Fatal After-effects of Mining Worry Residents of Mining Towns

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY — A woman in her 50’s could not help but cry at the thought that six of her nephews and nieces are facing imminent danger in Mankayan.

Janet Mayanggao, a resident of Colalo, Mankayan, Benguet, was among the locals who retold stories about incidents of sinking in the said mining town last week. A witness of how people scampered to safety in the 1999 collapse of the Colalo Elementary School, Mayanggao elaborated on how a mother feels about the sinking.

“When Colalo collapsed, it ‘swallowed’ a man alive and he was never seen again,” Mayaggao said referring to the July 26, 1999 landslide that sent two million cubic meters of soil and debris into Mankayan River, a tributary of the Abra River.

A certain Pablo Gomez was buried alive in the incident.

The landslide also encroached into a portion of the tailings pond 5A of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC), according to a report of the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS) of the University of the Philippines.

Acting on a request by then congressman Ronald Cosalan, the NIGS conducted a comprehensive geological study in the wake of the collapse of Colalo and, earlier in 1998, Aurora Street at Poblacion, Mankayan.

The same area that NIGS studied in August 1999 collapsed last June 5, haunting locals with fears of yet another subsidence as the rainy season sets in. (Subsidence is defined as sudden sinking or gradual downward settling of the Earth’s surface with little or no horizontal motion.)

Mayanggao has nephews and nieces living and studying near the Mankayan Central School (MCS) and the Mankayan National High School (MNHS).

“They are so young, they do not know yet how to protect themselves against danger,” she said, adding that small children even peer at the sinkhole with curiosity and fondness, unmindful of the danger.

With subsidence in mind, Mayanggao also worries of the possible collapse of economic activities of people in Mankayan. A typical mother, she worries that if people don’t get swallowed up first by giant pits underneath, they might lose their livelihood.

Besides mining, Mankayan residents live off planting at the mountainsides crops such as palay, corn, temperate vegetables and legumes. They also tend to farm animals while some raise fish in “fish terraces” and along riverbanks.

Dangerous sinkhole near school in Mankayan, Baguio City. (Photo by LYN V. RAMO / bulatlat.com)

With the ground where they’re living and working now declared unstable, women like Mayanggao, a leader of the local Innabuyog-Gabriela chapter, feel vulnerable.

Speaking in her dialect, she said: “As mothers, we can’t help but keep worrying. How shall we live now? Where shall we resettle our families?”

Responding to miners’ testimonies that indeed, underground tunnels are crisscrossing Mankayan, youth representative Chester Tuazon of Anakbayan condemned Lepanto’s mining operations. Tuazon said Lepanto has contributed a lot in the degradation of the environment.

Former miners Martes Botil-e and Vicente Dilem testified to having seen the underground diggings that might cause the land above it to give way, causing the collapse of a big portion of the former site of MCS and MNHS along Aurora Street in Barangay Poblacion.

The subsidence displaced at least eight families and threatened several other houses.

“We also condemn Lepanto’s denial that it has destroyed Mankayan and we hold the company accountable for this destruction,” Tuazon said.

Tuazon reiterated his earlier call for local government officials to seriously consider an impartial investigation into the Aurora sinking, including that of the Colalo area and other mining structures that are threatening the lives of Mankayan residents, as well as the environment. He mentioned the pollution of Abra River as a result of 65 years of LCMC’s operations.

Rev. Jonathan Obar of the Anglican Church, who has served Mankayan for 12 years, said even the religious sector, which should be viewed as partners in development, has been branded as going against the government when they spoke of the destruction in mining communities like Mankayan.

Others in the panel of discussants during the forum were Colalo Barangay Captain Ambino Padawi and Cordillera Peoples Alliance Vice-chair Xavier Akien.

Padawi called for LCMC’s pullout amid the massive threat to the environment and people’s lives in the affected communities.(Bulatlat.com)

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