MINING company St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd. has committed to rehabilitate the river system in the King-king gold and copper project as part of its plan to develop the area even after it leaves the project.

Documents from the company bared that it has continued to evaluate the impact of small scale mining activities in the area on water quality of the river as part of its desire to re-habilitate the environment.

The company has also been monitoring the soil stability, weather patterns and flora and fauna in the area, particularly on the negative effects of small scale mining activities in the area.

Based on the monitoring of the company, the small scale mining activities in the area, which have run for about three decades already, have resulted in the river being contaminated with bacteria, silt and even heavy metals like the dangerous mercury.

The company also reported that vegetation in the area has been degraded and that areas along the river have eroded.

In an earlier presentation, Clyde Gillespie, company country manager, said the company will ensure that the environment will become better after it is able to develop the area.

"A modern large scale mining operation will reduce small scale mining operations over the next few years," he said, adding that because of the regulated activities of his company "contamination and sediment flows in the rivers" will be reduced.

In a study of Dra. Nelia C. Maramba and Cristina S. Dablo of the University of the Philippines-Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology which was released in 1997, Pantukan was among the areas with high mercury level.

The study pointed out that because of the small scale mining activities in the area, which used mercury amalgamation as a way to extract gold, has exposed the people in the area to the danger of the process. Gillespie said his company will spend about $30 million in eventually closing down the mining area after 22 years of developing it. The budget is about 1.5% of the total budget of $2 billion in developing the mining project.

He also assured small scale miners that the company will not abandon them as he assured that the "development provides them with something better." He said the company will train small scale miners who will choose to work for the project, while those who have been having businesses in the area will have the opportunity to provide services to the project.

In response, the indigenous group in the area, the Mansaka Tribal Council, through leader Melindo Lee, said the group will continue to cooperate with the company for as long as their interests are protected.

However, progressive organizations have been protesting against the presence of the company in the area.

Aside from the protest actions, what has threatened the project is the internal squabble between warring factions within its partner company, the Nationwide Development Corp., although the group of Conrado T. Calalang, company president, was declared by the Court of Appeals as the legitimate majority group of the company. However, the opponent of Calalang, Jose G. Ricafort, has elevated the legal battle before the Supreme Court.

Story 4 - 3-5-2014 - Firm to rehabilitate river in mining area, report says - Mindanao Times (clippings)

SOURCE: Mindanao Times