By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY – Aiming at protecting the remaining environment not destroyed by large scale mining, residents of the mineral rich town of Mankayan, Benguet bonded under their, “Save the Mankayan Movement” or SMM.SMM was organized in February by four hundred residents who gathered at Madaymen, Mankayan where affected residents were in a barricade against the drilling operation of Gold Fields since the last week of January.
Residents clarified that their newly founded organization is against any mining expansion, any surface activities, and drilling and other form of mine exploration. They reiterated that allowing such expansion and other activities would destroy already their damaged environment due to the large scale mining activities of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company since 1936.
Marlou Pablo explained, in an interview here, that any new mining expansion in their town will already aggravate the effects of large scale mining such as the sinking, landslides, depletion of their water table, and water and air pollution.
“The effects of mining in our town are directly experienced by the town residents. The people suffer and continue to suffer a combined socio-environmental damaged that comes with large scale mining. We do not not like to worsen the situation, hence we bind ourselves to the movement,” explained Pablo, the newly elected chairman of the municipal wide SMM.
The Far Southeast Gold Project which covers some areas of the town is a new expansion project whose drilling activities are presently being conducted by Gold Fields, added Tony Ugalde, vice chairman of the SMM, in an interview.
Nordis learned that the (Far Southeast Gold) project is owned by the Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc., and LCMCo owns a sixty percent interest in the said project. Reports showed that LCMCo sold forty-percent of this interest to Gold Fields and in their latest option agreement, the latter is interested to make it sixty percent on the project reportedly for US $220 million after Gold Fields confirms the actual mineral reserves in the area. Thus the present drilling activities.
The drilling activities has however been stopped by the people in a picket and then a continuously manned barricade since January. Gold Fields, they said did not get their consent before beginning the drilling activities.
Gold Fields meanwhile reiterates the LCMCo position that the project does not require the consent of the residents as the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) was granted to them earlier in 1991 by the government when there was no IPRA to require the consent of affected indigenous peoples before any project.
With Pablo and Ugalde, other SMM officers are: secretary Pepita Malvar, assistant secretary Margilyn Gumatic, treasuer Lani Palasi, assistant treasurer Jackilyn Buli-e, press relation officer Tio Dugao, auditor Jerome Sakiwat, business managers Berto Pasiteng and Jerome Campos. # nordis.net