Nickel mines blamed for mud floods in Sta Cruz, Zambales after Typhoon Lando

Sta Cruz, Zambales – Thick red mud attributed to nickel mining continue to flood homes and streets of several barangays in the mining-host municipality of Sta Cruz, Zambales after Typhoon Lando passed through the region four days ago.

Locals believe that the mud flood was caused by the destruction and failure of settling dams/ponds by four nickel mines— Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc.

Benito “Doc Ben” Molino, chairperson of Concerned Citizens of Sta Cruz (CCOS) said: “With the rain that poured in our province, flooding was highly possible, but the volume of red mud is a different case. We think nickel laterite may have mixed with the waters that flood parts of the province now.

He added: “This is the second time that we experienced this, the first time was in July when some of the dams of mining companies were destroyed and flooded our rivers. We’ve had these kinds of problems since mining started in 2011.”

The thick red mud entered their homes. It also damaged their farmlands and water bodies.
(Photo collage grabbed from the Facebook page of Dr Molino)

Meanwhile, Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane was first to deny this in a media interview last Oct 19. He claimed that torrential rains and releases from water dams caused the flood and mudslide.

“This incident is proof that mining affects community vulnerability to disasters. If there was no mining here and no nickel laterite mudslide occurred, the flood should have easily receded,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.

“This is not the first time that we see mining worsening impacts of typhoons and causing further damage to communities and their sources off livelihood, such as the Marcopper disasters in 1993 and 1996 in Marinduque, and the Philex mine spill in 2012,

"In this era of climate change, disasters like these bring increased risks and threats to mining-affected communities. It is critical that the impacts of mining are understood as closely linked to climate-induced disasters, such as this never-before seen levels of flooding. Otherwise, the resilience of communities will continue to be threatened." added Garganera.

Fact-finding missions by EMB, MGB

In a letter to Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Jasareno (Oct 20), Molino called for the investigation of the samples from the flood and it possible impacts to the health of the people in the barangays. He also called on the office to lead a study on their added exposure to disaster specifically in the part of the province where large- and small-scale miners operate.

On Oct 22, a team from the Environment Management Bureau of Region 3 went to Sta Cruz to investigate.

The MGB regional and national fact-finding teams are set to investigate today. Thousands of locals rallying in front of the Sta Cruz Plaza demanding the closure of the mines met the teams.

Molino concluded: “The mining companies can no longer deny the link between their operations, the environmental destructions and disasters that we are experiencing now. The DENR must resolve this by putting an end to the mining projects here and demanding the start of rehabilitation programs.”

The operations of the four nickel mining companies have been suspended by the MGB twice due to “unsystematic methods of mining” and its impacts to the environment, but is allowed proceed after several months due to pressures from powerful political figures.

 © 2015