MOGPOG, Marinduque—Mayor Augusto Leo M. Livelo is determined to turn an abandoned copper mine in this town into an ecotourism spot.
With the town’s limited resources, however, Livelo said he is banking on national government help and support, first by making the Consolidated Mines Inc. (CMI)—the operator of the abandoned copper mine in the coastal barangays of Ino and Capayang—pay for its “environmental crime”.
The mayor said with the damage it caused to the environment, CMI should be held liable and made to pay for the rehabilitation of the mine and the lost economic opportunities more than 30 years ago.
CMI has a pending application to renew its mining contract over 2,000 hectares of land in the area, which Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez is not keen on approving.
Lopez visited the abandoned site for an interaction with the local officials of Mogpog and the affected communities on Monday.
She said even after the mining company had stopped operation, people in the area continue to suffer because of the environmental damage the mining company’s operation caused.
Livelo said mining is no longer an option in Mogpog, with people stiffly opposing mining—or any investment that will wreak havoc to their fragile environment.
“We say no to mining. Maybe we can convert this mine into an ecotourism zone to help generate jobs and livelihood for the people,” he said in Tagalog.
The mayor said he plans to turn the abandoned mine into an ecopark.
The open pit where CMI extracted copper ore during its five-year operation is now an inland water body, much like a man-made lake, where tilapia and other fish species thrive.
Upon rehabilitation, the area can be a tourist attraction, he said. Activities in the ecopark include a walk around the lake, boating or fishing.
During migration season, migratory birds—particularly wild ducks—“visit” the area to feed.
“There are tilapia and other fish there now,” he said.
Livelo said he is also banking on the support of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief to help former private landowners to repossess their property bought by the company before it started operation.
The next step, he said, is to seek compensation from CMI, for the adverse impact its copper mine had on the livelihood of farmers and fishermen who were displaced by its operations.
Livelo said Lopez had promised him help and support, including a project that will help uplift the lives of the people in the two barangays.
For decades, he said farmers who were displaced by mining operation experienced economic hardship.
Fishing in the area also became unproductive because the company dumped its ore stockpile over mangrove areas, destroying marine and coastal ecosystems that led to the scarcity of fish and other marine life.
Lopez vowed to help by tapping residents in the reforestation and rehabilitation of the abandoned mine.
“We are going to provide them livelihood. We need to do reforestation here,” she told the
Lopez said the rehabilitation of the abandoned mine is important to restore ecological balance in the area.
The dumping of copper ores literally buried portions of a mangrove forest along the coastal barangays, she said, preventing fish and other aquatic life to flourish.
While some residents said fishing activities are “back to normal”, they will demand justice for what CMI did to their community.
Nonita Mangui, 68, a resident of Barangay Ino, said they experienced economic hardship and loss of job and livelihood when CMI started operation.
Since the mine was closed in the 1980s, long before the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 became a law, there was no fund for its final mine closure and rehabilitation. The law specifically requires mining companies to deposit a certain amount of money to a trust fund for mine closure and rehabilitation activities.
The law also mandates mining companies to spend 1.5 percent of their operating cost for various development programs to benefit its host communities through the Social Development Management Program (SDMP).
Image credits: Jonathan L. Mayuga