. A hectare of rice land was already covered by siltation from exploration drilling sites, ” he added.
Fabila also said that once Colet Mines operate full blast at Lepanto mountain, Montoboy and Caiwanan creeks and the head waters of Sipalay River will be covered by mine waste. All of the farms downstream will also be heavily silted. Toxic affluents of mining operations will pollute the whole Sipalay River system.
He said the fertile rice lands of Sitio Dung-i where the mine tailings dam will be constructed is capable of producing 9,500 cavans per cropping or 23,750 cavans per year.
The pollution of the Sipalay River System will adversely affect the rich marine ecology of Sipalay coastlines, Fabila said. It would in turn have a negative impact on the tourism industry of the city which recently won the top “Hiyas ng Tourism Best Diving Site” award.
“It is ironic that while Mayor Oscar Montilla promotes tourism, he also allows the pollution and destruction of its rivers and coastlines with toxic mining effluents,” Fabila added.