Research Brief: Mining and Water Governance
By: Ateneo Institute of Anthropology (AIA)
Ateneo de Davao University
In 2012, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources turned down the Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) application filed by Sagittarius Mines Inc., the local contractor for the Tampakan Copper-Gold Mining Project. DENR cited as its basis a South Cotabato ordinance that banned the use of open pit mining, a move that triggered a debate on its constitutionality. Critics questioned the ordinance as running counter to Republic Act 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995), which does not prohibit the use of open-pit mining. The provincial government, on the other hand, asserted that imposing the ban is within the powers granted to local government units under Republic Act 7160 (The Local Government Code). As the legal debates ensued, the more crucial environmental issues, such as the effects of mining on water, were unfortunately swept aside.
Water is a critical issue among the people of South Cotabato. Many fear that the open pit mining will endanger important catchments that happen to fall within the final mining area. These catchments are known tributaries of rivers that flow into irrigation systems being used for agriculture by local communities. These issues, which people deem more significant in their lives, were unfortunately left out in the discourse. It was in this context that this study, which sought to probe more deeply into the nexus of mining and water, was undertaken.
As early as 2007, researchers who did the case study in Tampakan for the Mining in Mindanao: A Stakeholders’ Analysis already pointed out the urgency to address people’s concerns on water. The study, which was commissioned by the three Jesuit Universities in Mindanao, noted the prevailing fears and apprehensions among stakeholders over possible adverse effects of the mining project on their water resources. Among questions raised by stakeholders were “how mining might pollute their drinking water and rivers, cause skin diseases, reduce the water supply in the event that the mining operations would require large volumes of water.”
(Photos by Vinci Bueza)