A group of local and international experts led by Naniel Aragones of independent firm AECOM recently concluded a baseline study on aquatic ecology for the area covered by the proposed Tampakan Copper-Gold project in South Cotabato.
Aragones, who is also affiliated with the Australian company Hydrobiology, is an aquatic biologist who has been studying the freshwater and marine ecosystems in the Philippines for almost 25 years.
The collected data will be submitted to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for validation as part of the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) process mandated by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
“This baseline study is mandated by law. A project proponent such as the Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) and its proposed project must be scrutinized under an ESIA process by an independent third party such as AECOM,” Aragones explained.
Aragones pointed out that the baseline study on aquatic ecology is essential for the formulation of a management plan that will ensure mitigation measures for the impact of the proposed project on the environment. It involved an assessment of the flora and fauna found in the rivers and water systems near and within the project area.
“We studied fresh water and marine water ecology, including fish, shrimps, crabs, aquatic insects, and riparian vegetation, or plants and trees found along river banks,” he said.
The ESIA is a process that involves the prediction and assessment of the environmental and social impacts of a proposed project during construction, commissioning, operation, and closure. It also involves the development of appropriate management plans to avoid or mitigate the negative effects and to enhance the positive effects of a project.
A baseline study is conducted to describe preexisting conditions before a project is started. The basic information gathered before a project starts, also known as the baseline data, is later compared to data gathered during and after project implementation to detect changes and assess project impact.