Environmental & Health Impacts of Mining on Surrounding Communities
Background of the Study INTRODUCTION To achieve rapid economic development, many countries resort to various activities to use and take advantage of natural resources. One of such activities is mining. Thus, mining became an important activity which has potential for the contribution of development of areas enriched with resources.
or any similar topic only for you
Having visited Surigao Del Norte once a month starting February until August of this year, I was deeply frustrated by the negative impact of mining in the province. I saw how communities affected by mining.
I heard how indigenous people had been shifted off their lands to make way for mining and how their consultation rights had been ignored. I saw polluted rivers, destroyed mangrove forests, damaged coral and ruined agriculture. I concluded that Surigao del Norte is in danger of losing much of its rich biodiversity and damaging the lives of unique indigenous cultures. Surigao Del Norte is a province of the Philippines located in Caraga Region in Mindanao. It has a population of almost 450,000 lines between the different groups which cannot be accurately distinguished.
It has an area of 2,740 square kilometers. It embraces within its domain 27 municipalities and a component city. Mangrove is the major theme in the coastal areas of the province. It has also many caves and tunnels in its islands. The ironwood forests of the province are one of the watersheds most productive resources. By its nature, it is growing and adapted to a mineralized soil. So it should be carefully managed for sustained productivity. Its biggest islands are usually mountainous and rich in minerals. Its islands have one of the world’s largest deposit of nickel and chromite.
The smaller ones either rest on sand and gravel or have a limestone base bonded by boulders ( large rounded mass of rock lying on the surface of the ground or embedded in the soil ), reefs, and sandbars. There are also springs, lagoons, caves, waterfalls, mangroves, marshes and whirlpools which made the province more appealing to all nature lovers. Surigao is home to the “Mamanwa” ethnic tribe. The Department of Labor and Employment – Caraga Region released an official list of mining companies in Caraga for 2012 Inspection.
There are 35 mining companies declared in the list that continuously operate in the whole region. And there are other non registered mining companies that are not included in the list that are pursuing mining operations. Mining activities have lots of environmental and health impacts. This has derived from the methods of operation by the mining companies, of course it has effects on the natural environment as well as the people in the surrounding communities. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Surigao del Norte has a variety of mineral resources and corrispondingly there’s large-scale mining companies invested more and expanded their operations in the province. Nickel production in the province is dominated by these large mining companies that are operating in different communities in Surigao del Norte. The three giant and controversial mining companies located in the province are Tag-anito High Pressure Acid Leaching (THPAL-Sumitomo), Tag-anito Mining Corporation (TMC), and the Platinum Gold Metal Corporation (PGMC).
The giant Tag-anito Mining Corporation (TMC) is one of three mining companies of the Nickel Asia Corporation in Surigao del Norte owned by Manny Zamora, located at Brgy. Taganito,Claver. The TMC has ravaged the area for many years and has immensely destroyed the environment of the province. It has ruined both fresh water and marine sources, devastated mountains, violated the rights of the indigenous people and workers. The Platinum Gold Metal Corporation (PGMC) is mining nickel ore for foreign buyers with a permit to operate under the name of Mr. Atayde, but is currently operated by one Mrs.
Tata Dasmarinas Marahomsar. Millions of tons of nickel ore have already been plundered and shipped to imperialist countries, which has resulted in the total effacement of forest and mountains within its concession, as well as the destruction of rivers and seas. Almost all workers in this company are under contract-basis. This gigantic Tag-anito High Pressure Acid Leaching Plant (THPAL), which processes nickel, is principally owned by the Japanese imperialist Sumitomo Mining Corporation, which is in partnership or connaivance with the Nickel Asia Corporation owned by Manny Zamora.
Its operation uses massive quantities of sulfuric acid that is highly toxic to both humans and environment. It is also a coal-fired plant that exhausts out tons upon tons of highly toxic fumes into the atmosphere. The said plant also only processes millions of tons of low-grade nickel ore coming from different mines from the four provinces of Caraga, as they prefer to export high grade nickel ore to foreign countries. At the rate they are currently mining both low and high grade nickel ore, in the net few decades, the environment in the province will be completely destroyed.
The method of extraction that is mostly used by these mining companies is open-pit. It is a kind of surface mining that the mining companies choose to get rocks and minerals out of the ground because it is easiest and cheapest way. The top of the layers of the land are removed. After that, layer after layer is taken away until the rock or mineral is visible. This is taken out and processed. Taking away layer after layer of land creates a gigantic, open hole or pit that keeps getting deeper and deeper until there is nothing left to bring out.
Heavy machines are used for this purpose. The use of heavy machines and chemicals underground do not only cause instability within the earth crust but also underground water which serves as source of water to various waterbodies in the area are affected by infiltration of toxic materials. Also, explosives like dynamites are used to blast the large rocks out of the earth. The loud noise and the vibrations from the blasts have affected people within the surrounding communities. There is also spillage of poisonous chemicals used in the process in drainage to nearby streams.
