MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Indigenous peoples point the way on mining

Published by MAC on 2012-02-28
Source: Inquirer, Mindanews, statement, Business World (2012-02-22)

Our most recent Philippines article covered the draft President's Executive Order on mining (see - Struggles over mining law revision in the Philippines). The blizzard of news articles on the subject continues, although most of the coverage consists of repetitious industry propaganda.

If, however, President Aquino were looking for sensible guidance, he should pay attention to a conference in the Cordillera, North Luzon, which studied how indigenous peoples' knowledge could improve the environmental foot-print of mining.

The strength of indigenous opinion on mining is also evident in the mobilisation of a year-long "Thousand Streamer [banner] Campaign" on mining.

In Romblon province, advocates joined the unveiling of its Anti-Mining Memorial to commemorate the one year of their advocacy, which resulted in Ivanhoe Mining pulling out from Tablas Island.

As a follow up, organisations and communities in the island region have signed up to the "Sibuyan Declaration", vowing to protect and defend their lands and seas against mineral extraction.

They have been emboldened in this position by a recent report showing contamination in mining-affected rivers in Palawan.

Movements on Mindanao

Mindanao has seen more controversy around the operations of Canada's TVI Pacific. In the latest incident, journalists claim to have been detained by company security while investigating reported abuses in the exploration area of Balabag, Zamboanga del Sur.

Ominously the Communist Party of the Philippines has called for its armed units to intervene to protect threatened small-scale miners in the area.

A representative of Mindanao's other main armed rebel group Muslim (Moro) MILF has also questioned the environmental wisdom of large-scale mining on the island, citing Xstrata's controversial Tampakan project.

Opposition to this project was recently reinforced by new opposition strategies devised by the Church, and a call for a moratorium directed specifically against this controversial project.

Finally, after the Department of the Environment investigated environmental complaints at Taganito (also covered in the most recent MAC article),  it is now to investigate many allegations levelled against San Roque Metals Inc, in nearby Agusan del Norte.

In Cordillera, small mines are good examples

By Maurice Malanes

Inquirer Northern Luzon

25 January 2012

BAGUIO CITY-In some small-scale mine sites run by indigenous peoples' in the Cordillera, gold is regarded as a common resource of a tribal group and tribe members regard themselves as stewards.

As stewards, tribe members are expected to extract gold with utmost responsibility, which is far different from the gold rush mind-set of small-scale miners in Compostela Valley and other areas around the country.

For example, in the two neighboring villages of Alab and Tumayan in Bontoc, Mt. Province, mineral resources are regarded as property of the tribe so non-tribe members are barred from operating usok (small mine tunnels).

"This facilitates enforcement of tribal policy," said a recent study by Apit Tako, a Baguio-based independent research group.

Since no mine is an exclusive property of any individual or family, all mine operation is a tribal proposition and subject to the rules of the tribe's small-scale mining association, said the study.

Tribes in Alab and Tumayan ban mining in watersheds, whether these are in the tayan (family and clan-maintained woodlot) or in the tribes' communal forests.

No timber has been used for shoring up tunnels in Alab and Tumayan. "But once this becomes necessary, timber must be harvested by miners only from their lineage group's woodlot," said the study. "This makes it easier to ensure that trees are replanted."

Ore mills depend on plenty of water. But in Alab and Tumayan, the tribe members have ensured that water needs of the mills do not compete with irrigation needs.

There are 21 usok in two villages and 21 ore mills, including the small-scale mining association's ball mill.

During the dry season, only the association's ball mill operates, said the study.

The upland villages have continued to cultivate traditional rice varieties in age-old rice terraces.

"Because small-scale mining is not continuous but balanced against agricultural chores, production is low, averaging 25 kilograms of ore per tunnel per day or 520 kg from all 21 tunnels," said the study.

Gold recovery is estimated at only 30 to 40 percent. Yet the yield, said the study, is fairly high, averaging a gram of gold recovered from every 25 kg of ore. The gold content averages 18 carats.

Gold was discovered in Pidlisan village in Sagada, Mt. Province, in 1974.

But the villagers did not rush to mine as it was found within a papatayan, a sacred grove atop a mountain overlooking the village, said the study.

Mining started only in the 1980s when gold was found on the lower slopes, below the sacred grove.


Traditional knowledge finds place in mining

By: Vincent Cabreza

Inquirer Northern Luzon

20 February 2012

BAGUIO CITY - When a layman says the skies have turned much more silvery compared to the blue skies of yesteryears, mining leaders should not dismiss the opinion offhand as idle chatter.

