Agata Opens New Mining Season with Riverside and Coastal Clean-up
Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte Province / April 2019 – Armed with broomsticks, garbage bags, and tools, Agata personnel rose early on a February morning to conduct a massive clean-up activity for one of Agusan del Norte’s major tributaries. The day’s activity should not have been so different from that of Agata’s coastal areas and its adopted Kalinawan River – both of which the company has kept in pristine condition over the years and recently cleaned a few days ahead.
On that particular day, however – and what sets the activity apart – is that Agata rose to clean Cabadbaran River, which traverses the neighboring town outside its Mineral Processing Sharing Agreement (MPSA) area. Clearly, in line with its holistic ridge-to-reef approach to environmental protection, the company goes beyond business and beyond what the law requires over its impact area.
This act of volunteerism is also the company’s active response to a call for support from the local Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) and the region’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office for their RIVERS for Life Program.
The synchronized activity mobilized over 500 people, including volunteers from schools, the Catholic Women’s League, peoples’ organizations, cooperatives, government agencies, the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection and the Philippine Army’s 29th Infantry Brigade, among others who cleaned the critical 3.5-kilometer stretch of Cabadbaran River leading to the coastline.
The scenic Cabadbaran River, which is located outside the Agata MPSA, is the main water body of the town’s watershed. It was rated “Class A” by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) some 20 years ago and is a vital watershed that supplies the domestic needs as well as irrigation and industrial needs of the city and some neighboring municipalities.
However, recent water quality test results show a high presence of fecal coliform and failed the standard limit set by the DENR. These alarming results are also supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and which led the Environment agency to request for support in cleaning the river.
The situation called for an immediate clean-up and long-term measures to ensure the sustainability of Cabadbaran’s growing population of over 70,000 residents.
During the clean-up activity, more than 15 tons or approximately 300 sacks of garbage were collected. Most of the garbage consisted of domestic wastes: plastics, cellophane, water bottles, diapers, used clothing, junk appliances, old fishnets and biological waste that were found along the riverbanks and coastal areas.
As part of the long-term solution, barangay Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities on Ecological Solid Waste Management (Republic Act 9003) were also conducted to inform residents and to prevent the further degradation of Cabadbaran River.
A clean backyard
Prior to opening its mining season last February, Agata personnel and its contractors cleaned the Tubay coastline and Kalinawan riverbank, clearing the debris from recent typhoons and the long rainy season. The clearing of Agata’s riverside and coastal areas also imparted the act of cleaning and the proper mindset among residents to maintain sanitation and proper waste segregation in their respective areas.
Since bringing operations on-stream in 2014, statistics show a steady and significant year-on-year reduction of garbage collected in riverbanks and coastline within Agata’s MPSA. Periodic water sampling activities also consistently show cleaner results despite ongoing mining operations.
The company likewise recycles waste materials into organic fertilizers, which it imparts in the Agata-supported Mabakas Farm School where students undergo TESDA-accredited organic farming courses. Other residual and non-biodegradable wastes are also being utilized for landscaping, silt curtain floaters, and other upcycling purposes.
During the last Multi-partite Monitoring Inspection, Agata was declared to have zero (0) negative findings, landing it a commendation from the Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committee headed by the regional MGB.