MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippine campaigners are not on Minister's page

Published by MAC on 2011-04-18
Source: Sun Star, Bulatlat, UCANews (2011-04-13)

Corporate mining opponent murdered in Compostela

This week the Philippines' government official responsible for mining (and the environment), Rampon Paje, has again talked up the prospect for mining, at an Asian mining conference (see: RP is predictable, consistent place for mining – DENR).

He chose to name five key projects that would be key to the revitalisation of the industry.

But, in doing so, Paje seemed only to underline the inherent problems he faces.

One of the five projects is the Kingking mine, which has once again changed owners - this time to US-owned Russell Mining.

Local resistance to the mine has also led to the latest killing of an anti-mining activist, Santos "Ricky" Manrique.

Another of the Paje's favoured projects is Xstrata's controversial Tampakan mine.

The Catholic UCANews has written a 3-part story, looking at the issues around the mine - a timely initiative, given continuing conflict over the province's openpit mining ban which is aimed at stopping the mine's opening.

Also -  as if to emphasise the difficulties Mr Paje faces, and yet conceals by claiming the Philippines is a "predictable and consistent  place for mining" - Indigenous Peoples have launched yet another campaign against mining.

Mining leader shot dead in Compostela Valley

By Ben O. Tesiorna

Sun Star Philippines

13 April 2011

PANTUKAN, Compostela Valley -- The leader of a small-scale miners' organization who opposed the operation of an American mining firm in this town was shot dead inside his home on Tuesday night.

The victim was identified as Santos "Ricky" Manrique, 49, president of the Federation of Miners' Association in Pantukan and village councilor of Napnapan village, here.

Ely Sanchez, another miner leader in Pantukan, said Manrique is one of the leaders against the entry of foreign mining corporations in a mining area in Kingking village in this town.

Small-scale miners in Pantukan are opposing the operation of the Nationwide Development Corporation and its foreign-partner, the US-owned Russell Mining and Minerals Inc.

In a report, Compostela Valley police director Aaron Aquino said Manrique was having dinner inside his house in Mendoza sub-village around 6:30 p.m. when two unidentified armed men barged in and shot him several times.

The victim sustained three gunshot wounds in the head and two in his back. The assassins readily fled the crime scene and boarded a motorcycle and sped off towards Tagum City.

Authorities recovered several empty shells of caliber .45 pistol and one deformed slug.

Police operatives have launched a hot pursuit operation against the suspects. No motive has been established as of the moment.

In a telephone interview, Sanchez said Manrique earlier told him about the threat to his life. Some unidentified men are said to be tailing the victim prior to the incident.

Sanchez appealed to authorities to conduct an in-depth investigation to identify the perpetrators and determine the motive of the murder.

Meanwhile, authorities declined to link Manrique's death to the mining issue as of the moment. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 14, 2011.


US mining company won't buck order

By Ben O. Tesiorna

Sun Star Philippines

11 April 2011

COMPOSTELA VALLEY -- The Russell Mining and Minerals Inc., an American mining company that has a joint venture agreement with the local Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor), will abide by the stoppage order issued by the Provincial Government last week.

This was the assurance made by Russell Mining Filipino consultant Rogelio Bantayan who said that they are just waiting for the next move of the Provincial Government on the implementation of the stoppage order.

In an interview over the weekend, Bantayan said they are in communication with Compostela governor Arturo Uy who has issued Executive Order 029-2011 following the approval of the Provincial Board on the stoppage order.

In a statement, Uy earlier said Nadecor has committed "procedural lapses," thus the issuance of the order.

Among the lapses allegedly committed by the mining firm is violation of Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, which mandates a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the indigenous peoples in the area.

Last week, small-scale miners in Kingking, Pantukan rued the non-implementation of the stoppage order issued by Uy against the mining firm.

Ely Sanchez, leader of small-scale miners in Diat, said Wednesday that the mining operations of Nadecor have continued despite the issuance of stoppage order. Sanchez said they doubt if the order will really be implemented.

In previous stoppage orders against mining operations in the province, the Provincial Government employs the services of the police and the military for its implementation.

However, as of presstime, Uy has not issued a statement on how and when the stoppage order will be imposed.

