The bishop of the Diocese of Mati in the southern Philippines called on the government to look into the mining operations in the towns of Banaybanay and Pantukan in Davao Oriental province after the reported siltation of rivers in the area last week.
“Davao Oriental is rich and beautiful in terms of natural resources, seas, beaches, and mountainsides. Please let us preserve this beautiful creation of God so the future generations can still enjoy the beauty of Davao Oriental,” said Bishop Abel Apigo of Mati.
On January 14, the water in Banaybanay’s Maputi River turned deep orange. Authorities said a heavy downpour resulted in heavy siltation along the rivers in the villages of Pintatagan and Maputi, which are part of the 6,363-hectare mining area of the Riverbend Consolidated Mining Corp.
On January 17, the local government of Davao Oriental province announced that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau had already ordered the shutdown of the mining operations.
“Irresponsible mining is unacceptable as it poses serious, long-term threats to communities and waterways,” said Governor Nelson Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental in a statement.
“The preservation and conservation of the environment should come first above everything else,” he said.
The group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, however, urged authorities to issue “more thoroughgoing regulations” beyond the suspension of the mining operations.
The group said the mine spill “spells more mining disasters to come if we do not reinstate the open pit mine ban.” The group said that despite safety certifications from mining companies, incidents like mine spills still happen.
“This is the myth of so-called responsible mining,” said the group in a statement.
“The overflow from the waste basin of the mining operations is a reminder that the so-called engineering solutions of the current brand of large-scale mining cannot scale up to the ever worsening climate crisis,” it added.
The group called for a moratorium on new mining projects, “especially destructive open pit mines,” until a new, more robust mining law such as the People’s Mining Bill is enacted.
Bishop Apigo, meanwhile, expressed hope that the government will listen to the people and stop the mining operations, saying that the diocese has earlier submitted a petition urging the government to end mining operations “but it was no given attention by the government.”
“It’s very painful because they did not listen to our call here on the ground,” said Bishop Apigo in an interview over Radio Veritas 846.
Last month, the municipal government of Pantukan also passed a resolution calling on the Environment department to stop the activity of mining companies.