Lake Mainit threatened by more mining activities: Company to work in tandem with small miners

CONCERNED residents of Mainit, Surigao del Norte including those working in Manila and abroad are mounting a growing protest against the move of a big mining company to help small-scale miners form cooperatives as they expressed alarm this will cause more environmental degradation to the already endangered Lake Mainit.

Posted at their Pidjanga of Mainit, Surigao del Norte blogsite, several professionals who traced their roots in this town are deeply concerned over the plans of Mindoro Resources Ltd. to help small-scale miners extracting gold and other mineral resources at the mountains above Lake Mainit which they said will pose more harm than good and may even lead to environmental tragedy in the near future.

Peter Zimm Mosende, host of the Pidjanga blogsite who is working in Quezon City, said the company pushed the move without informing the local populace about its environmental impact considering that forming cooperatives will encourage more mining activities in the denuded Diwata mountain ranges that surround the 17,000-hectare lake.

Unique partnership

“ The time to be informed is now, if not, when, kung patay na ang kabayo?”, Mosende pointed out adding that he only learned about MRL’s plan at the company website which placed a press release on May 15 about their “unique partnership” with small miners , a program that will help them form cooperatives to assist and regulate small mining activities in their Masgad project in Tapian San Francisco in Surigao del Norte.

The company claims the initiative is being launched with the assistance of Surigao del Norte Gov. Robert Ace Barbers, the mayor of Malimono town and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. It also claimed the initiative based on an agreement with small miners will ensure compliance with mining and environmental laws for sound safety and healthy environmental practices.

Large scale later?

However, under the same agreement, the company invoked their right not to be impaired to conduct exploration or large scale mining activities within their mineral tenements aside from five percent royalty on all ore production that will help cover cost of development and monitoring the program.

But some other Mainit professionals have question the move since this will cause short and long term environmental impact to the lake which covers four towns of Surigao del Norte and four towns in Agusan del Norte.

Jerry Acero, a forester working at Surigao del Norte School of Arts and Trades who also sits as member of Lake Mainit Development Alliance, said exploration and full mining operations especially at the top ridge downhill to the lake will have adverse impact on the lake and its watersheds which will be felt both on short and long term effects.

Acero cited the effects such as loss of vegetation which is vital to climate change, change in bio-diversity and change in water quality and among other things.

Another LMDA member however told Mosende through the blogsite the company’s project already had an environmental impact assessment but he is not particularly sure about the Tapian San Francisco project which is very close to the lake.

Tragedy in the offing?

Bloggers of the Pidjanga site have been sounding the alarm bells over the different calamities like flooding called in vernacular as “ goub” experienced by Mainit residents almost every year.

But they were more alarmed after GMA 7’s “Imbestigador” ran an eight-minute segment in February 25, 2006 which exposed big bulk of soil erosion near San Francisco Elementary School which is situated at the foot of Mt. de la Rama due to large earth cracks in the upper of the mountain.

Residents interviewed at the TV segment said the cracks that extends several kilometers long found at the denuded mountain were due to mineral explorations in the area. They also expressed fears continuous rains will cause more erosions that will bury the entire village similar to that of St. Bernard tragedy in Southern Leyte.

Mum

Despite the growing apprehensions among concerned mainit residents, officials of LMDA remain mum over the issue.

A check at LMDA website only shows activities like livelihood activities in agro-forestry in some communities with the assistance of Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program.

Bloggers , for their part, have been taking their part as stakeholders of the lake as they have been conducting massive tree planting activities of bangkal specie near the shorelines each time they will have a yearly homecoming and reunion.

At the same time, the Mainit bloggers have been sharing research materials and all other important information related the status of the lake which is home to the various fish species, both local and migratory including an endemic one, the more known of them is the white goby or locally called in vernacular as “pidjanga” to which the blogsite is named after.

Mosende proudly claims , Lake Mainit which is the fourth largest in the country and second largest in Mindanao, is considered the cleanest inland body of water in the country. (Chris Panganiban)

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