MGB allays fear of disaster in large Bicol mine sites

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PHOTO BY CHRISTINE AZUL-ESPENILLA
Mining operation in Matnog, Sorsogon pose danger to local communities. PHOTO BY CHRISTINE AZUL-ESPENILLA

LEGAZPI CITY (23 Jan. 2012) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) in Bicol allayed fears that large-scale mining operation in the region poses danger to host communities following tragedies that hit the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in Mindanao.

The agency said they have initiated strict monitoring measures that would see to it that environmental standards are being followed by the mining companies dismissing the negative perception of residents living in mining areas.

“Large scale mining like that of Rapu-Rapu Minerals Incorporated (RRMI) in Albay and Filminera Mining in Masbate are under strict regular monitoring by our office and they follow stringent regulations,” Luis Loyola, MGB regional director, pointed out.

Loyola said a multi-sectoral monitoring team and “third-party” mining experts also conduct regular inspection of the mining operations making sure that regulations are followed.

Buenaventura Dayao, head of MGB’s Mining Environment and Safety Division, meanwhile, said that recent inspection conducted at the Rapu-Rapu mine site showed very satisfactory results ensuring safety at the area.

“The occurrence of landslide and flooding is remote as Rapu-Rapu has a very small watershed and all run-off water flows directly to the sea while water inside the mining area is contained at the tailings pond,” Dayao explained.

The municipality of Rapu-Rapu was not included in the list of high-risk areas for flooding and landslide recently released by MGB.

In Albay there are 127 villages that are considered landslide-prone areas. These are in the towns of Libon, Polangui, Oas, Tiwi, Malinao. Sto. Domingo, Jovellar and Guinobatan, while flood-prone areas are 173 villages in the towns of Libon, Polangui, Oas, Malinao, Guinobatan, Jovellar, Camalig, including the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao.

He said latest monitoring showed that the tailings pond has more than five meters free board which is well within the required limit.

The mining expert said there is no danger of over-flowing from the tailings pond of RRMI as the capacity of the pond has been made to accommodate the heavy rainfall beyond the normal rainfall at the island.

The mine’s safety guarantee covers not only the environmental and geological aspects but its industrial operations as well.

RRMI and its sister company, Rapu-Rapu Processing Incorporated (RRPI), bagged two major industrial safety awards during the recent 44th National Industrial Safety Convention held in Baguio City.

The Safety Organization of the Philippines (SOPI) presented the “2011 Award of Distinction” to RRPI for achieving 5,144,621 man-hours without lost time accident from May 9, 2009 to July 31, 2011 which was considered a feat.

RRMI received “2011 Award of Merit” during the same event for completing 1,023,332 man-hours without lost time accident for the period January 1 to July 31, 2011. It also placed second runner-up in the “First Aid” competition where 15 teams vied for the plum prizes.

Meanwhile, DENR regional executive director Joselin Marcus Fragada urged local officials to seriously consider the geohazard map released recently by the MGB which identified danger areas in the region which are highly susceptible to flooding and landslide.

Fragada said LGUs would do well if they would take the map into consideration when they come up with their disaster risk-reduction plans, especially in areas where small scale mining operations are present.

He said DENR is pushing for the amendment of the small scale mining law to put control on the issuance of permit to small scale mining operation citing the tragedy that befell Compostela province. (PNA)

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