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Deep wounds threaten Red Mountain of Surigao

As one enters the eastern part of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, backing the Pacific Ocean, he will be greeted by an alluring coastline with towering green mountains afar off.

The mountain range, commonly called "Iron Mountain" or "Red Mountain" due to its immense iron deposits and becomes reddish as seen from afar during daytime, sits on the old towns of Claver and Carrascal.

But anyone could not just reach the 120-year old Carrascal town without passing Novienta, or the most mysterious, exciting and scary road called Kilometer 90.

Local people would say “novienta” because its 90 degrees uphill road. Like the zigzag roads in Baguio, passing the narrow and curvaceous road of Novienta is quite an adventure for the motorists.

Since it is rich in iron ores, Iron Mountain becomes amber red during day time. And the reddish color is reflected in the once alluring seascape and white beaches in Claver town.

With the entry of seven large-scale mining operations in the Pacific Ocean side of the provinces, the towering red mountain, inch-by-inch is devoured by machines for shipment to Japan , China and Australia .

Machines that literally slice the red mountain into hundreds of wounds, causing the mountain to cry and drift its tears down to the Pacific.

Medio Suhian, president of Carrascalanon Hiniusang Aksyon Alang sa Yutang Gilauman (CAHAYAG), laments: “They (mining companies) started to appease the peoples‘ resistance with promise of development like community livelihood. They started to build center for operations and wharf for the loading of minerals to the ship.

Employment was promised to all, yet until now only half have been employed for construction, and at this time, they have mostly been laid off. All these were also the promises made by the mining companies which ultimately were proven to mean economic and physical dislocation of the people.”

“I was offered an amount of P50, 000 per one hectare of land. But we earned more than enough from our farm lots annually.” says Bashing Aclan, a resident and a woman leader of Nasipit, Adlay, Carrascal.

Carrascal is the host of the largest mangrove forest in the province or if not, in the entire Philippines . This mangrove forest serves as the cradle of marine life and sanctuary to various species of fish, one of nature's most interesting habitat.

But " Carrascal bay is threatened by sedimentation from the on-going mining operation which also translate to a threat to our livelihood in the coastal areas as well as the food survival of the community,” says fisherman Ramon Ellorico.

The people of Carrascal are self-supported by fishing and farming with a population of about 13,000 people distributed in 16 villages.

Today, residents of Cantilan are also alarmed after Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) issued a mining permit inside their critical watershed area. A town dubbed as the rice granary in Surigao del Sur is at stake.

The Red mountain, or Iron Mountain, reminds the people of its majestic height and abundance. It serves as the backdrop of every farm lots and fishing grounds in the community.

But pnce it’s gone, it’s like killing the farmers and the fisher folks of their survival. (PNA)

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