3,000 Zambales mine workers fear loss of jobs

Randy Datu

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Government experts found that the operations of 4 mining firms were causing nickel siltation in rivers, farmlands, fishponds, and the sea in Sta Cruz town

PROTEST. Members of Mine Workers, Families, and Community CMWFC stage a protest rally to get support from local officials to lift the suspension order that the DENR issued against the 4 mining companies in Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Photo from Randy Datu

ZAMBALES, Philippines – Mining workers in Sta Cruz, Zambales, said they are starting to feel the impact of the recent closure of 4 nickel ore mining companies that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Central Luzon suspended.

On Monday, August 18, this led them to stage a protest rally to denounce the decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The newly-formed coalition of Mine Workers, Families, and Community (CMWFC) has vowed that it won’t stop calling officials of the DENR to lift the suspension order it issued on July 14 against the mining companies.

On July 14, the MGB in Region 3 suspended Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation (ZDBC), Benguet Corporation Nickel Mines Incorporated (MNMI), ERAMEN Minerals Incorporated, and LNL Archipelago Minerals Incorporated (LAMI), citing violations in mining policies.

The suspension orders were issued after a team composed of different government agencies came to the town to assess claims of locals that the mining was causing nickel siltation in rivers, farmlands, fishponds and the sea, according to the MGB.

On July 15, MGB Region 3 Director Danilo Uykieng issued suspension orders prohibiting the companies from extracting nickel ore and expanding their mine areas.

Orlan Mayor, spokesperson for the coalition of mine workers said that with the suspension order the jobs of about 3,000 mining workers are at stake.

Threats of more protests

“There will be no letup in the protest against the unreasonable closure of the 4 mining sites here that led to thousands of job losses,” Mayor said in a statement.

A number of mine workers trooped to the municipal hall of Sta Cruz town and the provincial capitol of Zambales on Monday to gather support from their local leaders. They were accompanied by their families, scholars, farmers, and sectors whom the beleaguered companies had supposedly helped at the height of their mining operations. 

Mayor said that apart from the job losses, the scholarships of these students, and other social development programs outlined by the companies and the communities are in danger of being pulled out if the DENR does not lift soon the suspension orders on the mining companies.

With the operations of the firms suspended since last month, around 3,000 families who rely on mining jobs to make ends meet were left without options, Mayor added.

“Our provincial and the local government officials are responsible for the welfare of the citizens of Zambales, hence we appeal that they should not simply sit and watch while we lose our jobs and our families starve,” Mayor said.

The CMWFC urged both the town council of Sta Cruz and the provincial board of Zambales to issue separate resolutions of support on their plight, asking DENR to lift the suspension and cease-and-desist orders and allow workers to go back to the mine sites.

Last Saturday, officials in at least 8 villages in Sta Cruz threw their support behind the mine workers during the workers’ caravan. Apart from this, they have the support of local businessmen who also feel the brunt of the sudden suspension of mining operations. 

‘Respect DENR decision’

Dr Benito Molino, chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz, Zambales, has urged the mine workers to “respect and honor” the DENR’s decision. 

Molino said the evidence is clear that the 4 mining companies have caused environmental destruction in their town.

The suspension orders will only be lifted if the companies implement the “proper mining method” and if the materials in the active mining areas are removed, cleaned and placed in designated stockpile areas with proper drainage system.

The companies were also ordered to implement a maintenance plan while the suspension has not yet been lifted.

MGB Region 3 also formed a team to investigate and assess claims of locals for compensation for damages to their farmlands and fishponds. – with a report from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com

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