Mining Firm Denies Responsibility for Mankayan Disaster

Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY The Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company together with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Cordillera Administrative Region insisted that the massive subsidence in Mankayan was caused not by mining but by natural causes.

On June 5, a large portion of the Aurora St. in Barangay Poblacion sank destroying the Mankayan Elementary School and the Mankayan National High Scool and forcing a number of families to evacuate to safer grounds. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the said incident although the classes of students and economic activities in the vicinity were disrupted.

In the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Benguet, Lepanto said the incident is a result of poor geographic soil and rock composition which was enhanced by continuous rain. The MGB confirmed what Lepanto said before the members of the SP.

Affected residents in Mankayan and people’s organizations blamed the disaster to the many years of extraction of ores and earth from the underground of the municipality making the grounds weaker. They even called for the stoppage of Lepanto’s expansion, if not its whole operations, and be held liable to the disasters in Lepanto.

The Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) and the Benguet Mining Action Alert Network (BMAAN) said while it is true that the disaster can be attributed to natural causes, the decades of mining operations in that area worsened the situation. BMAAN spokesperson Engineer Vergel Aniceto said that the poorly back-filled mined-out tunnels gave way obviously causing the surface to sink.

Aniceto contradicted the earlier comparison of the MGB of the sinking of Mankayan to the landslides in the province of Ifugao. He said that their latest analysis with the help of independent geologists showed that landslides are much different from land subsidences or sinkings.

Aniceto said that in landslides or mudslides, you can notice that the earth went down in slanted direction and washed away downstream. Aniceto said that what happened in Lepanto is not a landslide but sinking. “If you are going to look at the direction of the soil, it is downwards, it really sank. If what they claimed that what happened is a landslide in Mankayan is true, then where did the eroded soil go?” Aniceto said.

Aniceto said they tried to look for the rest of the eroded soil in the nearby Casubigan creek as it may be washed away by water but they saw nothing.

The SP members agreed to the proposal of having an independent investigation by private geologists to give more clarity to the issue. Lepanto pledged to help in the expenses.

CPA Vice-Chairperson Xavier Akien welcomed the proposed independent investigation. Akien said that the investigation will benefit the Mankayan residents as it will show the real cause of the massive sinking.

Akien suggested that the map of the mining operations in the underground be provided so as to make the investigation more accurate and faster. Lepanto, however, reported that the map was missing.

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