Despite the stoppage order, officials of the province assure that they are a business-friendly province.

It was learned that a top executive of the Russell Mining is in the country to look into their operations in Pantukan.

The gold and copper project of Russell Mining in Pantukan is the first investment in the Philippines and expected to bring a considerable economic development to the province and the region.

Bantayan said their investment could reach up to $8 billion as they will also be constructing a coal-fired power plant and wharf in the area.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 11, 2011.


US mining company defies guv's stoppage order

By Ben O. Tesiorna

Sun Star Philippines

7 April 2011

COMPOSTELA VALLEY -- Small-scale miners in Kingking, Pantukan rued the non-implementation of the stoppage order issued by Governor Arturo Uy against the Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor), which has an existing joint venture agreement with US-based Russell Minerals Mining.

Ely Sanchez, leader of small-scale miners in Diat, said Wednesday that the mining operations of Nadecor have been continuing despite the issuance of stoppage order early this week. Sanchez said they doubt if the stoppage order will be implemented.

A Nadecor official identified as Rogelio Bantayan reportedly met with Uy at his office on Tuesday to discuss the stoppage order. Bantayan and Uy, however, refused to make any statement regarding their meeting.

Efforts to get Uy's reaction on alleged non-implementation of the stoppage order also proved futile as of Thursday.

On Monday, the office of the governor emailed a statement regarding the issuance of the stoppage order.

Uy issued Executive Order 029-2011 after the Provincial Board allowed him to issue the said stoppage order.

In a statement, Uy said Nadecor has committed "procedural lapses," thus the issuance of the order.

Among the lapses allegedly committed by the mining firm is violation of Republic Act 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, which mandates a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the indigenous peoples in the area.

Despite the stoppage order, officials of the province still assured that their province is a business-friendly province.


Indigenous Peoples Raise Alarm Against Aggressive Mining Policy of Aquino Government

By Ronalyn V. Olea

Bulatlat.com

11 April 2011

"This is an issue of life-and-death not only for the indigenous peoples but also for the whole nation. If all of the mining projects will push through, the damage on the environment and on the people's lives would be irreparable," Joan Jaime of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) said.

MANILA - A national alliance of indigenous peoples' groups has once again raised the alarm against the effects of foreign-controlled large-scale mining.

The Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), together with Katribu party list and other groups, revived its national campaign dubbed as "Ancestral Lands at Risk of Mining" (ALARM) to defend the indigenous peoples' territories against the onslaught of "imperialist mining."

ALARM sites identified by the groups include Cordillera region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Mindoro island, Palawan, Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon, Davao region, Compostela Valley, Socksargends and Zamboanga Peninsula.

In a forum held April 8 in Quezon City, Joan Jaime, Kamp national coordinator, said that the new administration has virtually continued the priority mining projects of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In fact, Jaime revealed that the Aquino administration proves to be "more aggressive" in attracting foreign mining corporations to invest in the country.

Jaime said that based on the initial and partial estimation of the approved and renewed mining projects as of October 2010, most of the mining projects are within the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.

Citing data from the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Jaime said that of the six projects with Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA), five are within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples covering more than 103,000 hectares. The FTAA is a contract between the Philippine government and mining companies allowing the latter to undertake large-scale exploration and development of minerals. It allows up to 100-percent foreign ownership in a mining project.

Meanwhile, of the 338 approved Mineral Product Sharing Agreement (MPSA), 118 are in indigenous peoples' areas covering more than 533,000 hectares. In an MPSA, the government merely grants the right to the mineral resources whereas the contractor provides the financing, technology, management and personnel for the implementation of the agreement.

Furthermore, although only 39 of the 89 companies with exploration permits (EP) are within the indigenous peoples' territories, these cover more than 244,000 hectares. An EP allows a qualified person to undertake exploration activities for mineral resources in certain areas open to mining.

ALARM Sites

According to Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), nearly a million hectares or 51 percent of the Cordillera land area is covered by licensed operations and pending applications of mining transnational corporations (TNCs).

Mining operations and applications are in Abra, Benguet, Apayao, Kalinga, Ifugao and Mountain Province. Jaime said that mining corporations have also entered the coastal areas in Ilocos region. She added that the mining projects will eventually poison the Abra river, a major river system in the north. "Mining TNCs have destroyed the mountains, the rivers and the sea," Jaime said.