Often, a cattle raiser or a village chief will express changes in the environment, which can help industry leaders understand their fears and objections to corporate mining, said Jeffrey Joseph Araula, an Ateneo de Manila University researcher sent to study Australian mining communities.

Araula spoke at the January 25 forum on "After Mining Workshop: Improving Training of Environmental Scientists and Developing Management Strategies for Community-based Ecological Restoration Projects of Mined Lands."

The forum was sponsored by Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines, Baguio Cordillera Studies Center and the Philippine-Australian Studies Center (PASC) of AdMU, and the La Trobe University of Australia.

It offered for discussion management strategies for the rehabilitation and restoration of mined-out areas, particularly the so-called "legacy mines." These are abandoned or decommissioned mines operated by pioneer mining companies at the start of the 20th century.

University researchers and scientists who attended the forum said hard science can validate the environmental observations made by residents of places primed for mining or other industrial development.

Understanding traditional ecological knowledge is necessary for industries like mining, which needs to interact with people who have custody of these lands, said Araula.

He said bridging this barrier would also help the industry and the government establish the technologies and development projects that would be acceptable to the people.

According to Araula, the fusion of traditional knowledge and science "is important in sustainable environmental and resource management [because] both bodies of knowledge validate each other, [and] involving local people's knowledge makes [the use and management of resources by a private firm] acceptable by the users themselves."

He cited as example the folk notion that Ifugaos sculpted mountainsides "to fashion terraces they could till [because] indigenous people in Banaue have limited arable land."

He said scientists validated this folk wisdom by stating that "terracing prevents soil from mountain slopes from eroding as it designs the land according to its contours, thereby making a strong and solid structure."

He said industries often make little sense of traditional ecological knowledge because the scope of information it provides is limited to the resources of a community.

For example, he said, "plant identification is related to its usefulness and there is no information on the chemistry of plants."

Traditional knowledge is also "inseparable from culture and philosophy, which is why foreigners are often excluded from information that is shared only by the village," Araula said.

However, this type of knowledge is useful to ecologically responsible industries because the community can "locate endangered species and migration pathways, which help the firm identify sensitive areas and hotspots" it would need to exclude from its development projects, he said.

More importantly, fusing these bodies of knowledge can help industries like mining come to terms with what scares people about extractive mining, he said.

Minerva Chaloping-March, a PASC research fellow who hails from Mt. Province, said that no form of rehabilitation could restore a mined-out area to its original condition.

However, the forum featured methods that allowed mined-out areas in Australia to be converted into something equally more useful to the local inhabitants.

For example, the indigenous Kangarakun of Australia's northern territory negotiated with a mine firm to convert an old mine there into marshlands.

Finding a way to have a common language for technology could also enable inhabitants of lands primed for mining to understand what technologies would help keep their environment safe, March said.


IP groups to launch nationwide streamer campaign vs mining

CBCP News

18 February 2012

MANILA,-A network of anti-mining organizations is launching a nationwide movement to protest the ongoing mining activities within the ancestral domain of the indigenous people.

Dubbed as "Thousand Streamer Campaign" (TSC) the movement is a protest against the ongoing sell-out of the country's mineral resources to local and transnational mining corporations, as well as an expression of unity and support to the struggle of indigenous peoples for self-determination.

About 60 percent of more than one million hectares of land that have been approved for mining explorations are situated within the ancestral domain of the indigenous communities.

The Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), which is leading the campaign, will launch the TSC through a press conference at 9 a.m. on February 20 at the College of the Holy Spirit in Manila.

The campaign is being supported by various groups from the Church, academe and other indigenous organizations against mining-Tunay na Alyansa ng Bayan Alay sa Katutubo (Tabak), Kabataan Para sa Tribung Pilipino (Katribu) and Partylist ng Katribu.

A nationwide hanging of streamers against mining will kick off on March 3-the 17th year of the enactment of Mining Act of 1995 and will culminate on its 18th year on March 3, 2013.

The year-long campaign will be highlighted by hanging of streamers denouncing mining during dates significant to mining, environment and indigenous peoples.

Aside from the anniversary of the enactment of Mining Act of 1995, other significant dates include Earth Day celebration on April 22, 2012; International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples on August 9, 2012; and Annual Mine Safety Week sponsored by the DENR and Chamber of Mines on the second week of November 2012.

Organizers are urging various sectors and individuals to join the campaign and organize discussion groups, fora, and similar activities to tackle and involve more people in the issue of mining and indigenous peoples' situation.

