By ALDWIN QUITASOL
Posted by Bulatlat
MANKAYAN, Benguet ? The local government unit (LGU) here is convinced that the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company is liable for the massive sinking on June 5 of Aurora St. in Barangay Poblacion.
The disaster destroyed the Mankayan Elementary School and the Mankayan National High School and forced a number of families to evacuate to safer grounds. No one was hurt but the classes of students and economic activities in the vicinity were disrupted.
The LGU concluded that the ground under the municipality is hollow because of poorly back-filled mining tunnels therefore causing the massive sinking. This is contrary to the statement of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Cordillera Administrative Region that the massive subsidence in Mankayan was not caused by mining.
In a forum held at the municipal hall of Mankayan, Geologist Rick Saturay of the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) presented observations and a study on the area where a massive land subsidence took place. Saturay showed the audience the difference between land subsidence and landslides.
Saturay said the possible causes of land subsidence are geologically weak lithology and rock formation, faults and creeping soil, topography where there are steep slopes, hydrologic conditions, high rainfalls, high water table, gully and headwater erosion, blasting and voids in the underground.
Poorly Back-Filled Tunnels
Saturay explained further that voids could be a major cause if they exist beneath the subsidence area. Saturay then cited testimonies of incomplete back-filling of mined-out tunnels, the use of erodible back-fill materials, the irresponsible mining of tunnel pillars, and he also explained the weak rocks due to faulting and mineralization. Saturay asked the audience if they believed that voids are present underneath the subsidence area. Almost all of the audience including the Mankayan officials raised their hands in agreement.
Saturay further said the presence of voids is highly probable and some of them may have already collapsed and may have caused the subsidence. Initial conclusions were presented at the forum: that voids underground may be influencing much the location of the subsidence, and that there are voids due to poorly back-filled mine tunnels beneath the subsidence area in Aurora St. It was said that mining activities of the Lepanto are the major cause of the large-scale subsidence in the municipality.
Stop Mining Operations
After the forum, Mankayan Councilor Richard Kilaan said the council is bent on passing a resolution for the temporary stoppage of Lepanto’s mining operations pending the municipal government’s call on the company to settle the issues it is currently facing.
Kilaan said the council is giving the Lepanto time to produce the geological map and the mining plan or assay map of their operations. Kilaan said this would be of much help as it will serve as a major basis in determining whether the Mankayan sinking could be attributed to the mining operations of Lepanto or not and pinpoint who is really liable. They will also ask the company to help in rehabilitating the damaged municipality and compensate the victims of the disasters.
Kilaan said that while Lepanto is giving the municipal government P10, 000 a month and sacks of cement, this is not sufficient and it is unfair. Kilaan added that Lepanto should not forget its corporate responsibility while accumulating billions in profits from the long years of mining in the municipality. Kilaan said the company should return the favor to its host community by helping in the rehabilitation, and providing compensation to the residents.
The councilor also added that they would also ask Lepanto to settle its issues with its mine workers. The workers complained of delayed and partial salary. Lepanto was also reportedly not remitting the SSS premiums of the workers amounting to around P110 million.
Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance Vice-Chairperson Xavier Akien said they strongly support the positive actions of the Mankayan council. He said it is high time for Mankayan to demand that Lepanto heeds to the sentiments of the people and to own up to its responsibility over the disasters its mining operations have brought in Mankayan. “This initiative coming from the officials of Mankayan is long overdue yet a great service to their constituents. They should be firm enough to be on the side of the Mankayan folks to hold Lepanto liable for the sinking and let them compensate,” Akien said.