STA. CRUZ, ZAMBALES – Nickel is not doing too well in the world market these days, but residents here do not seem to mind, even though nickel has become one of this town’s major revenue earners.
That’s because whenever nickel commands top dollar, red dust smothers the town’s main highway and the pier, and red mud cakes the roads. Residents also have to share their small barangay roads with huge, lumbering trucks, and when rains come, floodwaters the color of blood fill their ricefields. Meanwhile, up in the mountains, armed guards hired by mining firms menace real and imagined foes and sometimes engage each other in deadly shootouts.
SAN ANDRES, Tanay, Rizal – We were wondering why Sofia de la Rosa seemed a little agitated with our presence. After all, it’s not every day that visitors bother to come to this remote barangay nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre range.
In the course of our conversation, the barangay captain of San Andres also kept telling us that her people will not leave this village unless they are paid proper compensation by San Miguel.
The Lematin River forms the western arm of the proposed Laiban Dam watershed and reservoir. This river supports seven of the eight barangays that will be submerged when the dam project finally pushes through.
BOKOD, BENGUET — As Lakay Felipe Leano recalls it, newly planted rice seedlings in his village in Bobok-Bisal, Bokod had shriveled and died soon after a major Philippine mining firm began exploring for gold and other metals in the area.
The company denied having caused the drying up of a local creek that had helped irrigate Bokod rice fields. But petitions from the likes of Leano, an Otbong village elder, eventually led the local government to stop the firm’s exploration activities.
CLOSING DOWN a mine is not just a matter of giving employees their walking papers and putting a padlock on the door. Indeed, when a mine ceases operations, a full-blown cleanup (plus sometimes an orderly dismantling) follows. Or at least that is what should happen.
Over the last three decades, several large-scale mines in the country have been shut down because of economic loss, labor disputes, or a rejected mining application. But none of these mines was rehabilitated right after closure; unfortunately, government regulations at the time lacked the provision to enforce remediation. Those regulations came in 1996, when guidelines on mine rehabilitation and decommissioning were set in the implementing rules and regulations of the Mining Act of 1995.
MANILA, PHILIPPINES AND LETHBRIDGE, CANADA — Canadian companies are major players in the global mining industry, and so it’s no surprise that they have more than made their presence felt in the Philippines. Unfortunately, that presence has not always been welcome — at least not by the immediate host communities. Worse, Canadian mining firms have acquired a notorious reputation in the Philippines, and there are indications that this is not about to change anytime soon.
WHEN THE Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) received notice in 2007 that the case filed by the province of Marinduque against Placer Dome Inc. and Barrick Gold in the U.S. state of Nevada had been dismissed, MACEC executive secretary Miguel Magalang almost did not want to release the news.
“Baka bumagsak ang morale ng buong anti-mining movement (The whole anti-mining movement might lose its morale),” he explains.
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