Besides mining, there are existing and proposed dam projects in the Cordillera.

"The whole of Cordillera region is being sold out," Jaime said.

In Cagayan Valley, there are two FTAAs covering more than 20,000 hectares of land and eight MPSAs covering more than 21,000 hectares. Jaime said among those affected are the Bugkalot and Ilongot tribes in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, the Agta, Aggay and Ayta in Cagayan, Quirino and Isabela and the Igorots who were displaced from Cordillera and have settled in the provinces of Cagayan Valley.

"These Igorots are again facing the threat of being driven away by mining," Jaime said.

In Central Luzon, there are 18 MPSAs and 5 EPs mostly in Zambales province. Indigenous tribes such as Ayta, Dumagat and Igorot are most affected.

Jaime said mining TNCs are also targeting Mindoro and Palawan. More than 99 mining applications cover more than 51 percent of Mindoro and Mangyans comprise 21 percent of the population in the province. In Palawan, meanwhile, 14 towns are covered by existing operations and mining applications. There are more than 280,000 indigenous peoples subdivided into six groups.

"Foreign large-scale mining would wipe out indigenous peoples in these areas. It is tantamount to ethnocide," Jaime said.

In many parts of Mindanao, the situation of indigenous peoples is almost the same.

In Surigao and Agusan provinces, Lumad groups Manobo, Mamanwa, Talaandig, Higaonon are most affected, Jaime said. In Bukidnon, Jaime said a "mining highway" was constructed for easier access of mining TNCs to areas. Dams are also being built to provide electricity for mining operations.

Meanwhile, in Davao region, 14 MPSA cover more than 35,000 hectares and 1 EP covers 24,600 hectares. There are five MPSA and two EP in Compostela Valley affecting Lumad tribes. In the quad-boundary of Socsksargen, Western Mining Corporation has taken over almost 100,000 hectares. At least 240,000 Lumads will be displaced by the operations.

In Zamboanga Peninsula, 13 MPSAs cover almost 43,00 hectares. The TVI Resource Development operating the Canatuan mine in Zamboanga del Norte is planning to expand its operations to other parts of Western Mindanao.

Jaime said the open pit mining in Canatuan mine dried up bodies of water and damaged forest vegetation. Mine tailings from the mine spill over to the creek and the river.

In all of the priority areas for mining, there are heavy military operations, according to Jaime. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and paramilitary units protect these mining corporations. For instance, in Southern Mindanao region, there is the Investment Defense Force (IDF). In Socskargen, a special military unit was also formed to safeguard mines. In Surigao del Sur, Lumads and farmers had been evacuating from their homes due to intense military operations.

"Where would the indigenous peoples go?" Jaime asked.

More Aggressive

The group said that Aquino did not revoke the priority mining projects of the previous administration. The Arroyo administration identified 23 mining projects and 41 exploration projects.

"Aquino did not change the mining policy. He reformed it to become more aggressive in enticing mining TNCs," Jaime said.

Jaime explained that the cancelation of 600 mining applications by the Aquino administration was intended to replace "inactive" mining TNCs with those that would want to operate.

Jaime also criticized Malacañang for interfering in the South Cotabato open-pit mining ban to pursue a so-called "win-win" solution for Xstrata and the local government.

The group also said that Aquino did not act to stop the Mt. Diwalwal mining privatization and did not reverse midnight mining deals such as FTAA in Palawan and MPSA in Camarines Sur.

Defending Ancestral Land

Jaime said that amid the attacks on their ancestral land and livelihood, the indigenous peoples are fighting against foreign large-scale mining.

Indigenous peoples' in Cordillera, particularly the Kankanaey and Ibaloi, came together in April 2009 to oppose the entry of mining TNCs. The gathering resulted in the Bakun Declaration. In the same manner, the next month, small-scale miners and small farmers in Diwalwal united themselves and came up with the Monkayo Declaration. In October of the same year, farmers and Lumads signed up the Andap Valley Declaration in Diatagon, Surigao del Sur.

Jaime said other indigenous peoples from ALARM sites are set to follow suit.

