Sta. Cruz is a 1st class municipality with rich arable land that is condusive for farming. The whole province of Zambales owes its title as “home of the best carabao mango of the world” to its rich land.
Yet this fertile land and its river channels and coastal waters of this town are being highly polluted with nickel laterite, a nickel oxide ore that turns the colors the sea into red, due to polluting practices of several mining companies operating there.
To date, because of the nickel mining: Sta. Cruz, Zambales is losing 8,000 tons of palay (rice paddy) production annually worth Php 200-million (US$5M). It has also suffered an estimated loss of Php 20-million (US$ 0.5M) from fish production in three major rivers and at least Php 30-million (or US$0.75M) (each hectare earning a net of Php 300,000.00 annually) loss from fish production in at least 100-hectares of fishpond.
As an effect of the nickel laterite reaching offshore, there was also a decline in deep sea fish catches. There is also a radical reduction in the production of the best and sweetest carabao mango. Thus, because of mining, Sta. Cruz is losing half a billion pesos (US$12M) worth of food, rice, mango and fish production.
The government, through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, temporarily suspended the operations of the firms, due to what it termed ‘unsystematic methods´. According to the MGB director, the operations of these mining firms led to the “inefficient recovery of minerals and adverse environmental impacts like siltation and dust generation.”
The four mining firms were told to remove all stockpiles in open cut areas and move them to stockpile areas with proper drainage systems, but the companies still continue to haul nickel stock piles for export.
Four large-scale mining companies (extracting nickel) are blamed for the irreversible environmental degradation and destruction in the town of Sta. Cruz, namely: Zambales Diversified Metals Corp.
Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc.
Eramen Minerals Inc.
LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc The nickel mining operations result in water pollution due to nickel laterite. This has seeped in the irrigated water sources and reached 30-nautical miles offshore, affecting both agriculture and fishery sectors.
June last year, the companies were suspended because of the impacts and problems caused by their operations. Last February, the government lifted their suspension and so the company resumed their operations.