By ARTHUR BOQUIREN
Baguio Midland Courier, a newsweekly based in Baguio City, through its writer Mike Guimbatan, reported that Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company has been allegedly dumping cancer-causing wastes in Sitio Sapid, Mankayan, Benguet. As a way of rejoinder to the report, let me reproduce almost verbatim what I wrote for Haribon Foundation sometime 2006 based on latest available data during that time. I am thankful to Ms. Annabelle Plantilla, Haribon Executive Director, for allowing me to use the Haribon material.
The following are lifted from pages 74-75 of Valuation of Benguet Biodiversity and Environmental Costs of Mining: Monetization, Intangibles, and Policy (see Haribon’s website at www.haribon.org.ph and http://www.geocities.com/haribonartboquirenreport/benguetmining2006.htm for details):
Let us review the cancer data of Benguet to see whether data is consistent with the view that large-scale mining can also elevate the rate of cancer in the mining areas or along the path of river systems contaminated by mine tailings. In particular, let us review latest available data on mortality due to cancer and see whether we can discover patterns as well as links with large-scale mining.
Several insights can be made from the table 1.
1. The mortality due to cancer from the large-scale mining areas of Itogon, Mankayan, and Tuba is 38.97% although jointly the three municipalities are only 32.63% of the population.
2. Jointly, the three municipalities where there is large-scale mining have a cancer mortality rate of 44.29 per 100,000. In contrast, the rest of Benguet have a combined rate of only 33.59 per 100,000.The difference in cancer rates is statistically significant that allows us to say that there is an elevated level of mortality due to cancer in the mining areas.
3. The high mortality rate due to cancer in Atok can or may be explained by the circumstance that Atok was a mining site of a company that closed down in the early 1980s. The circumstance may also explain why mortality rate due to cancer is high in Kapangan because Kapangan is along the path of a river flowing from Atok contaminated by mine operations closed down several years ago.
4. Although additional studies are needed to confirm or validate the link between mortality rates due to cancer in Atok with mining operations that closed down in the municipality, preliminarily attributing the current rates of mortality due to cancer with mining is consistent with the findings from other studies that mines that have closed pose a danger to communities. The view can serve as a working hypothesis for future investigations.
5. Atok appears to be a common denominator why mortality rate due to cancer are relatively high in Kabayan, Bokod, and Kapangan. The three municipalities are contiguous and surround Atok. The role of large-scale mining in elevating cancer rates must be investigated as small-scale mining in the area is too small to explain what appear to be elevated cancer rates. As discussed by Table 39 page 68, old or closed mines can be a source of toxic wastes and acid mine drainage that contains not only acidity but carcinogenic heavy metals as well.
6. In 2004, the combined mortality due to cancer from Mankayan, Tuba, Itogon, Atok, and Kapangan contributed 62.5% of the total mortality due to cancer in Benguet even if total population from the five municipalities is only 41.39% of the total population of Benguet. The five municipalities are current or former mining sites.
7. Future studies should explain why mortality due to cancer appears low in Mankayan even with Lepanto Mines. In various fora, there were claims that mine companies prevent employees from reporting diseases or accidents related to mine operations. It is uncertain whether the same applies to mortality due to cancer. However, a study by Ana Leung for the St. Louis University and Nicanor Reyes Memorial Foundation indicates that symptoms of diseases related to acid mine drainage are more prevalent a little farther from the mining company (page 2 of the Leung report). The Leung report also note that lead and mercury levels are elevated in Tailings Dam 5A of Lepanto Mines.
When resources are available, this columnist will conduct follow-up studies on the consistency and strength of the link between large-scale mining and mortality due to cancer, covering the most recent data and those of yesteryears.
(The author maintains a blog at www.geocities.com/arturoboquiren and can be contacted through 0927-536-8431 and email@example.com) # www.nordis.net