By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Indigenous residents of Paco village in Mankayan town of Benguet Province are firm on their position that the installation of mine tailings drain pipes of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) would cause more harm to their community and its environs than good.
Gary Cayetano, a resident of Paco village said that despite their opposition, Lepanto went on with the project and bulldozed a portion of the forested area below the abandoned tailings pond. He said that around 10 fully grown pine trees fell when the company bulldozed the area.
The residents fear that the bulldozing activities of Lepanto would trigger landslides in the future.
“These were pine trees planted in the 1980s as part of measures to stabilize the weakened slopes caused by the abandoned tailings pond,” Cayetano said.
Director Reynaldo Digamo of the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) Cordillera, in an earlier interview said his agency ordered Lepanto to conduct the piping in compliance with an order issued by then Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez. He said Lopez ordered all mines to stop channeling mine tailings through bodies of water to their tailings dams.
Digamo said that before Lopez’s order, mine companies are allowed to use natural water bodies as passage way for their mine wastes to their tailings facilities provided that these are treated.
Cayetano said the piping is useless because the bigger threat is the tailings dam itself. He said the tailings dam is actually sitting on the river with tons of mine tailings accumulated over decades of mining activities.
“Even if they let the mine tailings pass through pipes, it will all end up on the river just the same because the tailings dam is actually on the river,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano said the accumulated mine tailings in the tailings dam is an “impending disaster” to communities below it. He added that Lepanto is working on raising the tailings dam some 30 meters more. He said that at present the tailings dam is at 670MASL and the company hopes to raise it to 700MASL.
Cayetano said that the bulldozing activities were not solely for the installation of pipes for the mine tailings but also for the construction of an access road for the company to be able to ferry muck waste for the raising of the tailings dam.
Last September, Mankayan folks wrote Secretary Roy Cimatu of the DENR to reiterate their opposition to the pipe installation. They stated that the Mine and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) allowed Lepanto to use the Mine Rehabilitation Fund (MRF). The pipe installation project is worth P75 million.
“Spending millions of pesos to pipe the tailings is a waste of money and additional destruction to the environment,” the letter said.
The protesting residents said the P75 million should be used for the improvement, protection and development of areas already damaged by Lepanto’s mining activities. # nordis.net