Mining Disaster Looms in Sipalay
Sipalay City faces
another mining disaster with the operation of Colet Mines, says an
KARL G. OMBION
Scientists of the mission team
assessing the conditions of the Mantoboy creek, with polluted and acidic
creeks (left). Proposed mine site of the Colet Mines (right)
PHOTOS BY KARL OMBION
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.
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
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.
Investigation Mission dialogue with local folks
PHOTO BY KARL OMBION
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
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
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
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
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
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,”
During the mission,
the local residents reported that they are constantly harassed by military
troops, their paramilitia and local assets.
Soldiers belonging to
the Army’s 12th Infantry Batallion reportedly told the people
not to support groups outside their community. They added that before the
mission came, they were warned not to cooperate because they will only be
used for their money-making and propaganda against the government.”
Greg Ratin, Secretary
General of the DEFEND PATRIMONY who led the investigative mission said
that they were harassed by military intelligence operatives and their
assets posing as “vendors selling VCD players and stereo radios.”
people’s mineral policy
Trixie Concepcion, a
geologist from Defend Patrimony national office, clarified that they are
not against mining, but stand for a mineral policy that is part of a
national industrialization plan.
“We cannot just allow
a king of mining policy that allows mining companies especially
multinational companies to search, open, rake our minerals, destroy
environment and communities, and leave the country with their super
profits,” she said.
She said that the
government’s mineral policy should be selective, responsive to the needs
of national industrialization, protective of natural resources and the
“Such policy must be
comprehensively and carefully planned by the government and all the stake
holders,” she added.
“What we have now is
a destructive policy, favoring only foreign interests,” she stressed.
Cha-cha to worsen
plunder in the Philippines
The team also chided
government statements that Cha-Cha will protect the country’s national
economy and patrimony from plunder.
“Cha-cha will not
improve the mining policy in the country, but will only worsen it. The
advocates of cha-cha want to completely remove the remaining
constitutional obstacles to the sell-out of our resources to foreign
interests,” said Peter Benayres, a forester and former researcher of DENR-Environmental
Benayres said: “We
must muster a stronger and broader forces, and wage sustained advocacy not
only to frustrate the cha-cha scheme of the government, but also protect
our resources from all forms of exploitation and plunder.” Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
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