MGB orders 8 mines closed after Benguet river turned blue

Mae Cornes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 16 2017 04:12 PM

BENGUET - The Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Cordillera has ordered the closure of 8 mines after the water in Ambalanga River in Benguet turned blue.

A photo taken by a resident of Barangay Dalisay Gumatdang in Itogon showed the water in the river turning blue.

Aloy Kato posted the photo on social media and asked the intervention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The blue color of the water in the river was allegedly caused by toxic chemicals coming from small scale mines in the area.

MGB Cordillera headed an investigation. They suspect that the bluish color was caused by a mixture of cyanide and other minerals dumped in the river.

"The possibility ng blue color is yung interaction ng cyanide na ginagamit ng miners sa pagprocess ng minerals. Interaction ng cyanide at ferrous sulphate. Pag nagreact yan, magkakaroon ng bluish color," said Engr. Alfredo Genetiano, Mine Management Division Chief of MGB-CAR.

Genetiano added that they have been encouraging the miners to have a centralized processing plant so MGB could monitor them.

MGB also suggested a way to properly dispose of waste materials from the mines.

"I-contain na lang sana sa cell pond kasi ang cyanide naman may property yan. Once na naaarawan yan palagi ang concentration niyan, bumababa," said Genetiano

Although the source of the chemicals that caused the bluish color of the river has not yet been identified, MGB -CAR already issued stoppage orders for 8 mines and mineral processing plants in Gumatdang.

During the investigation, they found out that the eight mines have no permit from the Environmental Management Bureau.

This is a big struggle for the miners who rely solely on mining as their livelihood.

"Kami po, hindi kami nagbababad. Pure gold lang ang kinukuhanan namin. Tignan nila kung sino ang dapat pahintuin. Diyan kumukuha ng pangkain sa araw araw," said Edmund Ngina, a miner.

Some miners insist that this could be mixture of different garbage, some coming from Baguio City, or could be a natural phenomenon.

The stoppage orders will be lifted once the associations of miners are able to produce the requirements for them to have permit to mine.

MGB officials still cannot identify what could be the effect of the chemicals until the result of water test is already released.

No one has been fishing in the area for a long time.

Some of the miners admit that that part of the river has been long dead. They said many chemicals have been dumped in the area for many years. 

As of posting, the bluish color has subsided but traces of it are left on the rocks.

Mining is the main livelihood in Itogon, Benguet and the municipality has experienced the countless negative effects of illegal mining for several years.