Those interested to join may contact the Campaign Secretariat through email: call landline: (02) 412-5340 or Mobile: 0919501661 or 092748793889. (CBCPNews)


Journalists cry harassment in mining area; mining firm says story fabricated

Mindanews

22 February 2012

DAVAO CITY - A group of media from Pagadian City cried harassment by the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary of TVI Resource Development (Phils.) Inc. in Sitio Balabag, Baragay Depore in Bayog town, Zamboanga del Sur on Monday but the mining firm on Tuesday denounced in a statement what it called a "fabricated story and imagined scenarios."

"It is unfortunate that these reporters used the good name of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in their unfounded stories," TVIRD said in a statement released by Ron Jabal, Public Affairs Director.

TVIRD is the Philippine affiliate of TVI Pacific, Inc., a publicly listed Canadian frim focused on the exploration and production of precious and base metals

The NUJP sent out two alerts Monday, about the alleged harassment in the mining area covered by the Balabag Project Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) between TVIRD and the government.

It quoted Hirohito "Jong" Cadion, Frontline Mindanao Balita publisher and Philippine Star correspondent, as saying he, "together with 11 journalists and two others" went to the sitio Sunday night "to verify reports of an impending demolition of houses owned by civilians, mostly small-scale miners" residing near TVIRD's exploration site.

According to the NUJP Alerts, Cadion, chair of NUJP Pagadian/Zamboanga del Sur, reported to the NUJP Mindanao Media Safety Office that they were about to leave when SCAA members who wore no nameplates and who refused to identify their unit or their superiors, tried to block their way, allegedly on orders of TVIRD.

According to the NUJP's first alert, TVIRD's Jabal called NUJP to deny the allegations. It also mentioned Bayog mayor Leonardo Babasa Jr. as saying Cadiong's group did not coordinate with them before going to the village.
The next alert at 6:03 p.m. Monday said the journalists were on their way home.

TVIRD denied Cadion's allegations. "There is no truth to the reporters' claim that they were held overnight nor was there any truth to their claim that the company blocked the road leading to the TVIRD project site," the mining firm's statement read.

The statement noted that the Philippine National Police in the area and the commander of the 53rd Infantry Battalion reported no such incident happened.

"The truth is that the reporters didn't reach the project site because of a landslide that had occurred due to illegal scale mining activities. The truth is that they did not witness any demolition of houses as there was none. The truth is that the reporters unfortunately did not get TVIRD's comment on their allegations because the incidents they were describing were pure fabrication," TVIRD said.

Jabal told MindaNews the landslide happened on February 18, a day before Cadion's group arrived in the area.

"The truth is that the press was being used in the black propaganda of a few large financiers and operators of small-scale mining to discredit TVIRD, which is the legitimate partner of government in minerals development in the area," the statement read.

"Using the press by providing them deliberate lies is a desperate attempt by financiers and
operators of small-scale mining to continue operating illegally," it added.

Cadion sent photographs showing "excavation made by the TVI intentionally to cut the road in order to paralyze the people in the mining site."

Jabal said TVIRD was in the area "to clear the portion of the road that was blocked by huge pile of mud and soil due to landslide. TVI did not excavate but was clearing the area."

He said the landslide on the 18th damaged the road.

There were no photographs of the demolition.

Cadion claimed the demolition did not push through because of their presence. "But a few weeks ago," he told MindaNews in a text message, "mayron nangyaring paggiba at pagsunog ng mga bahay," (there was demolition and burning of houses), an allegation Jabal denied.

"There was no demolition. TVI negotiates peacefully with small scale miners and a lot of small.-scale miners can attest to this," he said.

Cadion, also anchor of a daily radio program aired over RPN-DXKP, was with eight others from the media, not "11 others" that he earlier reported to the NUJP Mindanao Media Safety Office.

He identified his companions as Gretchin Mondoy, Vira Angei Modesto, Emay Flor Intig - all from Frontline Mindanao; Tony Bayamban, Mindanao Biznews publisher and Judys Cogo, also of Mindanao Biznews; Efren Superal, co-anchor of Radio Frontline Mindanao Balita DXKP, Lito Pedrano of DXWO FM and Jojo Besandre of DXKV FM.

Also with them, Cadiong said, were Lito Navaro, whom he described as "Human rights defender under Atty Harry Roque" and Edgar Baling, whom he described as "Human Rights Advocate."

Baling, consultant to the Monte de Oro Small Scale Miners Association (MOSSMA) said in late January last year that they wrote President Aquino, asking him to intervene and exempt the 20 hectares from the MPSA of TVIRD.

