QUIRINO, Ilocos Sur — The Save Quirino Movement (SQM), a newly-established organization of residents of the municipality of Quirino in Ilocos Sur united to stop the continuous exploration, improper mining activities of small scale miners, the on-going operation and construction of another leaching pad (babadan) particularly in Barangay Patiacan, and the plan of building a CIP plant near the Abra River in Quirino.
The SQM appeals to the local government of Qurino, Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR), and National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Region 1 to support their call to halt the continueing exploration of Phelps Dodge and Malibato Inc.. Both are subsidiaries of Free Port Mc Moran.
They have also appealed these same government agencies not to allow such projects that affect the people’s lives and livelihood from entering Quirino, even for new mining companies that are trying to bring in similar projects to the area.
According to the SQM, in the ongoing mining activities, miners are using complicated instruments, poisonous chemicals and are currently operating several “Babadan” or leaching pads that contaminates the expanse of the local fresh water sources, rivers and the remaining fishing grounds with the toxic chemicals used and then dumped into these water bodies.
The toxic waste from the mine holes, also known as acid mine drainage, have already resulted in the killing of animals that drink water from the contaminated rivers. The residents also fear the depletion of clean water sources caused by the mining activities.
Acid mine drainage is considered one of mining’s most serious threats to water resources. Acid mine drainage has the potential for long-term devastating impacts on rivers, streams and aquatic life. Acid mine drainage dissolves toxic metals, such as copper, aluminium, cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury, from the surrounding rocks.
Even in very small amounts, metals can be toxic to humans and wildlife. Carried in water, the metals can travel far, contaminating streams and groundwater for great distances. The impacts to aquatic life may range from immediate fish kills to sub-lethal, impacts affecting growth, behaviour or the ability to reproduce.
Furthermore, this sulphuric acid seeps into the underground waterways and pollutes the area surrounding the mine for many miles.
The residents fear that the on-going exploration and operations of mining will lead to the displacement of the residents from their communities, and loss of irrigation and their livelihood. This has already been experienced by the community when the Balas-ian river suffered fish kills in March 2011.
With this, the SQM calls on the local government unit to act accordingly, and not claim that the residents have no complaints which has already happened in the past when an elected official stated that ‘there are no complaints (riri) by the community so that they did not have any basis for action.’ The residents call on local government officials to pass an ordinance to declare a moratorium to stop large scale mining operations and other related projects in Quirino, Ilocos Sur, and for the Congress to conduct a congressional inquiry for an investigation of the problems and issues faced by Quirino residents. At the same time, small scale miners should be regulated in their activities to protect the Balas-iyan river from further degradation.
The petitioners hope that the NCIP, DENR-MGB Region 1, and Free Port Mc Moran company will be made aware of the problem of environmental degradation in Quirino brought about by mining activities, and that they act on the people’s demands for any existing mining projects to be stopped and not allow the entry of other mining projects in the area.#SQM Release