Environment Secretary Gina Lopez scolded an official of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) after an aerial inspection of an open pit of a copper mine in San Marcelino, Zambales, Steve Dailisan reported on "24 Oras" Tuesday.
Lopez saw the rust-colored water at an abandoned open pit and reprimanded MGB Regional Director Jun Cariño.
"Why did you allowed them to take the stock pile out?" Lopez asked.
Cariño was about to explain his side but Lopez interrupted him.
"Actually what? I already said they cannot take away the stock pile unless they pay P2 million for every farm land that has been devasted out of the rehab area. Now, you tell me is this a good idea or is this a good idea?" Lopez said.
"So you should follow what I say... If you can't do your job well just let me know. You can do other things like plant camote or something," she added.
Cariño said he would correct the mistakes noticed by the Environment chief.
Lopez was further aghast upon seeing the open pit up close, which was abandoned by Benguet Mining Corp. in 1997 when copper prices went down.
"'Yung acid pumupunta na sa acquifer. Kawawa ang komunidad diyan," Lopez said.
Barangay officials present during the inspection told Lopez how the open pit has affected their community.
"Ang epekto po sa lowland area iyong tinataniman unti-unting natatabuna. Iyong waste material po galing dito tumatabon... kawawa po mga residents," Arnel Bueno, chairman of Brgy, Buhawen, San Marcelino, Zambales, said.
Based on the DENR's study, the ph level of water in the open pit is at scale 2 - below the neutral level 7, which is safe for drinking. The level of acidity is enough to melt a boat propeller.
A soil dam is the only structure that prevents the acidic open pit water from spilling to a lake on the other side.
Lopez said that the DENR is studying how they can strengthen the soil dam - the structure that prevents the acidic open water from spilling to a nearby law - to avoid possible disaster.
For its part, Benguet Mining Corp. clarified that it has transferred its operating rights and turned over all responsibilities in the projects to Dizon Copper-Silver Mines Inc. under a deed of assignment and memorandum of agreement executed on December 12, 1997
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