"Our refined gold products are sold at Central Bank and therefore the government is earning from our labor. If we are supported by the local government, we can be at par with the foreign companies," he added in MindaNews report dated January 31 last year.

At that time, it was reported that about 250 small-scale miners and some 5,000 residents of the barangay were facing displacement once TVIRD starts open-pit mining operations under an MPSA covering 4,779 hectares.
Mario Abaster, corporate community relations officer then said the MPSA includes the 20 hectares operated by small-scale miners belonging to the MOSSMA. He said they would finish the exploration of 10 drilling sites before doing actual mining operations.

Small-scale miners, on the other hand, said they have been in the area since the late 1980s and have been constantly asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of Region 9 to "legalize" their status.

There were no photographs of the SCAA personnel who allegedly held Carion's group as they were about to leave between 8 and 9 a.m. Monday. Cadion claimed the situation was tense so they hid their equipment to be safe.

He said they finally left the area at 2 p.m. Monday. (MindaNews)


Foreign mining company and AFP are behind the campaign of terror in Zamboanga del Sur

Communist Party of the Philippines statement

21 February 2012

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns the Toronto Ventures Incorporated Resource Development (TVIRD), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (SCAA) under the Tabak Division (1st ID) for carrying out a widespread campaign of crime, terror and abuses against the Subanen minority people and residents of Zamboanga del Sur since late last year.

The terrorist campaign is being carried out by the 1st ID of the AFP and the SCAA in behalf of the TVIRD with the malevolent aim of suppressing the people's resistance against plans by the Canadian-owned mining company to conduct open-pit mining in Bayog town, Zamboanga del Sur.

Yesterday, at least a dozen reporters and human rights workers from Pagadian City were taken hostage by SCAA elements for several hours in Sitio Balabag, Barangay Depore, Bayog town. The team was prevented from proceeding to investigate the reported demolition of houses of local residents in a planned mining area in a blatant attempt by the TVIRD-AFP-SCAA to suppress the truth and hide the abuses from national and international attention.

Since late last year, the 1st ID and the TVIRD-SCAA have committed a spate of abuses against local residents of Sitio Balabag including harassment of residents, destruction of property of small miners and burning down of houses. On November 18, SCAA militiamen destroyed the hydraulic equipment worth P100,000 owned by Mr. Wendel Bation. On November 24, SCAA forces forcibly entered the house of Mr. Tonio Lastimoso and harassed and terrorized its residents. On November 30, SCAA personnel burned down six houses of Subanen residents including Carmila and Nelson Condol whose 2-month old child later died after being exposed to the elements. On December 1, SCAA personnel forcibly entered the plant owned by Mr. Jolito Munding in an effort to harass him into giving up his operations in the area.

Another batch of 220 SCAA personnel in full battle gear was deployed in Sitio Balabag last January 15, transforming the mining area into a veritable war zone. These militiamen were trained by the 1st ID's 5th IB in Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur and are tasked to clear the area of its residents to pave the way for the operation of TVIRD.

The militarization and harassment operations of the TVIRD-SCAA has caused disruption of classes at the Balabag Primary School and trauma among its small schoolchildren. Armed men belonging to the SCAA have fenced off the school grounds, resulting in the cancellation of classes. The school is run and funded by the Monte de Oro Small Scale Miners Association to provide education for local children.

The CPP and all revolutionary forces support the demand for the immediate withdrawal of all TVIRD-SCAA personnel in the area and in the entire region. The CPP supports the clamor of the people to put a stop to the planned mining operations and open-pit mine of TVIRD in the area.

The CPP condemns the Aquino regime for allowing the TVIRD to employ the AFP and the SCAA as its private army to suppress the people's resistance against the mining operations and drive them away from their own land. The CPP condemns the Aquino regime for continuing the campaign to invite foreign investments in mining operations that plunder Philippine national patrimony and cause grave and widespread destruction of the environment.

The CPP supports the struggle of the Subanen minority people to defend their ancestral land and their struggle to defend the environment and their livelihood against the incursion of TVIRD and other mining companies.

The CPP calls on militiamen on the payroll of the TVIRD, who have been recruited mostly from among the poor peasants, to surrender their weapons and cooperate with the revolutionary forces.

The CPP calls on all units of the New People's Army (NPA) in the area to continue carrying out tactical offensives in support of the people's struggles against the TVIRD, to disarm its private army and punish the AFP and the SCAA personnel who have carried out a war of crime, terror and suppression against the people.


