‘Underwater desert’ forming in Surigao town due to mining

MASGAD, Malimono, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/1 May) — Environmental destruction caused by mining activities has made the submarine area of several villages in this town look like an underwater desert, a nongovernment group said.

“This is caused by thick silt that covered the sand and corals,” said Joseph B. Nacario, a volunteer of the Hinatuan Passage Development Alliance (HIPADA) Marine Monitoring Team.

Nacario led the team that made an underwater survey from December last year to March this year.

Barangays Cansayong, Bunyasan, and Masgad in this town host small-scale mining operations. Most of these are in Masgad where 80 percent of the residents rely on mining for their livelihood, he said.

“Wala nay isda, wala nay corals. Zero na gyod tungod sa siltation,” (There are no more fish, no more corals. There’s nothing due to siltation) he lamented.

Silt coming from areas where there are mining activities has also invaded nearby villages particularly Hanagdong, Nacario said.

“People in Barangay Hanagdong were silent when they saw our underwater video and pictures. They were sad of what they saw, thick soil from the mining activity upstream now covering their once rich corals,” he said.

The group made the underwater assessment in all coastal villages of Malimono, one of Surigao del Norte’s 20 towns.

“We dived to a depth of 10-15 feet in all 13 coastal barangays and we also found that there are some areas where fish and corals are getting better, and these are under the areas where marine sanctuaries were set up,” Nacario said.

Three marine sanctuaries are located in Barangay Cantapoy, Cagtinae and Karihatag.

Nacario said Malimono’s coastal waters should be protected because there are breeding grounds.

“These areas, we found out are spawning areas but some are totally gone because of the mining-related waste,” he said.

The group recommended stopping the mining activities upstream so it would not endanger the marine ecosystem.

MindaNews saw early last month the murky rivers and streams in Masgad, Cansayong, and Bunyasan. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)