Closure of four mining firms in Zambales sought

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REP. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list is urging the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to permanently cancel the permits and licenses of four nickel mining firms operating in Sta. Cruz, Zambales for destroying the environment.

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“The environmental destruction wrought by the unsystematic mining methods of the four mining companies that have been suspended earlier by the MGB warrants permanent cancellation of their permits and licenses. The government should not allow mining operations that cause irreversible environmental degradation to continue any further. Clearly, a suspension order is not enough,” said Ridon, a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The MGB Region III suspended Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc. and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. on July 15.

The suspension order comes at the heel of mounting complaints against the destructive environmental impact of nickel mining in Zambales.

A group of concerned citizens had earlier reported to authorities that the operations of the four mining companies have polluted nearby water bodies.

The group led the petition against mining activities in Zambales, claiming that water pollution due to nickel laterite washed down from the mines has already reached 30 nautical miles offshore, affecting municipal fishing grounds and resulting to loss of livelihood among citizens.

The group also said that chemicals from the nickel mines have also silted rivers, creeks and fishponds in the town of Sta. Cruz.

“The MGB itself confirmed the veracity of the reported water pollution brought about by the mining operations of the companies in question. I believe that mere suspension of operations is not enough to address this issue. Permanent cancellation of permits and licenses should be done,” said Ridon.

The lawmaker is also planning to file a resolution in the House of Representatives next week to call on the Committee on Natural Resources to look into the matter.

“As we call for the permanent closure of the nickel mines in Sta. Cruz, we also need to stress that the national and local government should also provide alternative livelihood for the estimated 3,000 mining workers affected. The government should offer alternative sources of income in areas such as sustainable agriculture, fisheries and handicraft. Saving the environment must not spell doom for the lives of affected mining workers,” Ridon stressed.

Meanwhile, Coalition of Mine Workers, Families and Communities spokesperson Orlan Mayor said the group wants the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to lift the suspension citing lack of livelihood.

The group also expressed concern that the suspension will affect the scholarships of students and other social development programs supported by the suspended companies.

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