Romblonanons unveil the country's 1st anti mining monument

Commemorates the province biggest protest against mining

Press Release

14 February 2012

Tablas, Romblon-Today advocates joined the unveiling of Romblon's Anti-Mining Memorial to commemorate the biggest protest against mining fought by the Church, Local Government Leaders and its people.

The first of its kind in the country, the anti mining memorial will remind the people of their effort to strongly face and counter the entry of large scale mining firms in Romblon.

Gov. Eduardo C. Firmalo said, "Today we commemorate the unity of our people to uphold the dignity of life and environment. As a person and public servant, I continue to adhere to the principles of genuine sustainable development, which will not sacrifice the capacity of future Romblonanons to survive. We maintain that local government units have the autonomy to defend the general welfare; at the end it is our people who will be left and will suffer. Metallic mining has no room in the province, and to follow the priority industries of President Noynoy Aquino: we should focus on agriculture, tourism and infrastructure."

Romblon's struggle started in 2006 when 8,000 people gathered to protest against mining in Sibuyan where anti-mining activist Armin Marin was killed the following year by an employee of Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation. In 2011, more than 12,000 people gathered in Tablas Island to protest against another big mining company Ivanhoe Philippines Inc (wholly owned by Ivanhoe Canada) which applied for a permit to explore approximately 14,000 hectares of land in Tablas Island but decided to withdraw in September 30 that same year due to people's and local government's opposition.

"We hope that the proposed mining policy reform order of President Aquino will uphold the decision of my constituents, recognize and further respect the mandate of the local government officials to defend the general welfare, health and security of all and the future generations to come." Firmalo continued.

Msgr. Nonato Ernie V. Fetalino, administrator of the Diocese of Romblon and adviser of Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM) explained: "For nine months we have united all our voices and efforts but it is a lifetime commitment to defend the integrity of creation. We look at our environment as significant source of life and we are called to maintain the balance of ecosystem, we are stewards and we are not called to abuse it. It is our spiritual duty to defend the dignity of life."

Ivanhoe's main reason for pulling out from Tablas Island was the lack of support from local officials and unresponsive communities, it said in its letter to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Meanwhile, Cong. Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona is currently pushing for House Bill 4815 that will declare Romblon as a mining no-go zone.

"This is the voice of our people not to allow mining in the province. This biggest legacy we can leave for the province-to make our province a better place to live in with a balance and healthful ecology. We hope the House Bill 4815 will soon be passed as a law," added Madrona.

Today, as the people remember their struggles against mining in Romblon, they also reaffirm their position against the destruction of the Philippine environment and the policies that allow mining to be one of the country's priority industries.

"We shall continue to stand up for God and our country's patrimony. The Mining Act of 1995 has been the root-cause of division among communities and continuously degrading the environment. We cannot permit this to happen in the province. We call for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995 and urgent enactment of the consolidated alternative mining bills pending in the House of Representatives," Bishop Ronelio Fabriquer, Bishop of Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Chairman of REFAM concluded.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of Executive Order 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the passage of the Philippine Mineral Resources Act a.k.a. Alternative Minerals Management Bill.

(30)

For more information:
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0927) 761.76.02 

Farah Sevilla, ATM Policy & Advocacy Officer, (0915) 331.33.61


MIMAROPA sign 'Sibuyan Declaration'

Mindanao Examiner

20 February 2012

MANILA - Organizations and mining-affected communities in the island provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan (MIMAROPA) signed the "Sibuyan Declaration" in their vow to protect and defend their lands and seas against mineral extraction.

From the Regional Assembly held recently, the groups officially launched the Cooperation of Small Islands-MIMAROPA (CSI-MIMAROPA), and together the groups will campaign against any form of development aggression that will negatively affect the beauty of their islands.

In their declaration, the provinces vowed to defend the islands from mineral extraction.

The Sibuyan Declaration reads: "Defending MIMAROPA Islands, Securing the Future from Mineral Extraction."

Converging our efforts to defend our island ecosystems from ridge to reef to sustainably address the needs of the present generation and secure the future of the next.

"WE, as concerned mining-affected communities from Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan, united to protect our lands and seas, shall:

STRENGTHEN our regional cooperation for environmental justice and protect the epicenter of marine biodiversity of the country

BROADEN support to communities to confront the impacts of climate change and hazards,

ENGAGE government at all levels and communities to promote eco-cultural, historical tourism and sustainable initiatives, and

Help ENSURE food self-sufficiency and recognize the interdependence of island provinces.

