Likely collapse of LCMC tailings dam walls spooks Benguet folks

By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
NORTHERN DISPATCH

BANGUED, Abra – Residents of Mankayan, Benguet who attended the Benguet, Abra, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur (BAMPIS) Mining Summit held here expressed fears that the plan of Goldfields Far South East to build additional walls to the tailings dam 5A mean there are more mine tailings to expect on its full operation.

Marcelo Gomgom-o, former miner in Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) and a resident of the said town, asked during the summit if the activities in the tailings dam specifically of Goldfields’ wall tests are safe. Gomgom-o and the residents had reportedly observed from above the wall of the tailings dam the testing activities being conducted there.

Albert Diego, a resident of Colalo, Mankayan, added that the the present tailings dam cannot handle the mine wastes that would be generated once Goldfields starts full operation — the said dam, he said, has already reached its full capacity and as such, it cannot contain any more waste. But instead of building another dam, Goldfields, a partner of LCMC, is just adding walls to the existing tailings dam.

Diego recalled that in 1999, the construction of tailings Dam 5A and the irresponsible mining of LCMC had combined to cause an elementary school in their village to sink. But to their dismay, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) absolved the mine company and said it is not to blame because the subsidence is not just caused by mining but also by natural causes.

He added that the area is already considered a danger zone, and that the MGB itself had declared that. As such, he told the people gathered at the summit that he cannot think of any good reason why the company should worsen the hazard by adding more stress on the dam walls. Goldfields’ mining activity, he stressed, will never be safe for the communities affected.

Vicente Dilem, a miner of LCMC for 18 years, said that he had witnessed the greediness for profit of this mine firm. Dilem was one of the miners who worked in the subsidence area in Colalo. He said that in the sunk area, there were unfilled tunnels abandoned by the company after its mining activities there. At the time, the demand for copper was high and the firm had used high technology loaders in levels 1100 to 1150 to extract the high grade copper in the Victoria 1 project.

The sinking was apparently not only due to natural causes, he said.

Windel Bolinget, chairman of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), told the delegates of the summit that when the additional wall of the tailings dam pushes through, there is a big possibility that it would collapse due to the built-up pressure from the tailings being dumped.

“Considering the planned height of the dam, if it collapses at night, communities from Colalo down to Quirino, Ilocos Sur would be buried, Windel warned. He explained that in years of LCMC’s operation, four of its old tailings ponds had collapsed, bringing pollution and siltation to the Abra River and to rice fields along river banks. He urged the communities especially in Mankayan to “be vigilant because Goldfields is doing everything, even resorting to bribery, in order to operate”. Reposted by ()

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