"This is an issue of life-and-death not only for the indigenous peoples but also for the whole nation. If all of the mining projects will push through, the damage on the environment and on the people's lives would be irreparable," Jaime said.


In the trenches at Tampakan

Battle lines drawn over Xstrata's Mindanao copper mine

Bill Condie

UCANews

5 April 2011

Philippines - Southeast Asia's largest known unexploited copper and gold deposit lies in a remote mountain area just east of Tampakan, about 60km north of General Santos, the Philippines' southernmost city.

London-listed Xstrata, the fourth-largest copper producer in the world, through its local affiliate Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI), hopes Tampakan will produce an average of 340,000 metric tons of copper and 350,000 ounces of gold every year for 20 years from an open pit 3km long, 2.5km wide and eventually 800m deep.

Xstrata says this would add one percentage point to the Philippines' GDP.

But to get to that point Xstrata must first deal with a complex mosaic of local politics, tribal and village interests, landowners and farmers, opposition from the Church, NGOs, as well as a violent local culture where gunslinging is commonplace.

Opponents say that the mine will destroy the ecosystem, endanger agriculture and irreparably damage the lives of thousands of people - indigenous people especially.

Ban on open pits

But given the scale of the resource - 13.5 million metric tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold worth a collective US$150 billion at today's prices - the chances of it staying in the ground appear slim.

Anecdotal evidence suggests locals, impressed by the largesse that already flows from the SMI coffers, are swinging behind the idea although even local politicians are saying they are getting mixed signals on the levels of support.

On the face of it, the Church and other NGO opponents currently have the upper hand in the battle, with a province-wide ban on open-pit mining in place since last year.

The catch for them is that infrastructure work not covered by the ban is already under way.

Roads are being widened and trees felled while the company wages a PR war to convince locals the mine will make them rich and educate their children.

At the same time skeptics are being told that the environmental damage will be negligible and rehabilitation plans effective.

'Cultural genocide'

Sister Susan Bolanio, a former social action director of the Marbel diocese who runs a dispensary for the poor in downtown General Santos, is having none of that.

To her Tampakan is "cultural genocide" for the tribal people it will uproot and a disaster for the local watershed.

"We've never seen any benefits from mining in the Philippines despite the assurances we always get from the foreign companies.

"How can they replace the mountain they dig away? If they rebuild it as they say they will, the rains will just come and wash it away."

The company doesn't argue with her on that point at least.

"We are not replacing any mountains. That would be an impossible engineering feat. We have never said we would do that," an Australian mining executive says when tackled over the nun's misgivings.

But Sister Bolanio is not alone in her mistrust of global mining companies based on past experience.

"Mining has a terrible reputation in the Philippines and the problem in Tampakan is that the community is so misinformed," says Pedro Walpole, a priest who has worked in the Philippines for decades.

"There are questions that still need answering.

"Here's two: ‘where does the rubble really go?' and ‘how many hundreds of thousands of trucks carrying arsenic are going to be traveling through the area?'"

Local opponents are equally as tough-minded.

In a sweltering concrete meeting hall behind the Sto Nino Parish church in Tampakan town, about 30 local community and Church anti-mining activists gather to discuss strategy.

Father Romeo Buenaobra, the social action commissioner for Marbel diocese, chairs the meeting. He speaks fast with a obviously often-practiced script.

Power and cash

"We do not believe the benefits will outweigh the negatives. In fact our studies show the negatives outweigh any benefits many times over. The environmental damage will be just too great," he says.

Buenaobra knows the weight of power and cash is against him but says he has no doubts he can withstand it.

"I know there are very great pressures from national government and the business sector on the provincial government to cave in. But we keep telling the provincial government ‘we put you in there'.

"In the end we hope to unite the whole country against open pit mining."

He says it is vital that SMI release the results of its its long-awaited Environmental Impact Assessment that was due last September but has yet to be presented despite two subsequent deadlines.

"Why are they not being transparent? They have commissioned so many studies but we have never seen them. We want to see these and show them to our technical people.

"Instead they just keep stalling on the date of release of the EIS. This is very deceptive and designed to create chaos in the community."

