Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Expert cautions against economic use of Larap mine pit

The abandoned mining pit during the earlier days of operations when it was still shallow. The mining pit had gone deeper during the mine’s waning days in mid-1970. – Picture grab from “Taga-Larap Ako” Facebook account

The present-day mining pit after morphing into a wide lagoon. Over the last 40 years after it was abandoned by miner PIM, water has accumulated until it became a 13ha-wide stagnant body of water as it is now. – Photo courtesy of ellon5

THE massive mine pit that was abandoned by the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM) in mid-70s has been generating keen interests of late among former residents of Larap, the community that hosted the former mining camp.

Many of Larap’s former residents, who are either overseas or elsewhere in the Philippines these days, have brought up the idea of using for livelihood projects the “artificial lake/pond” that has emerged from the deep mine pit.

Even the LaPIMa has proposed to initiate a fish-cage project as one of its livelihood schemes for the residents of Larap. 

LaPIMa is short for Larap PIM Association, which has more than 800 members overseas and elsewhere in the Philippines.

Among such projects suggested were cages where tilapia and other fish species and crabs could be grown as source of livelihood for the local people.

They suggested the potential economic use of the pit’s waters on Facebook account “Taga-Larap Ako”, which serves as their online chat venue.

However, Geological Engineer Benjamin Sucgang, one of the chat members, has cautioned the community on the possible dangers that could arise from such projects.

The artificial pond, which developed over a period of more than 40 years since it was abandoned in mid-70s, is about 13ha wide and about 500m deep.

Sucgang said that the mine pit body of water could contain a high concentration of iron and other minerals, which may not be ideal for human use as it may give off foul odor and cause skin diseases.

“Not even for our laundry,” he said, adding that “the white fabric could turn to brown after few days due to the high concentration of metals in the water”.

One reason of the high metal concentration is that the water has remained stagnant, as there are no natural water tributaries from the surrounding areas feeding running water onto it.

The water has accumulated from rains and water seepages from underground and from the Bay of Larap, which is just some 500m away.

More than half of the pit lies below sea level, and therefore seawater may have found its way into the pit.

Sucgang said that there had been attempts to breed tilapia in the past but it seemed the project was abandoned.

He said one reason could be that the water may contain a high concentration of iron and other elements that had affected the eating quality of the fish, making it unfit for human consumption.

MWBuzz has asked Sucgang for his expert opinion on the issue.

In email sent to MWBuzz responding to its query, Sucgang said.

“As to the state of its water, it would be best if we could get a technical data as to its actual water quality (latest one) such as “ph” and the thriving dissolved minerals as present admixtures to the water. 

PH refers to a measure on a scale from 0 to 14 of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, in this case the stagnant water in the mine pit.

“A water quality audit is the best analysis needed to be done on this, but this will require time and finances to do such work and attain the needed information we wanted,” Sucgang said. 

But one thing sure, he said, is that there could be lots of tilapia in the pond these days since the first time it was seeded with fingerlings during the 80s.

The seeding project was done by the Bureau of fish and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which attempted to find out the feasibility of growing tilapia for commercial purposes.

However, it was abandoned for unknown reasons, Sucgang said.

n  - AP Hernandez

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