MAINIT, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 13 December) – The mayor of Mainit town and fisherfolk living around Lake Mainit want to know if mining operations upstream caused the massive fishkill of thousands of tilapia and carp in the last three weeks.
Mainit mayor Ramon Mondano told MindaNews on Saturday evening that they have yet to determine the cause of the massive fishkill but he suspects it may have something to do with operations of mining companies upstream.
Mondano said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has not submitted a report on the fishkill even as it had taken samples for laboratory analysis.
The fishkill has adversely affected the livelihood of fisherfolk in the area, he said.
Mondano said he received reports that at the height of heavy rains, the tailings pond of Greenstone Resources, Inc., spilled over into the lake.
“Kada kusog ang ulan naa sila moagas ang ilang tailings” (Each time it rains heavily, the tailings pond spills over), Mondano said.
Alegria town Mayor Dominador Esma Jr. said “there are lots of people economically affected by this sad incident.”
Fisherman Alberto Galindo, 58, a resident of Barangay Pungtod in Alegria town said he used to catch five to ten kilos of fish for selling every day but “karon wala na kay nangamatay lagi” (but none now because they died).
Galindo is not alone.
“This will be a blue Christmas,” fish vendor and fisherman Rolando Zamora, also of Pungtod, said. “No one is eating fish. We can’t sell fish,” he said.
Fisherman Nicolas Goliat, recalls having been surprised that the the fishes looked weak and eventually died.
“Karon nangabutod na intawon naa nanglutaw diha sa kilid sa danao ang uban napadpad sa lawod” (Now you see bloated fish floating dead in the lake, some near the shore, some at the deeper part), he said.
Goliat recalled that on normal days, they could earn at least 350 pesos every day for five kilos of tilapia which they could sell to buyers at 70 per kilo.
They are also wondering why only the bigger tilapia are affected.
“The smaller ones are okay. But those 200 grams up to a kilo or more died,” he said.
Goliat said most of the fisherfolk believe the fishkill was due to the mining operations since a similar incident happened during the operations of Surigao Resources Consolidated (Suricon) in the 1970s to early 1990s.
But Goliat said the current fishkill is not as bad as in the past when Suricon was operating.
“Sauna hurot gyod ang tanan isda sa danao. Lapornas gayod pati pa ang ulang” (In the past, all the fishes in the lake were killed, including the freshwater shrimps).
Greenstone Resources Corporation, a subsidiary of Red5 Limited, an Australian-based gold exploration and mining company, is currently mining gold and silver at the abandoned minesite of Suricon in Barangay Siana.
Fisherfolk said Greenstone’s operations are causing pollution of Magpayang River.
“Anha kami maligo, maglaba ug magkuha og tubig panggamit sa balay pero karon lubog na bisan karabaw dili na namo ipakaligo diha,” said Goliat. (We used to swim and fetch water for household use but now it’s so murky, we don’t allow our carabao to bathe there).
MindaNews sent queries to Simon Leech, mine manager of Greenstone, but Leech has yet to reply.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on June 6, 2013, issued a cease-and-desist order on the gold processing operations of Greenstone in Barangay Siana after a tension crack was found on the embankment of its tailings storage facility (TSF) No. 4.
In January 2015, the MGB allowed Greenstone Resources Corporation to resume its gold processing operations after constructing a new tailings storage facility and implementing other remedial measure, the Philippine Star reported.
Nerio Casil, BFAR-Caraga regional director could not be reached for comment as he was out of town, attending an affair in Negros.
“No complaint, no action”
Judith Rojas, assistant regional director of BFAR-Caraga said no action has been taken by their office because they did not receive any written request from among the local government units.
“Wala kaming natanggap na request from LGUs kaya wala kaming aksyon dyan,” Rojas said on Friday afternoon.
Anne Melisa Talavera, officer-in-charge of Regional Fish Health Laboratory told MIndaNews in a text message Sunday that they got samples of the fish two weeks ago and these are being studied for analysis in Manila.
“Hopefully next week there the result is available,” she said. (Roel Catoto / MindaNews)