NASSA probes tailing pond leaks

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MANILA, September 18, 2012—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)-National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) together with the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP) organized an independent probe to gather information on the impact of mine leaks in mining operation of Philex Mining Corporation in Benguet province last Monday.

In the regular press briefing in Intramuros today, NASSA’s Fr. Edu Gariguez informed reporters that the group gathered data and information from the communities affected by the Tailings Pond 3 (TP3) leaks in the company’s mining operation in Benguet which was discharged into the Balog River last August 1, followed by three more major occurrence of tailings leaks up to August 30.

“The real issue here is the non-toxicity of the tailing spill. But their operation was halted because of the high rating of their Total Suspended Solids (TSS) from the allowable standard of 50 milligram per liter where the water can be declared as clean. But their TSS level in that station reached 89,710 as compared to the 50 milligrams allowed, that’s so big. And the other station reached 4,704 milligrams per liter,” Gariguez said.

In a press release, Itogon Mayor Oscar Camantiles said that tailing leaks have affected the livelihood of more than 34 families living downstream of the Agno River in the villages of Pangbasan, Pao and Daynet.

The group learned from the local government that Philex Mines has not complied with safety standards for the building and operation of TP3 and the illegal construction/excavation of spillways at dams 2 and 3.

Other issue surfaced such as the non-completion of the mining company for its operation without a business permit from the Itogon municipality and for not paying its accumulated tax obligations.

It was also learned that the company attempted to plug the leak by using bulldozers and other heavy equipments but it failed to contain the leakage.

Gariguez furthered that the results of the fact finding mission with recommendation on how to address the problem will soon be released to the public.

The fact finding mission were composed of the CBCP-NASSA, CCCP, Philippine Miserior Partnership Inc. (PMPI), Peace Foundation, Integrated Rural Development Foundation, Katribu Indigenous Peoples’ Partylist, and Cordillera People’s Alliance.

The Association of Major Religious Superior of the Philippines (AMRSP) through its executive secretary expressed their stand against mining.

Fr. Marlon Lacal, O. Carm. said in the press conference that AMRSP is currently supporting the anti-mining campaign and rejects Executive Order 79.

Lacal also said that they support, together with the bishops, the enactment of House Bill 4315 or the people’s mining bill.

The group is pressing for a end to the militarization in mining as it denounces the destruction of the environment caused by big companies and mining companies in the country.  (Jandel Posion)

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