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Mining exacts a higher toll than its spectacular tragedies

MANILA (Mabuhay) : Large scale mining in The Philippines was back in the headlines when the wall of an open-pit coal mine operated by the Semirara Mining and Power Company in Caluya, Antique, collapsed, leaving nine people dead at 3.45am on July17.

Thirteen people were working in the mine at the time, but only four managed to escape the falling wall.

The seriousness of the collapse was heightened by the fact that a similar incident occurred in 2013, which left five people dead.

However, the death toll exacted by the mining industry in the country is not limited to its specular tragedies, many of which occur due to unsafe conditions and safety corner cutting by companies.

People also die in the politicking that takes place in procuring the land to mine and later as a result of faulty tailings dams poisoning water supplies, destroying land and wiping out vital bio-diversity.

In the province of Batangas, UCAN reports that priests and sisters joined a people’s resistance against a mining project that is threatening the jewel of the area, what has been dubbed The world centre of the centre of biodiversity.

“Everybody should be united to protect it,” Father Dakila Ramos, the director of the Lipa Ministry on the Environment, said. “The people are against the project, but the government has endorsed the mining operation.”

Some 500 residents of Lobo town marched to Manila on July 16 to show their opposition against the large-scale mining project of the Canadian-Australian-owned Egerton Gold Philippines Inc. and Mindoro Resource Limited.

As of March 31, the provincial government had issued at least 10 mining permits covering a total of 20,320 hectares of land to the two companies.

However, CBCP News reported that the local government in Lobo reversed its decision on July 20 and has withdrawn its support from the project of the two mining giants.

“It is really a victory for the people of Lobo,” Father Ramos said.

The environmental group, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, pointed out the importance of this decision, saying that most of these lands are located in key biodiversity and environmentally critical areas, like the town of Lobo.

In 1997, the Lobo was named in the top five of the 18 centres of biodiversity in The Philippines. In 2004, international scientists documented some 1,736 marine species in just one small section of the Verde Island marine biodiversity corridor across Lobo.

Clemente Bautista, from the network, said, “Large-scale mining involves deforestation and land clearing, flora and fauna will be surely lost and communities will be displaced by the development and commercial operation of the mining project.”

He added that mining would spell death to current marine conservation areas and that the proposed mining operation, which would use open-pit technology, would dump millions of metric tons of mine waste into Lobo River, which would flow down to the waters of the Verde Island Passage.

Petti Enriquez, the secretary-general of the environmental advocacy group, Bukal, said the fishing sector, peasants and local businesses would be at the losing end if large-scale mining projects start to operate.

“Not only will the fisheries and agricultural sectors be adversely affected, but also the booming tourism in the province,” Enriquez said.

He added that the forests, farmland and the sea in the province of Batangas are the sources of livelihood, food security and investment for many people.

Ramos said loss of livelihood and worsening poverty are sure outcomes of this big mining project, “Thus the Catholic Church will be a leading voice in opposing persistent attempts to plunder our environment and our people’s future.”

Earlier this month, Church leaders in the province launched the One Million Against Coal Campaign to promote resistance to coal mines and the construction of coal-fired power plants in the country by gathering at least one million signatures.


... most of these lands are located in key biodiversity and
critical areas, like
the town of Lobo