Surigao mayor says mining no place in her town

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/08 August) — The mayor of Bacuag, Surigao del Norte has this piece of advice for mining firms which may want to operate in the town: Go find another place for your investments.

Saying she would junk all mining applications, Mayor Shiela Mae Orquina-Cebedo said the mining firms better not waste their investments in her town.

Now in her last term as mayor, Cebedo said she had rejected several applications for mining exploration during her second term in office.

She, however, did not name the mining firms whose applications were turned down.

“I don’t want irreparable damage to happen in my town. I fear the negative effects that may emerge if mining firms are allowed to exploit mineral reserves in our town. Maybe they can apply soon after I step down, but not now while I’m the mayor,” she said, adding many local people also asked her to block the applications.

“I’m not against responsible mining. I just don’t want any mining activities in my town,” Cebedo explained.

Bacuag is surrounded by mining towns like Placer, Claver, Tubod and Tagana-an.

She said a mining company in one town came in with many promises but when environmental problems occurred only the local government was left to face such problems.

Cebedo was apparently referring to Tubod where the Greenstone Resources Corporation closed its mining and milling operations due to a crack on its tailings storage facility number 4 on April 26 this year.

She said she is now urging the Department of Tourism and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to declare the town as an ecotourism site instead of making it as a mining area.

Bacuag has several caves and some of them are unexplored, the mayor said.

Bacuag is a fifth class municipality where fishing and farming are the primary livelihoods of its 12, 200 residents including members of the Mamanwa tribe.

Chamber of Mines Caraga president Dulmar Raagas has not reacted so far to Cebedo’s statements.

Meanwhile, environment groups lauded the stance of the mayor saying at least there is a town in the province that has resisted large-scale mining.

Nookie Calunsag, media campaign officer of the Green Mindanao Inc., said a mining-free town means sustainable livelihood for the farmers and fisherfolk.

He said mining would not just leave toxic elements in the areas where they operate but will also pollute streams, rivers and the sea as well.

Calunsag was referring to Claver Bay, a fish breeding ground in Surigao del Norte which is now heavily silted, a problem blamed on the operations of large-scale mining firms in the area.

Surigao del Norte is known as the mining hub of the country due to the presence of several large-scale mining companies. Nickel and gold are among the minerals being extracted and shipped to countries like China, Japan, Australia, Canada, Korea and Switzerland. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)