By Fernando Mangili
In the Cagayan Valley Region, both its forestlands and its coasts are being ravaged by mining. Applications to mine gold, magnetite, limestone, nickel, iron and other minerals increased from 170 in 2013 to 199 in 2014. Off-shore, on-shore and river dredging of local and foreign companies especially the Taiwanese, are operating extensively in Cagayan.
Although legalized as a “no-mining zone”, Nueva Vizcaya still hosts two of the largest transnational mining companies in the country that continues to pollute its adjacent ecosystems – OceanaGold and FCF Minerals. An environmental investigative mission conducted last year had proven that the companies were polluting the surrounding rivers, decreasing the number of living organisms in the area. The lives of the residents are also affected as their lands, houses and source of livelihood are being taken away from them. They also experience constant harassment from the company’s paramilitary groups and even the military protecting the mining site.
In Cordon Isabela, thousands of farmers fear for their lives and lands as the illegal Golden Summit Mining Corporation continue to bulldoze their mountains to prepare the land for open pit. Last year, the residents found proof of their collaboration with OceanaGold because the latter’s dump trucks were the ones used to transfer about 187,500 tons of gold ores they disguised as mining wastes. This scheme was exposed when the dump trucks were held at a PNP checkpoint and the company was forced to pay fees, however, the mining operations and the transfer of “mine wastes” still continue.
Five years ago, the Cordillera Region only had 70 registered mining applications but this year the number more than doubled to 180. Due to excessive extraction of minerals in Benguet over the decades, the mines have dried up. Prominent existing mining companies like Philex Mining Corporation, Benguet Corporation, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Comp. and Cordillera Exploration Inc. are now setting their sights to expand and dig up holes in other parts of the Cordillera. They all filed for multiple applications of various types under the same name or using their partner companies’ names. Benguet Corporation for instance, has 11 applications under different company names such as Baguio Gold Mining Corporation, Atlas, and Gold Creek Mining Corporation.
It is to be expected that the DENR-MGB documents cannot truthfully reflect on paper the expanse of the actual mine sites. Based on the people’s experience, once the exploration and extraction starts, the affected area becomes much wider. Mining operations will eventually affect a whole eco-system which encompasses systems nestled in other systems which are all interconnected with each other. What flows in a disturbed area will eventually affect living organisms, its habitants, and the ecosystem’s cycle. Once this happens, development of both humans and environment will change differently and will create imbalance. If left untreated, this “imbalance” will be passed on to our children’s children.
It is only our obligation as inhabitants of this earth to protect what is for the future generation. Help defend Mother Earth by organizing and joining campaigns and protest actions stopping the operations of the primary perpetrators of our environment’s destruction. Ceaselessly push the government agencies to do their job in truly protecting the environment. Sign signature campaigns repealing the laws that let this happen such as the Mining Act of 1995. Or simply share the word, enlighten others, and help her heal.#