In the genuine spirit of Sustainable Development, Intergenerational Responsibility and Precautionary Principle, we therefore CALL for a regional
mining moratorium and make Agriculture and Tourism as core focus for development;

CANCELLATION of all mining applications and REVOCATION of all existing mining licenses and permits.

RECOGNITION of our local government's autonomy to disallow mining in their respective territories and utmost RESPECT for our indigenous peoples' genuine Free, Prior and Informed Consent processes.

For a healthful and balanced ecology, for our island-people's general welfare; to progress within the carrying capacity of Nature:

We demand that the Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942) be scrapped and urgently enact the alternative minerals management bills pending in the House of Representatives and Senate Bill No. 3126 - "A Bill to Regulate the Rational Exploration, Development and Utilization of Mineral Resources, and to Ensure the Equitable Sharing of Benefits for the State, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, and for Other
Purposes."; and

We urge President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to declare Key Biodiversity Areas, Island Ecosystems, Critical Watershed Areas, Geo-Hazard Areas, Natural Forests, Eco-Tourism Zones and Agricultural Lands as MINING NO-GO ZONES.

As a regional convergence, the CSI-MIMAROPA, we shall stand up learning the lessons of the past to act on the challenges of the present and face confidently the future to make our islands the best places to live in without chaos in the grand harmony of Mother Nature.

The Declaration was signed on Sunday in Sibuyan, where the world's densest forest flourishes, the Philippine's cleanest inland body of water flows and the majestic Mt. Guiting-guiting dwells.


Irresponsible mining behind Palawan river contamination- environmental activist groups

Kalikasan-PNE Press Statement

22 February 2012

Nickel mining operations in Palawan Island have already contaminated a nearby river system with unsafe levels of carcinogenic or cancer-causing chemicals, Filipino and Japanese environmental groups today revealed.

At a press conference earlier this morning in Quezon City, environmental activists from Friends of the Earth Japan (FoE-Japan) and the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) presented findings from an environmental field research study conducted in a river located downstream near the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation's (RTNMC) mining operations and the Coral Bay Nickel Processing Plant's operation.

The study, which started in 2009, analyzed water samples and revealed that present levels of hexavalent chromium (Cr-VI), a toxic and carcinogenic chemical, had already exceeded safe levels in the Togupon River.

It showed that present levels of Cr-VI contamination in water samples from the Togupon River ranged from 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L). This exceeds the Philippines's Cr-VI effluent standard of 0.1 to 0.2mg/L.

Similarly, the levels of Cr-VI contamination in water samples taken from the Togupon River's estuary ranged from 0.05 to 0.15mg/L-exceeding both the Philippine's Cr-VI environmental standard of 0.05 to 0.1mg/L and the Japanese environmental standard of 0.05mg/L by by one to three times over.

"The water contamination originated from upstream mining or/and refinery operations," said Hozue Hatae, researcher of FoE-Japan.

Togupon River runs through the area where the nickel mining operations of RTNMC and the nickel processing facility of Coral Bay Nickel Corp. (CBNC) is present. Both projects are financed and pursued in partnership with Japanese multinational corporations and institutions, such as the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Nippon Export and Investment Insurance.

"The Cr-VI contamination in Tagupon River is a serious environmental offense and poses health hazards as it exceeds by two to six times the Philippine Standar for Drinking Water and the Philippine Water Quality Criteria for Toxic and Other Deleterious Substances for Coastal and Marine Waters for the Protection of Public Health. The toxic chemical's presence in estuarine basins also connotes possible effects on the area's fisheries," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

"This only reaffirms that large-scale mining operations in Palawan are far from the responsible mining they portray themselves to be, negatively affecting the health and livelihood of communities around Rio Tuba and other affected barangays," Bautista added.

The Philippine maximum allowable limit for Cr-VI for fresh waters and drinking water is 0.05mg/L.

Also present at the press conference was Allan Mesina, an environmental management expert from the University of the Philippines Manila, who discussed the flaws in the handling of ecosystems by mining corporations.

Rog Amon, a chemical expert at the Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines, explained how chromium is produced during the mining process and how it affects human health. "Cr-VI is a human carcinogen. People exposed to high level of Cr-VI from drinking water have increased rate of stomach cancer.

People exposed to Cr-VI from breathing dust and fumes are considered more at risk for health problems," Amon explained.

"We call on the Aquino administration to suspend all mining operations in the area and immediately conduct an investigation. We urge the erring companies and relevant authorities to immediately cleanup and rehabilitate the contaminated water bodies to immediately avert possible impacts on surrounding communities and ecosystems. The possibility of pursuing a legal case against these mining operations is also being explored," said Bautista.

