Mayor threatens to close mining firm if found responsible for fish kill in Lake Mainit

MAINIT, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 15 Dec) – If there would be concrete evidence to show that mining activities upstream have caused the fish kill in lake Mainit, the mayor of the municipality of Mainit in Surigao del Norte is determined to close the mining firm responsible for it.

Mayor Ramon Mondano said he would consider not to renew the firm’s business permit.

Tilapias and carps have been dying starting three weeks ago in the country’s fourth largest lake.

The fish kill has affected the livelihood of hundreds of fisherfolk who depend on the lake.

“If we have concrete evidence to prove that this mining activity has caused the fish kill, I will not hesitate to make an order to stop their operations,” he told MindaNews.

The mayor and the people around the lake have been suspecting that the operation of the mining firm, Greenstone Resources Corporation, have caused the fish kill.

A subsidiary of Red5 Limited, an Australian-based gold exploration and mining company, Greenstone is currently mining gold and silver at the abandoned mine site of the Surigao Consolidated Mining Company, Inc. (Suricon) in Barangay Siana in Mainit.

Fisherfolk said Greenstone’s operations have polluted Magpayang River, the runoff from which settles in the lake.

MindaNews sent queries to Simon Leech, mine manager of Greenstone, but he has yet to reply.

Fisherfolk recalled that the worst fish kill in the lake occurred during the operations of Suricon in the 1970s to the early 1990s.

Mondano has asked nongovernment organizations to investigate what caused the massive fish kill in Lake Mainit.

Citing the town’s lacks of technical capability, he is hoping that institutions would help them make an independent analysis on the lake.

Mondano said he could not rely anymore on the contradicting statements of officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Caraga.

Judith Rojas, BFAR assistant regional director, said that the agency has not acted on the incident as there was no request from the local government units.

But Anne Melisa Talavera, officer-in-charge of BFAR’s 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.

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 no. 4.

In January 2015, the MGB allowed Greenstone to resume its gold processing operations after constructing a new tailings storage facility and implementing other remedial measures.

But Mondano said tailings would still spill during heavy rains.

He said that the mining company has no social development projects in the areas affected by its operations.

Another town mayor in Surigao del Norte, Cristina Hemady Romarate-Arcillas of Tubod, has likewise accused the mining firm of wanton destruction of the environment. She has repeatedly said in public that operations of Greenstone have endangered the lives of her constituents.

Greenstone’s mine wastes are reportedly being dumped in Barangay Cawilan in Tubod, and below it are the dwellings of residents.

Cawilan hosts Greenstone’s milling facilities and tailings storage.

Arcillas said the company has created a “mountain” out of the wastes in Cawilan from the mine pit.

She fears that this rainy season, the dumpsite might collapse and endanger the lives of her constituents.

Arcillas said mining operations have aggravated all flooding incidents in the town during heavy rains.