Group says mining project threatens biodiversity in Southern Mindanao, neighboring regions

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 November) — An impending mining project in Southern Mindanao threatens the area’s biodiversity as well as the ecology of neighboring regions, an environment group said citing a technical report by an American consultancy firm.

The King-king Copper-Gold Project will affect 12 “vulnerable or critically endangered” species of the 253 native or endemic plant species present in the area, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and the Philippine National Red List, the Francis S. Morales Resource Center said in a press statement Monday.

The project will also affect six bird species endemic to Mindanao of the 74 bird species in the area, and a total of 17 mammal species and 10 reptile species.

FSMRC said these findings are contained in the 2013 NI 43-101-compliant Technical Report and Preliminary Feasibility Study of M3 Engineering & Technology, a US-based consultancy firm contracted by St. Augustine Gold & Copper to conduct the study in compliance with Canada’s National Instrument 43-101, which is supposedly required under Canadian laws.

The copper-gold project was reportedly to be approved within this month, the group said.

FSMRC further quoted he report as saying that several of the wildlife species found in the region “are listed as near-threatened or vulnerable by the IUCN, while others are protected by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), including 11 bird species, two (2) mammal species and five (5) reptile and amphibian species.”

“Marine studies showed that several species of sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and seabirds live in the area. Sea cows and whale sharks also live in the region. The sea cow species and all species of sea turtle found in the region are listed as endangered,” the report said.

“Phyto-, nano-, zoo-, and ichthyoplankton, as well as coral and benthic species were found in abundance during oceanographic surveys which included diving surveys. The sea grass density ranged from 772.0 to 3,174.2 shoots per square meter,” it noted.

M3 said that given the threats “it will likely be necessary to implement ongoing monitoring for these species and modify Project activities accordingly to avoid habitat disturbance.”

It also recommends that a “comprehensive Biodiversity Action Plan, including a well-designed biodiversity offset program, will be developed and implemented with full consideration of all threatened, endangered, and vulnerable species.”

For its part, FSMRC said that aside from addressing the threats to biodiversity, the Aquino government must “look at the adverse social impact this foreign-owned mining project will impose not only on the five barangays directly within the project area but also on neighboring communities whose water supply will also be affected”.

“Health problems and loss of livelihood are also expected to result from the King-king copper-gold project,” it said.

“The DENR must see to it that these recommendations are being addressed. However, given the government’s track-record in allowing environmental plunderers and destroyers to go on with their business like in the 2012 Philex mine spill, we expect another disaster to happen if this project will push through. Thus, we register our strong opposition to the King-king copper-gold project,” it said.

“These concerns must not be dismissed by the Aquino government as simply anti-mining propaganda. If the Aquino government cannot protect our treasured biodiversity, who will?” it added.

The NI 43-101 is a “codified set of rules and guidelines for reporting and displaying information related to mineral properties owned by, or explored by, companies which report these results on stock exchanges within Canada. This includes foreign-owned mining entities who trade on stock exchanges overseen by the Canadian Securities Administrators, even if they only trade on Over The Counter (OTC) derivatives or other instrumented securities.” (MindaNews)