Fortified compound

Chaos is also on the company's mind. SMI facilities have been attacked in the past and contractors killed. The company's local headquarters is a fortified compound in the center of General Santos City.

Before we can even talk about the mine, there are two compulsory security briefings. Both cover much the same issues: keep a low profile, don't go out after dark, don't go out alone, keep in touch with the security control room - and wear your seatbelt.

They are most insistent. Especially on the seatbelt.

"Not that we are saying that this area is chaotic," says the briefer.

Security issues take up half the morning, leaving an hour or so to run through the project.

The mine will add US$27 billion to the Philippine economy, deliver US$5 billion in taxes and US$300 million in royalties to local indigenous people, the company says.

It will create 8,000 jobs, while community programs are already providing thousands of educational scholarships and health facilities.

The company has planted more than 500,000 seedlings since 2005 to replace some of the trees that will be removed.

Hurdles to jump

The company still has some hurdles to jump before it can get the mine up and running. It must win the endorsements of the national government, at least two of the three local government authorities and the company's own shareholders. None of that is possible without the delayed environmental impact study.

"The EIA will be released by the middle of the year," says John Arnaldo, SMI's communications director.

He acknowledges that the company has its work cut out to convince detractors the project will not do more harm than good. But he insists it is making headway and that operations are still due to start on schedule in 2016.

"We are looking for a positive collaboration with our stakeholders," says Arnaldo.

Mostly that means money - and quite a lot of it - for the more than 900 households that must be moved from the mine area, scholarships for local children and health facilities for all.

"This is not about money," says Pedro Walpole.

"It's about people who have had no chance to develop the cultural and social coherence by which to engage with a broader society - one that previously gave them nothing and one in which they had no basis to participate.

"Now they have to find a way to live with these new dynamics.

"Mining cannot wait a generation for this understanding to form and so the cultural and social fiber falls apart.

"This is not about keeping things the way they are but allowing an integration and social uplifting that is not just material.

"Who benefits? Some local government officials and the national treasury, perhaps?"

And so the battle lines are drawn.


All quiet on the southern front

Activists and miners size each other up in Mindanao

Bill Condie

UCANews

8 April 2011

Philippines - The second of a three part series looking at the issues surrounding Xstrata's Philippines copper and gold project.

South Cotabato governor Arthur "Dodo" Pingoy inherited a ban on open pit mining signed by his predecessor the day before Pingoy took office.

"I say I am lucky, though, because there is no ban to implement as there are no open pits yet," he says in his office in Koronadal in the southern Philippines.

The ban was aimed at stopping the giant Tampakan copper and gold project controlled by London-listed miner Xstrata through its local affiliate Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI).

But, despite widespread opposition from Church and other activists, it could soon be reviewed by provincial board members.

"They have had initial meetings with the petitioners and those who are against any review of the ban," Pingoy says. "We're not against mining. Not at all. But we are just waiting for the Environmental Impact Study to be released."

He says he is frustrated by what he believes is foot-dragging by the company and even with his politician's instincts, it is hard to judge whether pro- or anti-mining groups have the numbers yet.

"I am getting mixed signals," he says. "Some are in favor of the operations because they see the economic benefits but others are asking about the environmental effects.

"The Church is opposed of course. And there is definitely not a positive feeling about mining generally. Quite a few mines started operations after the mining act [of 1995] and there have been lots of problems."

Pingoy echoes the widespread mistrust of foreign mining companies among many local people.

"The way these companies act when they want approval for a project is a bit like courting a girlfriend.

"Of course you will offer the sun and the moon to get what you want but then after you are married maybe you don't even talk to each other."

A visit to the site of the proposed mine, which will include an open pit some 3km long, 2.5km wide and 800m deep, proves impossible.

The SMI employee in charge of security talks rapidly into his cellphone.

"No sir. There is a roadblock on the way to the base camp. I would not advise going that way for now. In fact I would advise very strongly against," he says.

Instead we must make do with a tour of the core farm about 10km west of the edge of the planned mine where the rock samples, or "cores", from years of drilling are kept.

Next to the storage area is a nursery where seedlings are raised for replanting on the mine site and elsewhere in the country.

Some 600 hectares of forest is to be cut down to make way for the mine and the head gardener says that that will be replaced with 30 varieties of native trees.

