Taganito HPAL Nickel Corporation conducted a public consultation for its proposed Scandium Recovery Project on March 4, 2016 at the Taganito Sports and Cultural Center in Claver, Surigao del Norte.

The company conducted the said consultation in cooperation with its Environmental Impact Assessment Preparer, Philkairos, Inc., and the Environmental Management Bureau.  Representatives from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office No. XIII, Parish Pastoral Council and Reach Foundation were also present as observers. The residents of Brgys. Urbiztondo, Taganito, Hayanggabon and Cagdianao in the Municipality of Claver, Surigao del Norte took part in the activity.

The proposed Scandium (Sc) Recovery Facility will cover 1.4 hectares of land within the present THPAL area. It will utilize the barren liquor that may contain traces of scandium, iron, aluminum and chromite, which is presently discarded as waste from the high pressure acid leaching process. The barren liquor is allowed to pass through a resin, washed with acids and caustic soda and extracted using oxalic acid to produce the final product scandium oxalate that contains approximately 23% scandium.

The following issues and concerns were raised during the open forum:

  • With the possibility of H2S gas emission from the scandium recovery process, residents of Brgy. Taganito expressed their preference that the scandium recovery facility be installed at a considerable distance away from residential houses to minimize the effect of any gas leak and to protect the health of the public. Relocation of residents would be the final option if the gas leak incident will happen again.

THPAL clarified that the scandium recovery process does not utilize H2S gas but instead makes use of acids and bases to produce the desired product. However, H2S gas will still be used in the HPAL process. The company assured the public that the damaged electronic isolation valve was already replaced and an additional automatic on/off valve was already installed, thus the possibility of another H2S leak is low. The suggestion of situating the scandium plant facility in a distant location will be considered.

  • The implication to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process in case the community opposes the project.

A member of the EIA Review Committee from the EMB Central Office clarified that the EIA is only a planning tool, not a permit or clearance. Public consultation is just one of the steps to complete the whole process. Opposition from the community will be the basis for a thorough validation of their issues and concerns and a call to do revisions to specific project component until community acceptance is achieved. Continuing Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign is a must to sustain the acceptability.

  • SDMP projects and benefits are not directly felt by the poor and marginalized residents of Brgy. Taganito. The people prefer to receive monthly cash assistance and one sack of rice rather than to engage in livelihood and other activities that will later become unsustainable. Financial assistance and other aids to senior citizens must be upgraded.

Although the company is mandated by law to allocate yearly SDMP funds equivalent to 1.5% of the previous year’s operating cost, THPAL informed the public that it must adhere to the list of creditable activities and expenditures provided in the law.  Implementation is subject to regular monitoring and auditing by the MGB Regional Office. A “dole out system” of providing the SDMP benefits to the people is never encouraged but rather the community must have a counterpart in every PPAs to instill ownership and dedication that will sustain the project even if mining/milling operation ceases.

  • Prioritization of local residents in hiring, direct hiring (not thru agency), regularization of employees and increased employee benefits.

THPAL assured the people that it will look into these concerns and seek the guidance of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and other agencies to resolve the issue.

In general, the public is amenable to the project provided that the presented issues and concerns will be effectually addressed.