This causes aquatic life loss, as these chemicals are highly toxic. It also seeps down into the soil causing plant roots to die. The combination of inadequate protection measures and natural hazards can be and has been calamitous. The province’s record of mining incidents is evident of this. Last January 2011, Surigao del Norte was under state of calamity as several towns were hit by floodwaters . Numerous houses were totally and partially damaged, and the floods killed number of people. Families from barangays provincewide were affected.
Last October 2011 more than 200 heavily armed New People’s Army rebels attacked three mining companies in Surigao del Norte, burning heay equipment, disarming guards and briefly holding several people in their attack. This conflict between the rebels and the mining companies had made the local people alarmed and troubled. These incidents are proof how mining brought distruction on the livelihoods, health and even the human rights of indigenous people and other local communities of Surigao del Norte.
These environmental, health, and social effects of mining activities have been attracting attention, thus, need to be addressed. Although, the mining company is believed to have made steps to improve health conditions of residents within the surrounding communities, however, the extent to which these efforts are reducing the negative environmental and health impacts is yet to be established. For instance, the three mentioned large mining companies in the province said that their top priority is local employment in the communities they operate.
Also they claim that they are engaged in environmentally responsible practices in their mining operations, complied with local and national guidelines and programs on the preservation and restoration of the environment. But it is clear in the incidents happened in the province that their missions/vissions to care for the environment and community are not met. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY In line with the problems outlined above, the aim of this research is to answer the following concerns: a. What are the effects of the method(s) used in mining on the environment? b. What are the health effects of mining on the people living in Surigao del Norte? . What measures have been put by the government and other organizations to reduce the negative effects (environmental & health) of mining activities on the people of Surigao del Norte? Accordingly, the main objective of the study was to ascertain the environmental and health impacts of Surigao del Norte on the surrounding communities. The specific objectives were to: 1. 3. 1 Determine the methods of mining operations and their effects on the environment and health of the people. 1. 3. 2 Determine and examine the measures of the mentioned mining companies (TMC, PDMC,THPAL) in ensuring the safety of residents in the surrounding communities. . 3. 3 Assess the role of the Chamber of Mines Caraga Region, inc. , Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), Local Government Units (LGU), and Non government organizations (NGO’s). 1. 4 HYPOTHESES 1. 4. 1 Appreciation of mining effects on the environment by residents is related to their number of years of stay in the communities. 1. 4. 2 Knowledge of mining effects on health is positively related to years of schooling (education). 1. 4. 3 The infections/diseases among residents are related to mining activities. 1. 6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The data collected included background data on respondents, awareness, perception and effects of mining within the surrounding communities. Also data on the methods of the mentioned mining companies were collected, as well as data on the effects of their operations. Also data interventional measures of the organizations involved were collected. 1. 7 Sources of Data and Methods of Data Collection Data for this study were from primary and secondary sources. Primary data included administering of questionnaires in the field to residents of surrounding communities of the mining companies and some mine workers.
There were also interviews with staff and officials of the mentioned mining companies (TMC,PDMC,THPAL) as well as officials of government agencies such as LGU and DENR for relevant information. Moreover, there were field observations to the mine sites and other areas to determine the effects of mining operations on the environment. Secondary data were gathered from books, relevant articles from journals and reports of researches conducted on the effects of mining operations on the surrounding communities. There were data also obtained from library of Far Eastern University – Makati, internet and other sources. SAMPLING DESIGN 5 people were randomly selected for the execution of a detailed questionnaire. The justification of the sample size lies in the fact that the time and resources available were not enough to cover the entire area with its whole population. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK Provision of Health Facilities Land Degradation The conceptual framework shows the impact of mining on the environment and the health of people. Mining method used by mining companies in surigao is open-pit ( surface mining). The method used have environmental and health impacts.
Opininon of Respondents on Effects of Mining on the Environment Years of Staying in town Do Methods affect the environment? Yes No Total 1-4 years 3 3 5-8 years 2 2 9-12 years 13-16 years 2 2 17-20 years 3 3 21-24 years 2 2 25-28 years 5 5 29-32 years 1 1 33-36 years 1 1 37-40 years 6 6 41+ years Total 25 25 It is evident from the table that those who have stayed longer period within the mining area gave a large percent attestation that mining methods affect the environment. The analysis confirms that the years of staying in town affect respondent’s knowledge on mining effects on the environment.
