Environmental Investigation Mission on the Impacts of Large Scale Mining in Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

Posted:

April 1, 2015

Body

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

An Environmental Investigation Mission (EIM) was conducted on April 2014 in the two mining-affected communities in Nueva Vizcaya to evaluate the impacts of the mining operations to their immediate environment. Two mining companies operate in the province: Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. and FCF Minerals. Oceana Gold – Didipio Gold Copper project has been operating in the Municipality of Kasibu, Barangay Didipio since April 2013. The FCF Minerals Corporation-Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project is currently at the construction phase and targets to start its commercial operation before the end of 2014.

 Three sampling sites each were selected in Brgys. Didipio and Kasibu through consultations with key community figures. At each sampling site, biological characteristics of the site were determined. Physico-chemical parameters such as temperature, pH, turbidity, stream velocity and water conductivity were also identified. Sediment and water samples were also collected at each sampling site and were sent to laboratories to determine the concentration of heavy metals (mercury, lead, copper, arsenic and cadmium) in it. Community interviews and focus group discussions were initiated in order to identify the socio-economic impacts of the mine projects to the livelihood and welfare of the residents dwelling in these communities hosting large-scale mining activities.

 The results gathered in the EIM provide a concrete picture how the activities these two large-scale mining companies affect the environment and the lives of the people in the community. The following are some of the most noticeable effect of mining activities in the area:

 1. Turbid waters

In both Brgy. Didipio and Runruno, water from the impact area and the confluence were significantly more turbid compared with the non-impact site. Turbid waters may reduce the productivity of streams and rivers as this can block the passage of sunlight to deeper parts of the water body, thereby preventing aquatic plants and/or algae from producing food and oxygen.

 2. Heavy metal contamination

In Brgy. Didiopio, increased copper concentration in both water and sediment samples in the impact area and the confluence were observed as compared to that of the non-impact area. The amount of copper in sediment samples at each of the three sampling sites exceeded the Severe-Effect Level, indicating that the sediments are heavily polluted, which could negatively affect the health of benthic or sediment-dwelling organisms. The level of copper contamination in water samples from Didipio River exceeded the maximum level both for irrigation use and the survival of aquatic organisms, which are 200 µg L-1 and 50 µg L-1, respectively.

Similarly, in Brgy. Runruno, copper and other heavy metal concentration in the impact site were greater than that of the impact site. This denotes increased input from other sources aside from natural weathering transpires in Sulong River, probably from the construction of FCF Minerals, which includes soil excavation, which exposes copper-rich ores.

3. Human rights violations

According to residents interviewed in Brgy. Didipio, OceanaGold employs many private securities who watch the area. Aside from this, a military detachment is located near Barangay Dinaoyan. In an interview with one of the residents, he said that his father was forced to sell their land at a low price because of the intimidation that the mining companies employed.

In Brgy. Runruno, residents reported forced demolitions without prior notice and with the presence of uniformed and armed men. A resident was even arrested under a trumped-up charge of illegal possession of explosives. The people who guard the barricade usually feel fear due to the presence of uniformed men with firearms.

4. Lack of compensation

One resident in Brgy. Didipio claimed that until the time of the EIM, his family was not paid for the land that the company bought. They were given a document stating that they would be paid, but the signatory wasn’t OceanaGold but its predecessor, ARIMCO

Based on these findings, immediate suspension of the mining operations should be imposed until needed rehabilitative and investigative measures are implemented. Furthermore, comprehensive assessment of the impacts of all mining activities within the vicinity of each site must be conducted. This includes, but not limited to, biological diversity assessment, long term monitoring of heavy metal concentration (for sediments and water) and other chemical characteristics for all impacted water bodies.

It is also recommended that relevant environmental, land and other laws be reviewed, and that affected communities be compensated, and given capacity-building to monitor and address continuing impacts of the mining projects.