MGB suspends nickel mining company over silt spill in Palawan town

by Jonathan L. Mayuga, BusinessMirror

Posted at Jun 13 2014 09:08 AM | Updated as of Jun 13 2014 06:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has suspended the operation of Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. (CMDC) following a silt spill at its nickel mine in Sofronio Española, Palawan.

MGB Director Leo Jasareno said the company’s operation is suspended indefinitely until such time that the company successfully conducted mitigation and remediation measures to prevent another silt spill.

The suspension order was issued on June 10, after a team from the MGB inspected the nickel mine in Barangay Pulot earlier this week.

For the incident, CMDC, a subsidiary of Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc., is facing yet another penalty for violation of Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995; and Republic Act 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

“We have sent a team there and on Wednesday, we issued the suspension order against Citinickel,” Jasareno said.

In his letter addressed to CMDC President Ferdinand M. Pallera, Edwin Mojares, officer-in-charge of the MGB in Region 4B, said the spill was caused by the breaching of the siltation-control facilities in Barangay Pulot, Sofronio Española, which caused massive discoloration of runoffs and deposition of lateritic sediments along the stretch of Pasi River leading down to the Pulot River.

Jasareno said the silt spill was caused by the unusually excessive rainfall over the past few days that caused the soil to loosen. The siltation control facility was unable to prevent the huge volume of rainwater that spilt over to nearby Pasi River.

He said the MGB advises CMDC to improve its siltation-control facility to prevent silt spill that could further contaminate nearby water bodies and affect people living in the area.

“They need to improve their siltation control so that even during heavy downpour, the rainwater will go to the siltation-control pan,” he said.

This is not the first time that a silt spill involving CMDC’s nickel-mining operation happened in Palawan.

The mining company was slapped with a fine of P375,000 in March 2013 for a silt spill at its Toronto mine in Narra, Palawan, in November 2012.

The damage to several farm lots covering an area of about 7 hectares was placed at P146,745, and to the Pinagduguan River at P368,000.

After settling the penalty and completing remediation measures, the company was eventually allowed to resume its operation in Narra.

Meanwhile, environmental groups under the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) urged the MGB to cancel the Minerals Processing Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of CMDC.

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM, said the silt spill on Saturday only proves “how irresponsible CMDC is in operating the Toronto mines.”

The group said the latest silt spill contaminated at least 5 kilometers of the Pulot River, which is a source of potable water of residents and wildlife in the area.

“How many more disasters does it need to commit before it will be stopped? It is high time that MGB orders a cancellation of the company’s MPSA and other pertinent certificates so that Citinickel would stop their environmental crimes.” Garganera said.

ATM questioned the DENR-MGB and the Mining Industry Coordinating Council’s (MICC) efficiency in implementing the provision of Executive Order No. 79, which mandates quarterly performance review of operating mines in the country.

Garganera said the DENR-MGB and the MICC are just as accountable as CMDC in the latest mining disaster for their failure to ensure the practice of responsible mining by CMDC.