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12 Dec 2022

Karol Ilagan, Andrew Lehren, Anna Schecter, Rich Schapiro, & Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Rappler

Philippines: Unsafe levels of hexavalent chromium found in Rio Tuba waterways

"Unsafe levels of hexavalent chromium found in Rio Tuba waterways", 12 December 2023

Narlito Silnay and Kennedy Corio share the same worry over the looming expansion of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation in Mt. Bulanjao. [...]


Three tests – conducted separately by Friends of the Earth Japan, Palawan authorities, and PCIJ – confirmed unsafe levels of hexavalent chromium in bodies of water where Rio Tuba’s wastewater is discharged.


FoE Japan and PARC started looking into Rio Tuba in 2006 when Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd., along with its partner Nickel Asia Corp., set up Coral Bay Nickel Corp. (CBNC), the country’s first and one of only two nickel processing plants. Sumitomo is funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, a government-owned bank that gives loans to companies investing abroad. Nickel Asia Corporation owns 60% of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp.


Jose Bayani Baylon, spokesperson for Nickel Asia, questioned the standing of FoE Japan and the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) that is helping members of the Pala’wan tribe, pointing out that they were not from Rio Tuba or Bataraza.

Baylon said Rio Tuba’s initial sampling in December 1996 already showed “escalated values of hexavalent chromium in nickel mining water before the peak of the mining operation.”

But he also said a 2018-2019 study by Rio Tuba and the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of the Philippines – Diliman showed that hexavalent chromium in surface waters exiting the mine were mostly below the limit of 0.1 mg/L while the metal in groundwater was generally undetected.