Therefore , the first hypothesis is validated. Table 2. Respondents’ responses to environmental effects of mining on the locality Effects of Mining Frequency Percentage Land Degradation 17 32. 08 Air Pollution 12 22. 64 Water Pollution 15 28. 3 Noise Pollution 9 16. 98 Total 53 100 NB: The total frequency is exceeding 25 because there were lot of respondents noted more than one form of effect. The highest percentage of the respondents noted that contributes environmental problem is land degradation followed by water pollution , air pollution , then noise pollution.
The pollution are associated with mining activities in their respective communities. Table 3. Respondents’ views on relationship between mining and health by education Years of education Are diseases related to mining? Yes No Total None (illiterate) 3 3 6 7-9 yrs ( basic) 4 4 10-15yrs ( secondary) 4 3 7 16-18 yrs ( tertiary) 8 8 Total 19 6 25 Approximately 76% of the respondents asserted that the diseases endemic in their communities were as a result of the mining activities , while 24% disproving this claim.
The analysis also shows that the years of schooling of respondents (education) affected the views of respondents on relationship of diseases endemic in the area of mining activities. For those with higher years of schooling (10-18 yrs. ) asserted that mining activities had caused diseases endemic in the area. The second hypothesis that knowledge of mining effects on health is positively related to education levels of respondents is therefore validated. Table 4. Diseases frequently contracted by respondents Diseases Frequency Percentage Malaria 2 8 Diarrhea 11 44 Skin Diseases 4 16 Fever 5 20 Cough and colds 3 12 Total 5 100 Most of the respondents complained of incidence of diarrhea from mining activities. Then some noted infections of fever, skin diseases, cough and colds ,then malaria. Health effects associated with the mining activities are noteworthy. The research revealed that there is high prevalent rate of diseases such as diarrhea and other infections among residents which were direct and indirect effects of mining activities. Summary of Research and Findings The research examined the mining methods of the three mining companies (TMC,PGMC, THPAL) and their environmental and health effects on the surrounding communities.
Moreover, measures being put in place by the mining companies to moderate the environmental, health and other socio-economic effects of their activities on the people of Surigao del Norte. Also the roles of some public sector mining industry support organizations were also examined. The three big mining companies that are currently operating in the province of Surigao del Norte, on their part, have realized the effects of their activities on the people living in the communities and have sought to institute measures to reduce and moderate the environmental, health, and other effects on the people.
Measures that have been undertaken which include reforestation, resettlement and compensation to affected communities, and providing alternative sources of drinking water to communities whose water resources have been contaminated with toxic chemicals. On health, the mining companies have built clinics and health posts within the communities for the benefit of both workers and people within the communities.
With the view to ensuring better conditions for residents within the mining area, some public sector mining industry support organizations such as Chamber of Mines of Caraga Region, also government agencies like Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) and Local Government Units contributed their contributed efforts of restoration. The Department of Environmental and Natural Resources whose primary duty is to ensure that mining companies undertake their operations in conformity with the laws, is responsible for the monitoring of mining activities from time to time.
The Local Government Units, as a government agency responsible for taxing and imposing charges for mining companies that are operating in communities of the province , ensures that the just amounts were collected from these mining companies. Also LGU implemented and supervised social support programmes in mining areas. The Chamber of Mines in Caraga Region (CNC), the peak mineral industry association not only in Surigao del Norte but in the whole Caraga Region, represents the collective interest of companies involved in mineral exploration, production, and processing in the province.
The chamber has not only functioned to promote and protect the interest and image of the mining industry but has also committed itself to addressing mining related environmental and socio-economic problems. This is evident in the Chamber’s commitment in initiating alternative livelihood programmes and executing its corporate social responsibility in host communities of mining activities. CNC initiated inland rehabilitation and reforestation in the Surigao del Norte province. It initiated and committed about 5 hectares of mined-portion for rehabilitation and reforestation.
The activity involved re-contouring of the area, backfilling of the topsoil, preparation of site, and planting of endemic and exotic tree species. Despite of the efforts by these organizations in ensuring that mining activities are carried out on sustainable basis without serious problems to the environment and the host communities, the public is yet to feel the impact of their activities. A critical assessment of their activities therefore shows that there is more to be achieved than what has been accomplished so far as far as environmental and health problems in the mining industry are concerned.
Conclusion In as much as we acknowledge the economic benefits of mining activities in Surigao del Norte, there is the need also to recognize the environmental and health hazards that come with it in order to find ways of dealing with them. It must be recommended that further researches are conducted into the assessment of intervention measures adopted andimplemented by mining companies and stakeholder organizations in reducing and moderating the economic, social,environmental and health impacts of mining activities on the people in the surrounding communities.
There should be funding from the government and other institutions for researches conducted, with a move to educate the general public on the need to provide information needed for researches since they will ultimately lead to the development of the country. There is the need for an effective collaboration and coordination among governmental agencies and others so that they can perform their roles effectively in dealing with the environmental and health problems associated with mining activities within the affected communities.