By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
BANGUED, Abra — Residents of Mankayan, Benguet who attended the Benguet, Abra, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur (BAMPIS) Mining Summit here fear Goldfields Far South East’s plan to build added walls to tailings dam 5A to accommodate more mine tailings upon its full operation.
Marcelo Gomgom-o, former miner in Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) and a resident of the said town asked during the summit if the activities in the tailings dam specifically Goldfields’ wall tests are safe. He said, they had observed testing activities being done above the tailings dam’s wall.
Albert Diego, a resident of Colalo, Mankayan also said, they know that the present tailings dam will not be enough for the mine wastes generated when Goldfields comes into full operation because it has already reached its capacity thus, it cannot contain more waste. Yet instead of building another dam, Goldfields, a partner of LCMC, according to him will just be adding walls to the existing tailings dam.
Diego recalled that in 1999, the building of the tailings Dam 5A and the irresponsible mining of LCMC had caused an elementary school in their barangay to sink. Also to their dismay, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said that the mine company is not to blame because the subsidence is not only caused by mining but also due to natural causes.
The area he added is already a danger zone, that the MGB itself declared and he cannot think of any good reason why the company should worsen the hazard by adding more stress on the dam walls. Goldfields’ mining activity he stressed will never be safe for the communities affected.
Vicente Dilem, former miner of LCMC for 18 years said that he had witnessed the greediness for profit of the said mine firm. According to him, he was one of the miners who worked in the subsidence area in Colalo and he knows that the said area was where the unfilled tunnels abandoned after the mining activities are. It was the time he added when the demand for copper was high and therefore the firm used high technology loaders in levels 1100 to 1150 to mine the high grade copper in the Victoria 1 project.
Thus, he reiterated that he does not believe that the sinking was only due to natural causes.
On the other hand, Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) told the delegates of the summit that when the additional wall of the tailings dam will push through, there is a big possibility that it will collapse because of the built up pressure from the tailings being dumped.
“Iti kangato nan to dayta nga dam santo ag-Collapse iti parbangon, dakayo nga adda ijay Colalo inggana Quirino, Ilocos Sur, maisemento kayonto ah ta haan yo nga mapakadaan,” (Considering the future height of the said dam, if it will collapse at dawn, communities from Colalo down to Quirino, Ilocos Sur will be buried) Windel imagined.
This he said is not impossible because through the years of LCMC’s operation, four of its old tailings ponds had collapsed causing the pollution and siltation in the Abra River and the ricefields along the river banks.
The communities he said “especially in Mankayan should be vigilant because Goldfields is doing everything even bribery in order to operate”. # nordis.net