Lopez inspects mining companies in CARAGA

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — After a series of inspections in CARAGA Region on Tuesday, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez dispelled concerns of some Agusan del Sur residents regarding the possible dangers of an underground mine near their homes.

In fact, Lopez commended the Philsaga Mining Corporation, and said it could  even be a model to other mining companies.

PHOTOS: Philsaga Mine in Agusan Del Sur  

"Yeah, I like it, it's nice. There's no devastation. They are open to addressing issues," Lopez said.

The residents worry about the structural strength of a nearby dam, which may wipe away three-fourths of an entire barangay.

"Mga nakaraang buwan malakas kasi ang ulan saka yung pangamba lang kasi baka bibigay yung dam," primary school teacher Quirico Casa said.

[Translation: It has been raining hard the past months; the dam might break.

But Philsaga president Atty. Raul Villanueva said they have a third party audit to attest to the soundness of the infrastructure.

"They certified that this dam can withstand an intensity 7 earthquake," Villanueva said.

Philsaga is one of the 41 mines operating in the country, with half of these given closure orders due to environmental violations.

Meanwhile, Lopez also found out one of the open pits of Manila Mining Corporation in Surigao del Norte was filled with acidic water, which can damage the environment and affect nearby communities.

PHOTOS: Manila Mining Corp's Open Pit in Surigao Del Norte  

The Environment secretary had ordered the company to immediately act on the matter.

Manila Mining Corporation closed in 2001 after its permit to operate its tailings pond was not renewed.

Alongside the inspection, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources launched the local production of bio-char, charcoal made of rice husks, which serves as a soil enhancer to improve the quality of soil in mining areas.

This is one of DENR's rehabilitation projects in partnership with the residents of Claver Town in Surigao del Norte.

READ: DENR decision to shut down mines "unfounded" — Surigao lawmaker