July 17, 2009
“Remember your children, remember our future/ Remember your children, remember mother nature.”
A Salidummay song performed by students of Mankayan National High School, this message cut across the gathering of Mankayan communities on July 16, 2009 in Brgy. Poblacion, Mankayan in a forum dubbed Speak Out for Truth, Land, Life and Future: Save Mankayan from Further Destruction which tackled the continuing ground subsidence, sinking and landslides in the said barangay since June 5.
The activity aimed to help residents understand the causes of the environmental disasters in Mankayan in a series of lecture-discussions given by the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (BMAAN), and eventually decide on how this must be addressed. The local government of Mankayan hosted the activity at the Dangwa Hall of the Municipal Town Hall. Around 100 residents, including representatives of the academe, church, representatives of the LGU, MNHS and Mankayan central School PTCA, MNHS alumni and community organizations.
The first input was on Basic Understanding of the Earth’s structures and its Movements, followed by Mining Concepts and Procedures and Understanding the Mining Operations of Lepanto. The inputs were insightful and educational, as the audience appreciated the technical briefing they needed to know to understand the sinking that has been taking place in Mankayan.
One significant output in the forum is the Declaration that embodied the Mankayan people’s quest for truth on the matter of the environmental disasters that took place, specifically to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Lepanto Mining itself:
We are not safe in our own homes, knowing that anytime, disasters are waiting to happen. We want to live safely and pass on our Mankayan to our children and grandchildren. Today, we stand up together and demand the TRUTH:
- For LCMC to disclose the truth about the location of its operations in our municipality, especially near or around the sunken areas; and
- For the Mines and Geosciences Bureau disclose the truth about the environmental disasters and refrain from siding with the company and instead prioritize the safety of the people of Mankayan;
Aside from the relocation of “homes, schools, businesses and burial grounds”, the participants of the forum supported the call for an independent investigation to root out the causes of the sinking. Colalo Punong Barangay Ambino Padawi said “While we push for an independent investigation, this is not the answer to the problems that gathered us here today. As people of Mankayan, we need to act together and be decisive on this matter.” Padawi shared how his barangay underwent an independent investigation in 1999 after the disastrous Colalo sinking, that after the results and recommendations were forwarded by the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences, Lepanto did not acknowledge these and dismissed the findings as inconclusive. “I came here today to share our experience in Colalo, because the sinking is not just Poblacion’s problem, but the whole Mankayan,” he said.
The call for the pullout of the military, specifically the 50th Infantry Battalion, was also iterated in the Declaration, which also acknowledged the situation of Lepanto’s workers needing immediate economic relief.
The open forum proved that the activity was both educational and insightful, as expressed by community members, who know understood more of the nature of the land in Mankayan and how large mining aggravated the already dangerous situation of the soil. Representatives of the church also expressed concern not only for the sinking but the rising the mine tailings at Tailings Dam 5A, and the cracks that continue in a section of the dam.
The UP NIGS report in 1999 was also presented to participants.
The activity was a joint undertaking of the Mankayan Council of Churches (MCC), Concerned Citizens of Mankayan (CCM), MCS and MNHS-PTCA, MNHS Alumni, and MAQUITACDG-the interprovincial chapter of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance in Mankayan, Benguet; Tadian, Mt. Province and Cervantes and Quirino, Ilocos Sur. # CPA Public Information Commission
Chronology Environmental Disasters in Mankayan
Before 1936. High yields of indigenous crops. Lepanto started operations in 1936. Starting this year, mine tailings were dumped straight into rivers
1960s. With the construction of Tailings Dam No. 1 and dumping of mine waste into the rivers, locals observed that land started to become unsuitable for agricultural use
1970s. Tailings Dam No. 2 collapsed and contaminated Ricefields. Residents initially reported subsidence in 1972, then another in 1976. The subsidence was noted 2 sites: Mankayan Central School and another area 300 meters to its southwest along Magumbang Creek.
1976. Surface blasting in the Upper Tram operations of Lepanto Mining. Underground blasting at the height of mining in the 1980s was reported to be audible by residents especially at night
1985. The Copper Ore Dryer was put up. Local farmers noticed abnormal withering of crops, death of domestic animals and respiratory diseases in residents. The following year, 1986, Tailings Dam No. 3’s Diversion Tunnel gave way
1993. Spillway collapsed. In 1997 the carbon-in-pulp or CIP mill was constructed with the discovery of Victoria Gold I, and Tailings Dam 5A operated
1998. Rows of houses along Aurora Street in Brgy. Poblacion sunk by some 3 meters.
July 26, 1999. Landslide (550 meters) and massive ground subsidence in Brgy. Colalo, Mankayan, across Tailings Dam 5A. Households, gardens, water sources were destroyed and a local resident (Gomez) was buried alive. The entire 2-storey Mankayan Central School collapsed, with 50 houses were declared in “danger zone” area. The landslide devastated 14 hectares. Parts of the Mankayan-Cervantes national highway were destroyed.
2000. Other sinking areas included Tubpak, Bulalacao and Sapid, while fissures yearly occur at the Mankayan-Cervantes Road. Residents experience ground vibrations as a result of the underground blasting
2007. Lepanto Mining dumps asbestos from its head office in Makati in in Brgy. Sapid.
April 2009. A portion of the slaughter house in Brgy. Poblacion sunk after fissures gradually formed. Luckily, no one was hurt. In the same month, Lepanto again dumps asbestos in Sapid. The LGU now contemplated on filing charges against the mining company.
June 5, 2009. Aurora St. and Brgy Poblacio sinking. Gov. Fongwan declared Mankayan in a state of calamity.
Cordillera Peoples' Alliance: