Climate and Environment

DENR probes tailings facility failure at Surigao mine

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
DENR probes tailings facility failure at Surigao mine
This photo taken on February 25, 2017 shows an aerial shot of the mining site of Cagdianao Mining Corporation (CMC) in Cagdianao town in Dinagat island.
AFP / Erwin Mascarinas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Sunday that it is investigating a reported failure at a gold mine's tailings storage facility in Surigao del Norte.

Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said the agency's Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is working closely with Greenstone Resources Corp. (GRC), local authorities, and community leaders to ensure the safety and well-being of residents in the affected areas.

DENR said that its investigation will examine the cause of the incident, its impact on surrounding communities and the environment, and the integrity of the mine's tailings facility, safety systems and procedures.

GRC, a wholly owned subsidiary of TVI Resource Development Philippines, reported that cracks were found on the Siana Barangay Road in Tubod town, adjacent to the embankment of its tailings storage facility, which holds mineral waste.

Joselin Marcus Fragada, DENR undersecretary for field operations in Mindanao, said that around 10 to 15 houses were affected, but no casualties were reported due to the evacuation of residents.

The incident coincides with DENR's review of mining industry safety practices.

"Infrastructure failures highlight the urgent need for monitoring, regulation and oversight in the mining industry to de-risk operations and prevent incidents in the future," Yulo-Loyzaga said.

DENR said the agency and mining firms recently joined forces to promote "sustainable and responsible mining practices" through stronger government oversight and creation of an ethics committee tasked to monitor their environmental, social and governance performance.

"While we understand the important contribution to national development of the mining industry in Surigao del Norte and elsewhere in the country, risk management is a continuous dynamic and proactive process," Yulo-Loyzaga said.

"In light of multiple hazards and increased exposure of communities and ecosystems, the industry, national and local government and communities need to work together to prioritize environmental protection and climate and disaster resilience in all mining operations," she added.

The Philippines is revitalizing the mining industry to attract investments and spur economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has lifted restrictive mining policies, including the ban on open-pit mining and increased support for the industry by leading exploration activities to identify where critical minerals can be extracted.

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