Surigao villagers complain of ‘milky’ appearance of water in creek

PLACER, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 22 Sept) – Residents of the village of Boyongan in this town are worried over the alleged polluted water in the creek where they wash their clothes and where they take a bath.

MindaNews received information that the creek in the area has turned “milky.” This reporter has actually seen the unusual color of the water flowing down from the mountain.

“The water is now like milk, creamy white,” said Nene Tinaveras, a resident of Purok 3 of Boyongan village. She said this may have something to do with the ongoing mining operation of the Silangan Mining Company, Inc.

She said the discoloration has been happening since late last year.

Tinaveras said the creek is important to them because this is where they wash their clothes and where they take a bath.

Farmer Mamerto Tinaveras, Nene’s brother-in-law, told MindaNews that company workers would always tell them that the discoloration won’t affect the environment and can’t harm anyone.

But Mamerto doubts it is so, because his carabaos, as well as those of his neighbors, have been having stomach problems, specifically, loose bowel movement.

He said that the mining company workers would try to clean the long stretch of the creek. “But still there are sediments,” Mamerto said.

MindaNews tried to contact Rochelle Hilario, the corporate communications manager of Philex Mining, but to no avail. Silangan Mining Company, Inc. is a subsidiary of Philex Mining, which has substantial presence in Benguet Province.

Adol Patino, officer-in-charge of Mines and Geoscience Bureau-Caraga, told MindaNews that he has not received a complaint yet from residents.

He suspects that the treatment facility of the mining firm is not working well.

“I think that has something to do with bentonite, an absorbent clay used for drilling,” he said. “Maybe they have not managed their silting pond well,” Patino added.

He vowed to conduct an investigation on this.

Rene Gonzales, the mining environment chief of MGB-Caraga, said he has already informed the mining company to solve the issue immediately.

He said the water from the ground of the mining area are apparently treated with flocculant and coagulant but this must have settle in the pond, the reason it became whitish. He assured this has no ill effects on the environment but said it still has to be addressed.

But Gonzales admitted that people are alarmed because of the unusual color of the water.

According to Patino the water from the creek flows down to Barangay Timamana and Cawilan in Tubod town and in Magpayang in Mainit and would settle in the Lake Mainit.

Silangan Mining is expected to mine gold and copper and is now undertaking works for an underground tunnel and is expected to make commercial operations in 2018.

The company is also said to be considering to venture into an-open pit mining in the area.

This controversial mining company has paid at least P188.6 million in penalties for violating the Clean Water Act of 2004, which is on top of the P1.034 billion the company settled with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in February 2013 for violating the 1995 Mining Act following the tailings dam spill sending more than 20 million tons of mine waste that polluted Agno River and Balog Creek in Benguet.