On August 2009, a mission led by the Philippines-based Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW) and the Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD) at the University of Kent traveled to Barangay Sumbiling, Municipality of Bataraza, Province of Palawan (Philippines).
Geo-referenced audio-visual and photographic documentation was carried out in the Bulanjao range whose vegetation consists of a very unique type of forest growing on ultramafic /heavy-metal rich soils. The area is home to at least four plant species that are classified as vulnerable and two of them have already been included in the IUCN Red List.
In spite of its unique ecological features, the Bulanjao range has been subjected to mineral exploration and development by the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC). RTNMC is a Filipino-Japanese partnership holding a mining concession area of about 5,265 hectares.
RTNMC and its partner, Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC), need to mine nickel ores as part of the expansion of their new Hydrometallurgical Processing Plant (HPP) project. However, one the conditions specified in the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued to them in 2002, is that “core zones” - as identified by the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan (Republic Act Republic Act 7611) should not be included in the areas of mining operations and, this, of course includes the Bulanjao range.
Starting at an elevation of about 40m ASL, the ALDAW/CBCD mission followed the mining road to reach the highest portions of the Bulanjao range. Geo-tagging evidence indicates that erosion on the Bulanjao mining road is occurring also at low elevations. During the rainy season the water creates deep clefts on the roadsides, hence penetrating the soil and fostering road collapse. No mitigating measures have been put into place to reduce erosion. A huge crater-like excavation has been found at 566m ASL. and land slides, induced by road construction, have been documented around the sources of the Sumbiling river, at almost 900m ASL. The latter is the most important water source for both lowland farmers and indigenous communities.
Marylin Samparan, a local IP living in the area told the mission: “time will come when our children will no longer recognize the names of trees, the footprints of animals, the birds’ songs. This will be the time when the forest will be gone, the mining companies will be gone, the rivers will no longer flow…and us? We will still be here”.
On 15 August 2009, the mission established that mining road had already reached an altitude of 859m ASL – and its exact location was defined through the following GPS coordinates (+ 8.59322548 N Latitude and + 117.36516571 E Longitude).
Mission’s findings have now been compiled into a geo-tagged report, which is being used by local indigenous communities to support their legal struggle against mining in Bulanjao.
Source: The ALDAW NETWORK
The ALDAW NETWORK (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) is an advocacy-campaign network of Indigenous Peoples jointly constituted by NATRIPAL (United Tribes of Palawan) and BANGSA PALAWAN PHILIPPINES (Indigenous Alliance for Equity and Wellbeing) on August 2009.