Fish in the Agno and Ballog rivers are safe to eat despite leaks from a mining tailings pond, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the Cordillera Autonomous Region.
BFAR's study of leakage from Philex Mining Corp.'s copper-gold mine in Padcal, Benguet found mercury, boron, arsenic, and lead in the water.
BFAR regional director Lilibeth Signey however said that based on their studies, "chemicals cannot affect the water in the river and the living organisms (in it)."
The BFAR said the chemicals have no direct effect on water and fishes in the rivers, and are "under a tolerable level."
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, a coalition of environmental groups, disputed the BFA's findings, however.
Kalikasan national coordinator Clemente Bautista told Yahoo! Southeast Asia that the group will send a fact-finding mission to the area later this month to check.
Citing the findings of an earlier independent fact-finding mission, Kalikasan said the leak released 20.6 million metric tons waste into the Agno river system.
"This massive amount of siltation definitely disrupted the functions of the affected aquatic ecosystems," Bautista said.
The leak has been blamed on heavy rainfall from Typhoons Ferdie and Gener. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has fined Philex
P1.034 billion for the leak, but the firm has refused to pay, saying the leak was not caused by negligence.
Kalikasan said though that Philex must pay for what it called "the worst mining disaster in the past two decades."
"There's no skirting the fact that Philex is entirely responsible, and must not only pay for the full ecological restoration of
the affected environment, but also the indemnification of the affected communities," he also said.
BFAR regional director Signey said the bureau has yet to be approached for assistance by fisherfolk from areas affected by the leak.
Tailings are the waste material from the process of separating valuable materials like gold and copper from rock.
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