But the rehabilitation plans are far from the minds of activists in nearby Tampakan town. Councillor Fe Mumanta says the fall-out from the project has already begun.

"There are already problems with mine workers coming down from the mountains and making trouble," she says.

"They are being bought with large sums of money. We are already seeing the beginning of prostitution and other social problems here."

Veteran anti-mine campaigner Father Peter Geremia says that the company is taking too little notice of local voices while the company's provision of scholarships and other social spending amount to "bribes" to gain support for the project.

"If the EIA process is to be fair, the company should also give importance to common people's views - farmers, local youth and women - not just NGOs and others that are all part of the one system of bribes," he says.

The dirt road along the southern edges of the Tampakan project twists upwards into the mountains towards Mt Magolo, skirting the southern edge of the proposed mine site.

The mountains are lush and green but heavily scarred by decades of logging and slash and burn agriculture. Many mountainsides are severely eroded.

Despite the security fears of SMI, our convoy of SUVs led by Passionist Father Edwin Flor encounters no resistance.

Past the town of Misiyong, where SMI is believed to be planning to site a depot, the roadworks begin. Trees lining the road are numbered for felling and periodic drill rigs have been set up to ensure the ground is solid enough for the big mining vehicles the route will have to accommodate.

The road to Mount Matobo is being widened and paved. "In our hearts we don't want it but we can't do anything about it," says a local

In a small town about 5km from Mt Magolo, there is a bamboo boom gate. It is open and around it stand graders and bulldozers, idled in the action that had alarmed the SMI security man the day before.

Local B'laan tribal chieftain John Nalon Collado explains.

The road was barricaded and work forced to halt because money promised to landowners as compensation had not been paid, he says.

The company says it paid the money to the sub-contractors who should have passed it on to the tribespeople. Unfortunately for SMI, the locals do not see it that way.

"Everything was covered by an MOU," says Collado. "It was agreed that the company would pay everything but they haven't. If it pays the money, the project will go ahead again," he says.

Otherwise Collado is generally a supporter.

"If [the company] pays the money, the project will go ahead again," says John Nalon Collado

"It helps us through the scholarships, health insurance and livelihood assistance, a water system - even tribal festivals are sponsored by the company," he says.

"SMI is trying to help and has started some activities here. But sometimes you can't avoid problems when landowners won't give right of way for the road building."

Other townspeople are not so sanguine.

At the local shop an elderly woman airs her misgivings but doesn't give her name.

She said the road widening began without any consultation with townspeople.

"We don't know what the policies of the company are but we know this mine is going to have a big effect on our lives," she says.

A man seated nearby chimes in.

"The priests say the project will have a big effect on the Boyen River but we don't know anything. No one has spoken to us about it.

"We have not been briefed and not informed. The company said there was to be a new road and so there is a road.

"In our hearts we don't want it but we can't do anything about it. Our barangay officials agreed to it so what can we do?"


Through the thickets of mistrust

Are miners and their opponents even listening to one another?

Bill Condie

UCANews

11 April 2011

Philippines - In the third and final part of our investigation into Xstrata's southern Philippines' copper and gold project, we look at whether there is any room for compromise between Church activists and foreign mining companies.

Despite the uncompromising opposition to mining by many in the Church, some are still prepared to give the big foreign mining companies a break if they do the right thing.

Father Rey Carvyn Ondap, a Passionist priest in General Santos City, is campaigning hard against Xstrata's Tampakan copper and gold project.

Only in his second year in the priesthood, he says he faces hostility for his position from many who would benefit from the mine.

"The first five years of your priesthood are supposed to be the honeymoon but they have put me in hell," he says.

"But I am not opposed to mining per se. If they followed the so-called responsible mining program then there would be no problem. We are not just fighting against the Tampakan mine, we are looking for a solution."

But there remains a gulf between foreigners with their experience of successful environmental and rehabilitation practices in their home countries and the dismal record of many projects in the Philippines.

"The problem for Xstrata is they got rid of Paul Dominguez, a man who knew mining and knew Mindanao, and then shoved all these Australians into the frontline," says Jesuit Pedro Walpole, who has worked in the Philippines for decades.

