Unrestrained mining may cause rice shortage, foreign environment experts warn

The study was conducted in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur; Libay, Zamboanga del Norte, Tampakan, South Cotabato; Pujada Bay, Davao Oriental; Victoria, Mindoro and Sibuyan Island, Romblon.

The results of the study conducted by Working Group on Mining in the Philippines echoed the sentiment earlier raised by the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

“Mining in these locations would cause massive environment problems jeopardizing food security and supplies by damaging agriculture and fisheries,” the book “Philippines: Mining or Food”, authored by Clive Wicks and Robert Goodland, said.

The book is set to be launched on February 4 in Manila.

Goodland, a former World Bank environment scientist for 25 years, warned that mining will adversely affect rice production in the country in the long term if the government continues its pro-mining stance.

“[To avert this rice crisis] the government should promote rice production and demote mining in its economic agenda,” he told the plenary.

He noted that the Philippines was once self-sufficient in rice “but is now the world’s biggest importer,” which was rooted in the failure of the government to maintain the health of its agricultural sector.

Goodland cited the threats posed by the venture of Sagittarius Mines Inc. to food security in the area.

“Open pit mining is terrifying, especially that the mining area sits in an earthquake fault. The oceans surrounding the mining area will be in danger of contamination (once the project pushes through),” he said.

Representatives from the local Catholic Church, academe, non-government organizations, farmers and local government officials attended the group’s presentation.

Sagittarius, which is owned by global mining player Xstrata Copper and Australian firm Indophil Resources NL, is currently undertaking an exploration.

Sagittarius officials have repeatedly assured that environment protection is one of the company’s key thrusts once they go into commercial production.

Goodland noted the mines development site straddles vital watershed areas that flow towards Lake Buluan, an important source of livelihood for the Moro-dominated town of Buluan in Maguindanao province.

“Forget Lake Buluan [in the long-term] once the mining goes into production,” Dave E. de Vera, executive director of the non-government Philippine Association of Inter-Cultural Development, said in a separate interview.

De Vera presented a map showing the watershed areas within and outside the mines development site of Sagittarius and other prospective mining investors.

The map showed that Lake Buluan serves as the catchment of water coming from the mountains of Tampakan, where 70% of the land area is prospective mine site, he said.

Last month, the CBCP, through its president, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, asked the government to impose a moratorium on mining across the country for the sake of the environment, livelihood and food security in the country.

“No material gain ca
n equate the value of life. Every Filipino depends on the environment. Because of the threats against these fragile resources, our lives and livelihood are likewise threatened,” Archbishop Lagdameo said in the pastoral letter titled “Upholding the Sanctity of Life.”

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said the CBCP statement was “out of touch” with the sentiment of a million or more Filipinos who rely on the "responsible" segment of the industry. (MindaNews)