Alongside these campaign efforts addressing the environmental impacts of foreign and large-scale mining, Kalikasan PNE, alongside other people's organizations, institutions and social movements across the nation are set to hold the Third People Mining Conference on March 1 and 2 in Tagaytay City. The conference aims to synthesize the experiences and strengthen the alliances, networks and campaigns against mining liberalization and plunder.###

Reference:
Hozue Hatae 09295609896
Clemente Bautista 09228449787
Rog Amon 09054971124


MILF leader warns on effects of mining

Business World

19 February 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- A tribal leader who serves as alternate member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel has raised alarm over mining activities in parts of Mindanao, noting these could result in tragedy such as what happened in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro last year that killed thousands.

"The recent flooding in Mindanao must serve as a wake-up call for people in government and the community themselves on the risk and danger of tampering with the environment," B'laan chieftain Datu Antonio Kinoc said in a letter sent to President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, which was quoted in the MILF's Web site www.luwaran.com.

Mr. Kinoc cited the mining activities in Tampakan, South Cotabato and Zamboanga del Norte, which he said pose threats to the residents' safety. Ongoing mining activities in Tampakan by Sagittarius Mines, Inc. could result in massive flooding, he said.

The $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project, said to cover the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia, has been described as having the potential to be the largest mine in the Philippines and the fifth largest copper mine in the world by 2016.

"The [mining companies] even disregard the cultural perspective of the indigenous peoples, especially the mountains and forests which are considered sacred," Mr. Kinoc said in his letter.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), he said, did not include geohazard maps in mining areas like those of Sagittarius Mines' and Toronto Ventures, Inc., a Canadian firm operating in Zamboanga del Norte.

For its part, the MGB said in a statement last week that as of last year, around 7,755 hectares of disturbed mining areas have been planted with 13.3 million assorted seedlings by 65 companies participating in the Mining Forest Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

"The planted area represents 88.7% of the 8,743 hectares total disturbed area."

Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, in a press conference last week, said that existing mining laws and incentives are being reviewed by the Finance department, in a bid to increase the government's share of industry revenues.

"At the DoF (Department of Finance), our focus is that the [government] gets its fair share of revenues. The past few years, laws and incentives have been taken advantage of to the detriment of the government," Mr. Purisima said. -- Amilbahar S. Mawallil


Church outlines three moves against large-scale mining, Tampakan project

Mindanews

17 February 2012

KORONADAL -- Civil society groups, led by the Catholic Church, have outlined three proposals against the operation of large-scale mining companies, including the Tampakan Gold-Copper Project of Sagittarius Mines Inc., in South Cotabato.

Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel said the Church will give all the support possible to the provincial government's implementation of the following ordinances:

• the declaration of Tampakan mountains as a watershed area;
• the full implementation of the provincial environment code, and;
• the implementation of a five-year moratorium against all forms of mining in South Cotabato.

The $5.9 billion Tampakan Project is located at the boundaries of four provinces South Cotabato (Tampakan town), Sultan Kudarat (Columbio), Sarangani (Malungon, and Davao del Sur (Kiblawan).

Rene P. Pamplona, advocacy officer of the Church's social action center here said the declaration of the Tampakan watershed will not allow any investment projects, especially large-scale, within the site.

Mr. Pamplona said that with all the recent calamities in the country caused by environmental degradation, civil society has to do something -- even if it would affect the government's investment targets. "We have to help minimize the consequences of balancing development and having a healthy environment," he said.

The South Cotabato government's environment code, which bans mining, is the reason the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) rejected Sagittarius Mines' environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

The company has formally filed an appeal for reconsideration before DENR secretary Ramon J.P. Paje with regards to its ECC application's rejection. Investors, based on media reports, have also expressed concern on the National Government's recent moves that did not support Sagittarius Mines' operation.

Sagittarius Mines' officials could not be contacted immediately for comment, but John B. Arnaldo, corporate communications officer, said earlier that the company has been open to criticism. He said the company respects whatever moves its critics make.

Meanwhile, leaders of mining-affected communities in four Mindanao provinces on Friday urged President Benigno S. C. Aquino III to issue a moratorium against the Tampakan project. In a manifesto issued after the three-day forum dubbed "Regional Gathering of Mining Affected Communities," the group pressed for a temporary suspension of the project until the passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill pending before Congress.