"It's little wonder they can't communicate with the locals.

"With no Filipino in the company to tell the community what is happening in the company and with the project, it is just a black box."

But the big mining companies' supporters say opponents of the industry aren't interested in finding out the truth about mining.

Manila-based environmental scientist, Australian Keith Halford, works as a consultant to mining companies on their impact.

"Mining companies have no chance to defend themselves. Opponents can say anything they like about the miners in the press - any libelous or and completely wrong statements they want.

"From my experience we say ‘please come and have a look about how we perform' but no one comes and takes up the invitation."

Halford says that the cards are stacked against the big mining companies in the PR war.

"Sure, I've seen bad mining. I'm not pro-mining but pro-performance. I would like to see a reduction in the small-scale mining and the unproductive operators driven out. I am not saying all but the least responsible ones.

"The big guys at least have standards which they have to defend to their shareholders," he says.

"There is a need to fund government departments and officials to get better people involved.

"If [opponents] are serious about the environment and welfare of the people it would be better to sit at the table and get an involvement in the process. That way you get some good for the country."

Walpole says it is not that simple.

"It is easy to get a meeting with the big companies, but what we need is a responsible structure not a one-off.

"We did that with the World Bank review some years ago but then let the local chamber railroad the process and it basically was a dead end for future engagement," he says.

Where he does agree with Halford - a rare glimmer of any meeting of minds - is the need to improve the quality of officialdom overseeing the industry.

"There are some very good people but there is just not the technical capacity to check on all these mines.

"The Philippines government is just not there to manage anything to do with mines.

"There is no competence to do the research needed," he says.

Walpole says the experience of mining in the Philippines - national or international - is very poor.

"The disasters, understatements and lies have been massive, yet there have been mines, few certainly that have not been a source of disaster and have built local communities especially where government has been absent.

"But the Government should not use their absence to justify a mining company's presence in social development.

The role of the Church is critical, he believes, to protect local communities in an absence of a development program that paves the way for social development.

"We have had a history of human rights abuses in the country, it takes NGOs and the Church to hold out for justice and in this light as communities subjected to mining with no socio-cultural cohesion are destroyed - today destroyed with money and bought out of it because we must mine now."


Davao del Sur tribal council rejects gold mining plan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8 April 2011

DIGOS CITY, Philippines-The plan of global mining giant Xstrata to operate in Davao del Sur suffered a setback when the tribal council of Kiblawan town passed a resolution against it.

Kiblawan is among the three areas that Xstrata's Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) planned to extract gold and copper. The two other areas are Tampakan in South Cotabato and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat province.

The three areas were said to hold enormous gold and copper deposits of 2.4 billion metric tons.

It is touted to be one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the South East Asia-Western Pacific region.

Gideon Salutan, tribal leader in Kiblawan, said they oppose SMI's operation to preserve the environment.

SMI, which is primarily based in Tampakan town, had planned to extract the deposits using open-pit mining.

"The plan threatens our survival because it will affect our natural food sources," Salutan said in Visayan.

He said their crops would wilt because the Bong Mal River, which provides their fields with water, would be used by the company as waste reservoir.

Salutan said it would affect their annual rice production of 147,000 metric tons.

He said the company's tailings dam would also randomly discharge water that could contaminate their fields and threaten their health.

Decision

The Bong Mal River, Salutan said, flows into the Davao Gulf via the Malalag Bay, where fish pens abound.

Thousands of fisherfolk and farmers may lose their livelihood and put the health of the communities at risk when potable water for daily living is contaminated, he said.

Salutan said the unanimous decision by the tribal council also cited that SMI's plan would not benefit the lumad and would not have any impact on their quest for genuine development.

He added that the tribal council was not against mining per se if it benefited the indigenous communities.

What they were against, he said, was large-scale mining operation.

The latest opposition to SMI's operation was the second setback the company suffered in its planned mine area.

Last year, the South Cotabato provincial board passed an environmental code that banned open-pit and other mining systems deemed destructive.

SMI continues to contest the ordinance with the backing of Malacañang.

But in March, former South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Fuentes said SMI might eventually be able to operate in South Cotabato, thanks to the national government's interference.

Orlando Dinoy and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

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