The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Save Mankayan Movement (SMM) support the call of the people of Suyoc, Mankayan, Benguet calling for the closure of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC).

In a petition, the indigenous peoples of Suyoc claim that underground activities of LCMC resulted to damage to residential and agricultural areas in Sitio Pacda and Mayangyang. The petition clearly pointed out also that LCMC continues to operate the Pacda tunnel despite the expiration of its license to mine the area under a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement which expired on March 15, 2011.

This is not the first time that a Mankayan community, including those downstream such as Cervantes and Quirino, Ilocos Sur called for the closure of LCMC and a stop to its Far Southeast Gold Resources Project. In August 2015, the SMM and Mankayan Indigenous Peoples filed their opposition at the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples and in the House of Representatives against the said project. From 2012 to the present, the people of Madaymen, Tabio, Mankayan continue to barricade the entry of Far Southeast Gold Resources. This similar action was also set up in Tabbac, Bulalacao, Mankayan to deny the entry of the same project.

The bases for the call to close and to stop its expansion by the people of Mankayan and its nearby municipalities of Cervantes and Quirino are compelling reasons. Upon its operations in 1936, the company dumped mine tailings and waste straight into the Abra River. It was only in the 1960’s that the first tailings dam was built. The dam was abandoned after less than 10 years and the land became unsuitable for agriculture. Tailings dam 2 was constructed in the 1970s. Its collapse caused the contamination of nearby ricefields. Tailings Dam 3 and a diversion tunnel gave way in 1986 during a strong typhoon. Another spillway collapsed after a typhoon in 1993. The spilled tailings encroached on riverbanks and destroyed ricefields downstream. They also caused the riverbed to rise and the polluted water to backflow into other tributaries of the Abra River. [1]

In addition, an Environmental Investigative Mission (EIM) was conducted in September 2002 by the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM) and indicated that heavy metal content (lead, cadmium and copper) was elevated in the soil and waters downstream from the Lepanto mine. The downstream impact of tailings disposal is that along a 25-kilometer stretch of the Abra River, some 465 hectares of riceland have been washed out.[2] And in July 1999, Pablo Gomez, a villager in Mankayan, Benguet was killed when he was suddenly swept away in a landslide along with the Colalo Primary School building. In 2009 and 2013, Poblacion, Mankayan experienced sinking and ground subsidence.

The people have spoken. Listen to the people of Mankayan. The decades of destruction to their lands and pollution of the Abra River by Lepanto is enough. ***

[1] Save the Abra River Movement (STARM). What is Happening to the Abra River? A Primer on the Effects of Corporate Mining on the Abra River System. September 2003.