(Updated) Siocon mining dam reported to have “collapsed”
DAVAO CITY (Story grabbed from MindaNews/3 Apr) — Anti-mining groups on Tuesday claimed that a dam reportedly filled with sulfuric oxide and operated by Canadian-owned TVI Resource Development, Inc. collapsed last Monday, sending highly acidic water into the resource-rich Siocon Bay in Zamboanga del Norte. Jesus Vicente Garganera, national coordinator of the Alyansa Tigil Muna, an anti-mining coalition, said residents near the mining firm reported that the dam collapsed Monday afternoon after a heavy downpour.
Rocky Dimaculangan, TVI director for public affairs, denied the report. “This is not true. This is a baseless accusation,” he told MindaNews.
“First, the dam they are referring to is still under construction. It is not being used yet,” he added.
Dimaculangan said construction of the dam is scheduled to be finished in August yet, in time for the company’s start of operations in mining copper.
A Subanon tribal leader, Onsino Mato, also reported to MindaNews that although the tailings pond is still under construction, it collapsed nevertheless because of the heavy rainfall. But he was quick to say that “it is not filled with mine wastes yet.”
TVI reportedly is developing an open-pit mine site in the mountains of Siocon town, Zamboanga del Norte where it also processes gold and silver.
In its website, TVI said the company is studying to mine the rich copper-zinc sulfide zone at the lower portion of the Canatuan deposit.
Dimaculangan said the company already has a dam site for the wastes for gold
The Philippine government through the Department of Environment has praised TVI’s US$3.3 million Gossan Tailings Dam commissioning for its adherence to environmental guidelines and good corporate citizenship. TVI has denied a tailings dam for copper has collapsed. “We’re still in the earthworks phase,” a company spokersperson said. File photo of the Gossan Tailings Dam for the gold waste, taken September 2006 by Carolyn O. Arguilllas/MindaNews
and is constructing a new one for their new venture in copper.
He said what the anti-mining groups may have seen is run-off red soil from their ongoing dam construction carried by the rainwater into Siocon.
“The unfinished dam is not even high enough to contain water,” Dimaculangan said.
Director Cheryl Romero, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources mines bureau in Zamboanga City, said they have not received any report of any dam that collapsed in Siocon.
“We are almost in daily contact with the TVI people and they have not reported anything to us,” Romero said.
But anti-mining activists said the incident is true and that an environmental disaster looms in Siocon once the full extent of the damage is known.
Charles Alferez, executive director of the church-based DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues, said they are sending a team to the area tomorrow. (DIOPIM is an acronym for the dioceses and prelatures of Dipolog, Ipil, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Iligan and Marawi.)
Godofredo Galos, an anti-mining activist who resides in Siocon, said the water in Libutan River that empties to Siocon Bay is already “very red.”
He said Siocon residents woke up this morning to find the river water already “red.”
The Australian-based Mineral Policy Institute identifies the safe disposal of mine wastes as the single largest environmental challenge for the mining industry worldwide and a major expense for mining companies.
Copper and iron oxide from gold and copper are one of the deadliest threats to the environment. In 1999, thousands of fish turned up dead in Balamban, Cebu when one of the dams of Atlas Mining collapsed, causing tons of highly acidic water to slosh down in Tanon Bay. (Froilan Gallardo with report from Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)