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Group Warns Mass Environmental Destruction if $3B Sumitomo Nickel ore Plant in Surigao Pushes Through

A newly formed environmental watch group today warned people and authorities while encouraging moral and religious sectors of Caraga Region to wake up to spearhead massive information drive on the mass environmental destruction will cause if the much ballyhooed $3B Sumitomo-led venture to build one of the biggest if not the biggest nickel ore processing plant in the country in Taganito, Claver, Surigao del Norte pushes through.

BUKAS or Buklod Kapatiran Para Sa Kalikasan Executive Director Atty. Erlpe John Plaza Almirante claimed the plan to build the nickel ore processing at the seaside portion of Barangay Taganito in Claver town some 130 kilometers away from the region’s capital, Butuan City but near to Surigao City will ultimately pollute the whole seawaters of the Placer and Taganito Bay and eventually will spread to other coastal areas to reach as far as sea boundary of Surigao del Sur.

“We can expect if not properly plan massive fish kills, massive deadly toxic poisoning will ultimately destroy sea corals and marine life and pollute air that breathes life to plants, animals and human beings living near the huge ore processing plant, in short, it will be mass environmental destructions if concerned government agencies will sleep on their task to make sure no toxic leak from the biggest ever built ore processing plant whose life span is 25 to 30 years” Almirante said.

Almirante said that the sad part of Philippine Governance to honestly protect environment is that it always have dismal records of failures after failures and yet nobody until now have been prosecuted because of proven wrong doings.

Almirante name a few of dismal government agencies’ records in honest to goodness implementation of environmental laws.

Almirante cited the recent Butuan Watershed controversy whereby recent initial findings by government composite team that claimed there is positive illegal mining and illegal road construction in the area.

“And yet these government agencies still will tell us that it is not yet final and that regional directors will review that findings, for heaven’s sake, what is the use of sending their personnel if the regional directors will not believed on them, wouldn’t it implied that those 15 government personnel who went to Butuan watershed are liars?”, Almirante.

Almirante also cited the Tubay Mining controversy where countless violations were noted like why the permit was small-scale yet operations were big scale, the area was protected yet the very same people who said it is protected reverted the law and allowed the mining.

He also cited the Rosario, Agusan del Sur mining controversy where recorded toxic waste spillage from no permits at all gold and other ore processing plants were allowed to operate until now and worst culprits remained scot-free.

He also cited alleged rampant technical smuggling of bullions of gold ores produce from Agusan del Sur and other gold producing areas in Caraga Region sold to Davao Black market for decades now instead to Central Bank where Philippine Government should have been benefited.

“This is public knowledge and it is economic sabotage in the highest form but what is these government agencies doing?”, Almirante concludes.

BUKAS Secretary Anita Dominguez said that if Caraga experience happened in other countries said government officials and all personalities in worst environmental destruction ever could have been behind jails now.

“But in this country where there is perceived corruption in justice system and bureaucracy, a mentally normal person could not expect real justice that’s the reason we are now relying support from normal people”, Dominguez added.

The two NGO officials clarified they are not against development but claimed they are against implementation of the policies guided by wrong men holding high positions whose motivations they alleged are self-serving not for the greater welfare of the majority.
Earlier, the Japanese Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. and local holding firm Nickel Asia Corp. announced it will put up a $3-billion nickel ore processing plant in Taganito, Claver, Surigao del Norte next year.

Nickel Asia Corporation owns Taganito Mining Corporation who have been operating in Claver town for decades now has still unsolved controversy with the Indigenous People in the area who owned the ancestral lands where three other mining firms including Taganito operates.

The joint venture partners will operate the nickel processing plant by 2013, Rogelio G. Cadano, technical services manager of Taganito Mining Corp., said yesterday in a presentation to Mines and Geosciences Bureau officials.

The $1.7-billion investment target set by the venture last year was almost doubled to $3 billion this year given an increase in expected mineral production to 45,000 metric tons of nickel per year, with 4,500 metric tons of cobalt, from the original 30,000 metric tons per year.

The ores to be processed will come from a 1,000-hectare nickel mine in the municipality of Claver in Surigao del Norte, Mr. Cadano said.

“The joint venture company with Sumitomo should be formed by the end of this year or early next year,” said Antonio K. Espeleta, vice-president for operation of Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp.

Taganito Mining a subsidiary of Nickel Asia. Sumitomo subsidiary Taganito HPAL will operate the $3-billion project.

Nickel Asia operates nickel mines Rio Tuba, Taganito in Surigao del Norte, Taganaan in Surigao City, and South Dinagat and Cagdianao in northern Mindanao.

“The Sumitomo group is preparing the feasibility study but there was a re-scheduling so it will be completed late this year or early next year,” Mr. Cadano said.

The Sumitomo-led venture will employ 4,000 workers during the development phase.

The number of workers, however, will go down to 1,300 during the 30-year operation to extract 150 million wet metric tons of nickel ore. Annual mining operation is estimated to cost $200 million.

The ores will be shipped exclusively to Sumitomo’s refinery in Japan, Mr. Espeleta said.

Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences Director Horacio C. Ramos is very much enthusiastic of the project. (mindanao.com)

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