Mining firm told to stop operations in Surigao Norte village

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/10 May) — San Francisco town in Surigao del Norte has passed a resolution ordering a mining company to stop operations in a barangay in response to complaints it has caused water pollution and other adverse effects on the area’s environment.

San Francisco town vice mayor Edgar N. Plaza said during technical conference Tuesday at the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB)-Caraga, the municipal council approved the resolution demanding a stop to Surimin Mining Corporation’s activities at Mt. Patag in Barangay Jubgan on Monday, May 5.

The resolution came in the wake of complaints from residents that Surimin’s operations have damaged the river and streams which are their sources of potable water.

The residents added that Mt. Patag serves as the area’s watershed.

The resolution said local officials received “reliable information, verified reports and documentation on the “illegal operation” of Surimin in Barangay Jubgan, particularly extraction of copper ore and massive cutting of trees “without prior authority from the land owners and local residents”.

It further said the mining activities have put residents at the foot of Mt. Patag at risk in case natural calamities strike.

Romeo Gordonas, a local resident earlier said their water sources would become murky with just a slight rain.

He said that even if Mt. Patag, the area where Surimin operates, has not been declared as a watershed it has been their source of water for several years already.

He recalled that several years ago, they experienced flash floods and landslides that destroyed several houses. He said it may happen again because of Surimin’s mining operations.

But Noli Arreza, office-in-charge of MGB –Caraga said he could not say if it’s really Surimin that has been operating in Jubgan.

He said the mining firm cannot operate since it was still applying for an exploration permit.

Surimin Mining Corporation is owned by Elizabeth Matugas-Abejo, a sister of Rep. Francisco T. Matugas of Surigao del Norte (1st district), chair of the House committee on environment.

Arreza said he spoke with Abejo on the phone this week and said the latter had no idea [about the mining operations].

Jubgan barangay chair Felixberto Sual meanwhile alleged that James Matugas, a brother of Rep. Matugas convinced local landowners to sign a blank document for a “farm to market road” project in the area.

James Matugas could not be reached for comment.

Sallustiano Pullos, one of the landowners, said he was one of those who signed a blank paper convinced that it was really for a farm to market road.

Pullos said he has at least 10 hectares of land planted with trees and other crops. But these were cut down and uprooted because of the mining activity.

He angrily said that he has not received any compensation for the destruction of his source of livelihood.

Sual said there is no such thing as a farm to market road project, as James Matugas and a certain Engr. Alan Castillo did not show any document or program of work to village officials.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said there were stockpiles of copper ore in Mt. Patag particular at G2.

Mining operations in Jubgan started only last March but have already affected water bodies including the coastal waters which would turn muddy when it rains.

Residents said the mining operations take place around five kilometers from the village. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)