The ongoing nickel mining operations in Mt. Hamiguitan Range, a UNESCO Heritage site,  drew mixed reactions from the stakeholders in Davao Oriental. For some, the mineral extraction project could help alleviate the surrounding communities from poverty through employment in the mining firm, revenues for the communities, educational benefits and infrastructure development.

Even as the mining operations are outside of the declared protected area, some stakeholders remain wary of its long term impact in the entire biodiversity of the mountain because it sits within the key biodiversity area (KBA) of the Eastern Mindanao Bio Corridor.

Key Biodiversity Area map ( DENR-11)

Key Biodiversity Area map ( DENR-11)

For Philippine Eagle Foundation, regardless of the extent of deforestation as a result of mining, it would still mean loss of carbon sink, loss of food source among wildlife, loss of habitat and poses risk to Philippine Eagle territory given the importance of Mount Hamiguitan.

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While the mining tenements were approved in 2004, late Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon had been consistent on her stance against mining operations in her province.

After her death on June 28 this year, her predecessor Vice Gov. Niño Soter Uy reaffirmed the provincial government’s stance on mining. While admitting that there’s nothing that they could do anymore to stop the mining, Uy said the provincial government will no longer entertain additional or new mining applications in the province.

Excursionists take a dip at the natural spring resort in Sitio Catmonan, Barangay Macambol, City of Mati, Davao Oriental. (Keith Bacongco)

Local residents are wary of the effect of the mining on its watershed area. But the mining company has assured that it will also protect the water sources of the community.

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Amid of these mixed reactions, the mining firm has assured the public that their mitigating measures are in place to safeguard the communities and the protected areas in the peninsula.

Both the City Government of Mati and the provincial government are working together to closely monitor the mining operations and to ensure that the safety nets are followed for the protection of the environment.

Davao Oriental State University President Dr. Roy Ponce is pushing for the regenerative forestry approach to rehabilitate the mined out areas. It will be a costly and quite risky method but more comprehensive than conventional rehabilitation approach.

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(This series were produced with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.)