Runoff sediments from mines threaten marine life in Surigao Sur

Denuded mountains at a mining site in Carrascal, Surigao del Sur. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 09 Oct) – Runoff sediments from the mining sites in Surigao del Sur will destroy marine habitats like coral reefs and sea grasses, environment group Haribon Foundation said Tuesday.

Gregorio E. de la Rosa Jr., conservation science and research manager at the Haribon Foundation cited that these sediments would end in the shores and protected mangrove sites at Lanuza Bay during heavy rains.

He said it would affect the population of fish and other marine creatures not only in Surigao del Sur but also in other provinces because it would adversely affect their spawning grounds.

He said the shores have turned “red” as several portions have been covered in hip-deep mud.

Dela Rosa said they are coordinating with the local government units to enforce existing policies such as those stated under the Lanuza Bay Environmental Management Plan to mitigate the threats posed by sedimentation in coastal areas.

He said that while there is mining operation in Carrascal town in Surigao del Sur, mining activities in neighboring Surigao del Norte are also affecting the marine life in their province.

“It will cover the marine habitat such as mangrove and sea grass where the fish and crabs lay their eggs. Because it’s gone, they will transfer other areas,” he said.

Citing a recently published scientific paper, he said the destruction caused by sedimentation in the province would also reach the other coastal areas in the Philippines.

He said the currents will carry the particulates to other parts of the country, where it will consolidate and settle.

He said the problem involving the runoff wastes could have been prevented had the requirement of setting up settling ponds to trap the sediments from mining sites been not only strictly enforced but also strengthened.

He said settling ponds would overflow during heavy downpour, spilling most of the sediments out to the seas.

He emphasized the need to strictly enforce the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act as well as local laws like the land use plan to mitigate the effects brought about by mining operations.

Dela Rosa said the people claimed their seas and shores were clean and not covered with mud before the mining operations started in 2010.

The mangrove forests, which are supposed to protect coral reefs from the runoff sediments, have been destroyed to give way to docking facilities, he said.

The road widening projects of the government to hasten development and improve transport have also brought unintended effects to the environment, he said.

He said reforestation must be done to serve as buffer to the runoff sediments, in addition to installation of land cover like coco coir and planting of grasses to hold the soil. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)