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1,120MT of nickel sinks in Palawan

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1,120MT of nickel sinks in Palawan

Environment office sends team to check as water reported to turn red
/ 10:28 PM March 18, 2016

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—A barge loaded with 1,120 metric tons of nickel ore sank off the pier of Berong Nickel Corp. (BNC) in Quezon town in Palawan province on Thursday, a report reaching the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on Friday said.

Roland de Jesus, MGB regional director in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan or Region IV-B), said a report from the mining company confirmed that one of its barges, already loaded with laterite ore, sank in waters off the company’s Pier One in Quezon, more than 100 km south of this Palawan capital.

“We have dispatched a team to assess the situation there,” De Jesus said.

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He said the company’s report showed the vessel had been loaded with laterite ore when water penetrated its hull.

“We had been told that the company is trying to contain the affected area using coconut [logs] and geotextile fabric,” he added.

In statement on Friday, BNC said its chartered landing craft transport, Marc Jason, was repositioning when it was hit by an unexpected heavy swell at 4 a.m. on Thursday.

Marc Raymund Zamora, BNC acting operations manager, said the company’s initial investigation showed that no person was hurt when the landing craft “ran aground” and “there was nil oil spillage.”

Reports from a local environmental group said water near the pier had turned “reddish” following the accident. The group did not provide details.

But Zamora said water discoloration was “localized.”

“The Quezon Coast Guard has likewise completed its investigation and affirmed our earlier findings. Moreover, it declared that the area is contained,” Zamora said in the statement.

De Jesus said the MGB would wait for its team’s report before it decides whether a sanction or a fine would be imposed on the company.

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BNC, Palawan’s biggest nickel mine operation, is also facing a P120-million fine from the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board (PMRB) for allegedly illegally constructing a road as part of its expansion, said lawyer Teodoro Matta, PMRB vice chair.

Company officials are silent on that issue.

Nickel is a silvery-white metal that is widely used in industrial, military, transport or aerospace, marine and architectural applications for its high resistance to corrosion, strength and toughness at high temperatures and durability.

It is mostly used in making coins and producing stainless and heat-resistant steels.

Nickel may be released to the environment from the stacks of large furnaces used to make alloys or from power plants and trash incinerators.

A considerable amount of it ends up in soil or sediment where it strongly attaches to particles containing iron or manganese. Under acidic conditions, nickel is more mobile in soil and might seep into groundwater.

The most common harmful health effect of nickel in humans is an allergic reaction, such as skin rash on the site of contact. People who are exposed to nickel by inhalation can have asthma attacks. Redempto Anda, Inquirer Southern Luzon with a report from Rafael Antonio, Inquirer Research

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TAGS: Berong Nickel Corp., BNC, environment, MGB, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, nickel, Palawan, water
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