GEOHAZARD MAPS REVEAL PHILIPPINE ‘NO-GO ZONES’ TO MINING

MANILA, Philippines – Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), an advocacy group and people’s movement composed of more than eighty (80) organizations from mining-affected communities and civil society organizations nationwide, urge government to use geohazard maps to review mining tenements and abandoned mines to prevent mining disaster.

“Recently, the Department of Environment of Natural Resources (DENR) has presented a Php 60 million geohazard mapping study of the Philippines that identified landslide and flood prone areas in the country.  This data should be maximized to strategically mitigate mining disasters – if effectively integrated in land use planning, land development, disaster-risk reduction and climate change adaptation” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator.

“The top landslide prone and flood prone provinces such as Benguet, Mt. Province, Kalinga Apayao, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, etc. identified by DENR are the same provinces which host big mine operations in the country. These geohazard areas impacted both by bad weather and mining put communities at high-risk to catastrophe”, warns Garganera.

“Benguet hosts three big mining operations and three abandoned mines. Last year, typhoons and landslides did not spare mining host communities, Itogon and Mankayan in the province, that affected at least 50 families that had to be evacuated from their homes”, said Garganera.

According to Garganera, mining is a high-risk industry that adds vulnerability to the carrying capacity of an environment. Mining operations in the Philippines are mainly open-pit, which disturbs a massive area of land surface. This can decrease ground water depth and natural filtration, and increases groundwater contamination.  Furthermore, when an area is opened to mining, Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) may happen, which occurs when sulphide-bearing minerals in the rock are exposed to air and water, changing the sulphide to sulphuric acid that can devastate aquatic habitats, he added.

Source: http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/mining_effects_on_rainfall_drainage              

“Benguet have experienced a series of disasters thanks to the province’s geohazard susceptibility and exacerbated by mining impacts, even before the geohazard map came out” said Santos Mero Deputy Secretary General Cordillera Peoples Alliance

“Sadly, even the rice terraces in Benguet along the Agno and Abra rivers are not spared from mining. Mining affects the water that irrigates the terraces.” added Mero.

Benguet is one of the provinces included in the UNESCO World Heritage site in the Philippine Cordilleras.

“The geohazard map strengthens our argument with the Government to stop the on-going mining operations (including expansion and approval of mining tenements) in Benguet.  Furthermore, the communities affected demand full rehabilitation in the area, reforestation, and compensation of disrupted livelihood brought by mining operations in their communities,” said Mero.

In a study of ATM member, Philippine Indigenous Peoples Link (PIPLinks), there were reported at least eight (8) mine tailing dam failures attributable to heavy rainfalls and typhoons in the Philippines (in the period 1982 to 2007). “These incidents caused massive fish kills, toxic heavy metals contamination apparent in land and waters, damage to agriculture, displacement and economic disruption of mining affected communities”, said PIPLinks communications and research officer Andy Whitmore.

“The Philippines has been identified in the top ten countries at the climate risk (Germanwatch, 2008). With climate change already upon us, extreme weather events, mine tailing dam failures and other mining disasters are most likely to happen with poor disaster risk reduction plan, and mining monitoring and regulation by government. Geohazard areas should be declared ‘no-go zones’ to mining”, added Whitmore.

“The Philippines, given its geography, topography and poor regulatory regime, is prone to mining disasters and other environmental problems; tailings waste pollution has contaminated at least 14 major river systems in the country, abandoned mines are now showing signs of acid mine drainage. The combination of geohazard risks combined with the impacts of mining operations and extreme weather (such as heavy rainfall and typhoons) spell out catastrophes waiting to happen”, said Blas Tabaranza, Executive Director of the environmental group HARIBON.

“As of Septermber 2009, there are 348 mining tenements tantamount to 744,199 hectares spread across the country. The geohazards study is an added reason why Government should not revitalize and prioritize mining. DENR must stop the issuance of mining permits and review previously issued mining tenements,” said Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center executive director Judy Pasimio. (Press Release)

For more information:

Lodel Magbanua, PIPLinks Country Representative, (0917) 887.01.09

Santos Mero, CPA, Deputy Secretary General (0915) 205.42.62

Jaybee Garganera, ATM Coordinator, (0915) 315.37.19

Roslyn Arayata, ATM Policy Officer (0917) 521.7937