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Santa Cruz, Zambales nickel mining impacts sustainable agriculture and fisheries, Philippines


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.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Santa Cruz, Zambales nickel mining impacts sustainable agriculture and fisheries, Philippines
State or province:Zambales
Location of conflict:Santa Cruz
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mining exploration and/or ore extraction
Specific commodities:Nickel

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. - 3,765.3853-ha. mine permit for chromite and nickel

Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc. - 1,406.7362-ha. mine permit for chromite and nickel

Eramen Minerals Inc. - 4,619.6869-ha. mine permit-ha. mine permit for chromite and nickel

LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc -

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:53,867
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. from Philippines
Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc. from Philippines
Eramen Minerals Inc. from Philippines
LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc (LAMI) from China
Relevant government actors:Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Mines and Geosciences Bureau
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
Department of Agriculture
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Concerned Citizens of Sta Cruz Zambales (CCOS)
Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc
Alyansa Tigil Mina
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice
Bantay Kita
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (Solidarity of Filipino Workers)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Fires, Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
But suspension has been lifted in April 2015
Proposal and development of alternatives:The government should use and maximize the land for agricultural use.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The suspension was a short victory. What we demand is full rehabilitation and mine decommission and the pull out of mining activities there.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (RA7942)

Executive Order No. 79, s. 2012: Institutionalizing and Implementing Reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector Providing Policies and Guidelines to Ensure Environmental Protection and responsible Mining in the utilization of Mineral Resources

ATM Press Release: EMB stands firm on Zambales mining suspension

Zambales mining ban lifted

The ‘red sea’ consequence of nickel mining in Zambales

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

“Tao Muna, Hindi Mina!” in Zambales

Photos of Cabaluan, Panalabauan and Alinsaog/Sta. Cruz rivers, fishponds and the coastal areas of Sabangan, Bgy. Lipay; newly documented areas like Namlangan in Bgy Guisguis and the coastal areas of Bgy. Malabago. To date the coastal areas of at least six (6) barangays: Bolitoc, Lipay, Poblacion South, Poblacion North, Pagatpat and Malabago are contaminated with nickel laterite affecting marine lives and the corals. Photos c/o CCOS

Other documents

Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Zambales nickel mining impacts sustainable agriculture and fisheries

Meta information

Contributor:Alyansa Tigil Mina
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1937