Green groups question MGB issuance of permit for unstable old mines in Surigao del Norte
Warn against risky mines
Quezon City, Philippines – Alyansa Tigil Mina and its international partners question the Mines and Geosciences Bureau decision to allow the Siana Mines operation to continue in Surigao del Norte despite historical reports of mine flooding and underground fire.
The group is also wary of the silence of the government agency pertaining to recent reports of land instability in mines since April. Meanwhile, a release by Siana Mines owner, Red5 Limited, stated that due to the instability of the tailings dam, the milling operations have been suspended.
“This is very terrible that the government has been very careless in its issuances to mining companies. Unfortunately, as in the earlier years of mines, the DENR and MGB seem to have forgotten their role to ensure that the environment is secure in balancing this destructive and exploitative industry,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.
Further research by members of ATM led to the knowledge that the Siana Mines of Red5 Limited, located in Surigao del Norte, was an abandoned mine previously operated by Surigao Consolidated Mining Co., Inc. which was first opened in the 1940s.However, it closed down during World War II and was reopened in 1946, producing 4,800kg of gold and 8,000kg of silver. It was closed down again due to mine flooding and underground fire.
The abandoned mine site was not rehabilitated until Red5 Limited secured a mining permit in 2002. It was granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate in April 2009 despite a prior scheduled Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan expected late May of the same year.
Dr. Robert Goodland, a Social and Environmental Assessment Specialist and member of the London Working Group on Mining in the Philippines stated, “Siana Mines owner Red5 should certainly not have been allowed to reopen and use the old tailings facility. MGB should know better than that before permitting the reopening without rehabilitating the old facilities. Meanwhile, Red5 Limited should have also known this before it operated in the area—mining under the circumstances was reckless.
“Therefore, a transparent emergency action plan is essential: 1. Immediately halt all milling operations; 2. Immediately alert local authorities and downstream communities of the big risks and encourage them to get out of the way of any breach that looks likely to happen at any time; and 3. Immediately get MGB to conduct an onsite safety/risk assessment to prevent damage and reduce risks to some semblance of acceptability.
“The major lesson to be learned from this risky episode is that old tailings facilities must have safety assessments before new mining is permitted. Furthermore, to guarantee adequate mine closure and restoration, escrow bonds must be created and updated annually before a mining corporation is permitted to abandon a mine site,” Goodland added
Reports earlier said that geotechnical experts representing different parties of Red5 have individually concluded that there is an unquantifiable risk in returning the tailings dam to operating status.
Garganera concluded, “At this time when we’re actually facing different threats (both natural and man-made) and risks, this mine should be immediately closed down and rehabilitated. This situation seriously merits a response from the MGB. Consequently, the review of all mining projects in the country should start. Lastly, we urge the NDRMMC at the provincial and regional levels to immediately conduct parallel investigations on this continuing event, so that we can safely determine if there are risks that face the communities in the CARAGA.”
The Siana Gold Project comprises of both an open pit and an underground mine. The project, as originally designed, delivers a minimum 849,000 ounces of gold production at a cash cost of sub US$400 per ounce over a ten-year life.
Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who oppose the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of EO 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, and passage of the AMMB. (30)
For more information:
Dr. Robert Goodland, London Working Group on Mining in the Philippines, email@example.com
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, 09277617602
Farah Sevilla, Policy Research&Advocacy Officer, email@example.com, 0915-3313361