The bill seeks to replace Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which critics said "fostered environmental degradation, human rights violations, and social unrest in communities where mining promised development and increased standards of living."

At least 25 leaders from the religious sector, tribal communities and nongovernmental organizations graced the regional conference. -- Louie O. Pacardo and Romer S. Sarmiento


Aquino urged to issue moratorium on Tampakan project

By Bong S. Sarmiento

MindaNews

18 February 2012

KORONADAL CITY - Leaders of communities affected by mining in four Mindanao provinces on Friday urged President Benigno C. Aquino III to issue a moratorium against the massive Tampakan copper-gold project.

In a manifesto issued here after the three-day forum dubbed "Regional Gathering of Mining Affected Communities," the group pressed for a temporary suspension of the Tampakan project pursued by Sagittarius Mines Inc. until the passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill pending before Congress.

The bill seeks to replace Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which critics said "fostered environmental degradation, human rights violations, and social unrest in communities where mining promised development and increased standards of living."

At least 25 leaders from the religious sector, tribal communities and nongovernment organizations graced the regional conference.

In a manifesto written in Filipino, they expressed opposition to the Tampakan project on concerns over the environment, food security, human rights and disrespect to tribal culture, among others.

Danny Arias, advocacy officer for Mindanao of Alyansa Tigil Mina, which organized the event, said the participants agreed to continue their opposition to the Tampakan project.

"We hope to come up with consolidated information and education campaign that will be waged in the local and national level," he said.

Rene Pamplona, advocacy officer of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, said the strategy would likewise involve community-based petitions against the mining company.

The Tampakan project straddles the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and, according to critics, Malungon in Sarangani.

Last month, Sagittarius Mines suffered a major blow after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources denied its application for an environmental compliance certificate.

An ECC is one of the requirements before the mining company may operate commercially, which is slated in 2016.

John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, has assured critics that environmental protection is a key area that the company is giving vital focus.

"We will operate based on acceptable standards not just observed in the country but internationally," he said in previous interviews.

The Tampakan project is touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.

Based on the latest company study, the total estimated mineral resources for the Tampakan deposit rose to 2.94 billion tons at 0.51% copper at a 0.2% copper cut-off grade, from 2.49 billion tons at 0.6% copper at a 0.3 copper cut-off grade.

On the basis of the new information, the estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 MT to 15 MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)


Probe of mining firm linked to Erice eyed

By Paul M. Gutierrez

http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/metro/24335-probe-of-mining-firm-linked-to-erice-eyed

20 February 2012

THE government, through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, has formed a team together with scientists from the state-run University of the Philippines to look into the alleged environmental destruction and other violations purportedly committed by a mining firm in Agusan del Norte linked to Caloocan City Vice Mayor Edgar Erice.

MGB director Leo Jasareno said a "multi-disciplinary team" will be sent to Tubay, Agusan del Norte, where the SR Metals Inc. is based, to conduct "an in-depth investigation" of its mining operations which have been the subject of complaints by local executives and town residents.

Tubay Mayor Sadeka Garcia Tomaneng was among the first to cry harassment against Erice when the Caloocan official filed a complaint against her before the Office of the Ombudsman over her relentless campaign against mining operations in her hometown.

Tomaneng said she has already asked the help of President Benigno Aquino and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the matter, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Erice is a partymate of President Aquino at the Liberal Party and a member of its national executive committee.

Earlier, Jasareno conducted an aerial survey of the area and found indications that SRMI may have committed several violations that could endanger the ecosystem. He said UP scientists were invited to the probe to erase doubts on the result of the investigation.

"That is why we decided to include the members of the academe to prevent any fear of whitewash, and we believe that the team will be able to come up with a credible result," Jasareno said.

Environmentalists have expressed doubts that the MGB would investigate and sanction SRMI and the three other giant mining firms in Surigao del Norte -- Taganito Mining Corp., Platinum Group Metals Corp. and Claver Mining Corp.

Upon learning of the scheduled arrival of the multi-disciplinary team, Tomaneng thanked Jasareno even as she called on the media to help them pursue their cause.

The local government of Tubay has also been asking SRMI to pay P100 million in taxes but the firm allegedly refused to comply despite earning P4 billion.

Asked for comment, Erice said he welcomes the probe "to settle the issue once and for all."He said he even invited Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo to also conduct a separate investigation.

Erice also clarified that, to date, he is just a "minority shareholder" of SMRI, having relinquished all his official posts in the company back in 2007.

"It is incorrect for some quarters to continue to claim that I am SMRI's chairman of the board," he said.

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