Report: Mining harms Nueva Vizcaya's resources

Artemio Dumlao - The Philippine Star

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – An independent probe on mining ventures in Nueva Vizcaya has allegedly unearthed cases of poisoning and plunder of community resources.

A fact-finding mission led by anti-mining alliance “Defend Patrimony” along with Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Vizcayanos para sa Kalikasan (ANVIK) said it discovered a number of cases of ecological destruction and resource plunder commited by three big mining companies in Nueva Vizcaya province.

The mission participants said they unearthed “massive biodiversity loss, water pollution, and human rights violations along indigenous peoples and peasant communities” affected by foreign mining corporations Oceana Gold and FCF Minerals.

“Based on the initial investigation we conducted, we surmise the main river in Barangay Didipio where Oceana Gold released their mining effluents is biologically dead. In our scoping study, we observed the foul stench, the thick, orange-brown siltation and the disappearance of aquatic resources. Water snails, shrimps, carp, mud fish and other local species that used to populate the river, according to locals, have all disappeared,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and lead of the environmental scoping team on Oceana Gold gold mining operation.

Water pollution in Didipio, Bautista said, has reached other barangays and communities in Qurino province. 

The Didipio River merges with Diduyon River  which traverses the Quirino province.

Local residents  have reported the reduction of frog population and the increase of mosquito population in the communities. 

Frogs and fish are known as natural biological controls of mosquitos.

The independent probers said the “biological imbalance could threaten nearby communities in Brgy. Didipio with an outbreak of dengue and other insect-borne diseases.”

Villager Luis Paulino of Barangay Alimit in Kasibu town said “small-scale miners and other folks who have been exposed to the waters where Oceana Gold’s tailings flow have consistently experienced itching and  [complained of inhaling] squalid odors."

He added that"‘rare wildlife such as makawa (local deer), hagiit (wild boars) and kalaw hornbills)" that were used to be seen in the  forests can no longer be seen’.  

The disappearance  of these animals allegedly started when Oceana Gold started to clear the forest, blast the mountains and excavate the lands.
The scoping team in Brgy. Runruno where the Runruno Gold and Molybdenum project of FCF Minerals is currently in the mine development stage called the current environmental impacts as “another Didipio in the making, following in the polluter giant’s footsteps.”

“Similar to Oceana Gold’s mine development stage, waterways have either decreased in both flow and volume or have completely dried up, while some ‘dead creeks’, as locals put it, have suddenly strengthened most likely due to deliberate water diversion. We also observed signs of decreased water quality, including signs of chemical contamination and increased turbidity in comparison to observed unaffected rivers that will likely impact on the irrigation, potable water supply and sanitation of communities,” said Dr. Chito Medina, national coordinator of the peasant-scientist group MASIPAG and lead expert of the scoping team on FCF Minerals.

The groups also noted the destruction of rice fields, citrus plantations and other cultivated lands alongside homes and properties in all affected barangays by both the Australian-owned Oceana Gold and British-owned FCF Minerals.

Fr. Vicente Tiam, chair of the mission’s lead organizer group Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK),  said “the findings of the mission is a clarion call for justice on the crimes committed by mining TNCs to the people and the environment of Nueva Vizcaya."

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