Davao Oriental gov asks DENR to cancel nickel mining operations

Published January 23, 2022, 10:30 AM

by Keith Bacongco

DAVAO CITY – Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayangrihang is seeking a permanent closure of the nickel mining operations in Banaybanay town following a massive siltation in Mapagpa and Pintatagan Rivers that drained to Davao Gulf last week.

In a letter addressed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu, Dayanghirang cited the violation of the company that left the rivers stained orange from nickel laterite following the heavy downpour last week.

Aerial photo of the nickel mining operations site in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental. Photo courtesy of Provincial Government of Davao Oriental.

The governor was referring to the Riverbend Consolidated Mining Corporation, which is operated by Arc Nickel Resources, Inc. (ANRI).

Its Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA covers 6,363 hectares that spreads across the towns of Banaybanay and Pantukan in Davao de Oro province.

“Based on the findings of my technical personnel, the siltation ponds were not wide and deep enough, causing the discolored water discharges to overflow while some portions of discharges were not directed to the catchment ponds. The company’s environmental mitigating measures and preparedness to address unforeseen events is not enough,” read Dayanghirang’s letter dated January 20 but posted on the provincial government’s Facebook page on January 22.

The governor added that it is a blatant disregard of the company to its environmental protection and enhancement commitments had caused immeasurable environmental damages.

On January 14, photos of the rivers’ discoloration and siltation circulated on social media have cause public outcry. fearing of the adverse impact on environment and livelihood.

The villagers also fear the adverse impact on the coastal communities since the rivers drain on the Davao Gulf.

Dayanghirang issued the letter after an aerial inspection with newly-installed Mindanao Development Authority chair Mabel Acosta on January 20.

While he acknowledge the contribution of mining industry in the country’s economy, the governor pointed out that its environmental impacts outweigh any benefit.

“For a while, it may provide benefits in terms of income for the local and the national government.But our people and our environment will suffer the long-term effects of irresponsible mining. We can still manage without it. Environment protection and conservation should be prioritized above everything else,” he added.

Owing to this development, environmental group Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) welcomed the positive development, saying that there’s a little ray of hope that the Provincial Government of Davao Oriental is taking the side of environmental justice and its people.

“As an environmental organization, we at IDIS, support the call to cancel the mining permit of RMC/ANRI and the eventual closure of the mining operation in the area. This incident should open everyone’s eyes to the realities of mining activities – it destroys the environment and put people’s lives in peril,” IDIS executive director Atty. Mark Peñalver said in a statement sent to the media.

Peñalver, however, further urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Davao Oriental to pass a resolution in support to the request of the Governor.

“We believe this is the time the whole province of Davao Oriental should stand firm and rally against destructive activities that continue to violate the right of the people to a healthy and balanced environment.”