MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: A flood of mining problems

Published by MAC on 2012-08-13
Source: GMANews.tv, Inquirer, statement, Rappler, Sun Star (2012-08-06)

Whenever there are attempts to reform the mining laws in the Philippines - and that's frequently - some form of mining disaster seems to follow (For news on mining reforms see: Philippines: The President finally publishes, but arguments continue...). In this case Philex Mining has been ordered to suspend its Benguet operations after its tailings dam discharged mine wastes into a river following torrential rains.

As a result of the President's Executive Order on mining, Xstrata plc has lobbied to overturn the rejection of the Environmental Compliance Certificate for its Tampakan mine - where another person had been  murdered as violence continues to shroud the project.

The government is reviewing the guidelines for obtaining the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples to mining ventures.  The last internal review on the guidelines, in May 2012, was welcomed by indigenous communities. Now they fear that  the mining industry will get its way in revising the procedures downwards.

A telling example of the problems created by lax implementation of FPIC can be seen in Mankayan, where a picket against Lepanto Consolidated & Goldfields has held out despite efforts to break it up. The community claims that its legitimate rejection of the company has been ignored.

Finally, Canada's TVI has hit back at claims, filed in a court action, that it orchestrated violence against its opponents (see:Philippines: Mining murders continue, no justice in sight). Using a report it commissioned, the company claims that email evidence was faked as a part of a conspiracy against it.

Philex suspends operations at Benguet mine after tunnel gets flooded

GMANews.tv

3 August 2012

Philex Mining Corp. suspended operations at its Padcal Mine site in Benguet after heavy rains from tropical depression Ferdie and Typhoon Gener flooded an underground tunnel, the company disclosed to the Philippine Stock Exchange Friday.

Philex shares dropped 7.59 percent to P20.12 at the end of Friday's session following the announcement. Padcal is Philex's only producing gold mine.

"Initial inspection showed that water and sediment are being discharged from one of the two underground tunnels that drain clear water from the penstock in the tailings pond," said Philex, the country's biggest copper and gold miner which recently moved into energy exploration.

Mines and Geosciences bureau director Leo Jasareno told AFP that the government was assessing any potential hazards posed by the tailings spill at the Padcal mine, though Philex Mining denied the discharge was toxic.

There were no reported casualties due to the accident.

"We have issued a suspension order on the mine," Jasareno told AFP by telephone as he drove to the mine, located near the northern mountain resort of Baguio. There were no reported casualties.

"Philex is exerting its maximum effort to address the accidental discharge, and has mobilized the requisite resources in this regard," the country's top gold mining firm said in a statement.

But bad weather in the country is hampering company efforts to assess the extent of the damage, Philex vice president for corporate affairs Mike Toledo told AFP, adding that they still had no timetable for resuming operations.

Philex stopped operations of their Benguet mine August 1 midnight as they conducted an inspection.

"I think we'll still be able to reach our (production) targets," Toledo told AFP when asked if the shutdown would affect the company's profitability.

Typhoon Gener induced widespread flooding across the northern Philippines this week that claimed at least 37 lives according to the government's updated toll.

The accident comes amid an intense public debate in the Philippines on the mining industry.

The Philippines is believed to have some of the biggest mineral reserves in the world - the government estimates the country has at least $840 billion in gold, copper, nickel, chromite, manganese, silver and iron ore deposits.

However, the minerals have been largely untapped, partly because of a strong anti-mining movement led by the influential Catholic Church, while poor infrastructure and security concerns have also kept investors away.

Last month President Benigno Aquino III signed an executive order imposing more restrictions to protect the environment and local communities while seeking to increase royalties from mining firms.

As the government prepared a bill seeking to raise government revenues from the country's extensive mineral wealth, Aquino said no new mining permits would be approved until parliament passed a law giving the state a greater share. - Agence France Press/Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KG GMA News


Philex probed for spill of mine wastes in Benguet

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4 August 2012

MANILA, Philippines-The Department of Environment and Natural resources is looking into possible violations of mining and environmental laws by gold and copper producer Philex Mining Corp., whose operations in Tuba, Benguet were ordered suspended after its tailings dam discharged mine wastes into a river earlier this week.

In a statement, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the suspension order that was issued on Aug. 2 remained in effect as of Saturday, and will stay until the safety of the company's tailings pond has been assured.

The accidental discharge of water and mine wastes from Philex's tailings pond No. 3 was stopped Friday afternoon, officials said.

Philex has three tailings pond but only tailings pond No. 3 is actively used, Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno said. The two other ponds have been decommissioned and rehabilitated as forest areas.

Ocular inspection by the MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau on Friday found that the San Roque Power Dam has not been affected by the discharge. Laboratory analysis of water samples, however, was continuing.

The dam is situated at about 30 kilometers downstream of Agno River from its confluence with Balog River. The drain tunnels discharge their water load into the Balog River, which runs for about 2.5 kilometers before merging with the Agno River.

Paje said the DENR was now looking into possible violations of mining and environmental laws that may have been committed by Philex.

Jasareno said Philex engineers, who had been working round-the-clock since the incident was discovered in the early morning of Aug. 1, successfully plugged the penstock of the tailings pond No. 3 to stop water and mine wastes from flowing into the river.

He described the penstock as a hollow elongated structure built within a tailings pond, with sidewalls or stop boards but open at the top where overflow water of the pond enters and drains to the drainage tunnel below it.

This, therefore, serves to prevent water from accumulating excessively in a tailings pond. The initial investigation showed that portions of the stopboards might have been displaced by hydrostatic pressure brought about by the unusually heavy rains in the area for the last two weeks, he said.

Philex is the country's second leading producer of copper concentrate. It has been in operation in the last 57 years and employs about 2,500 regular workers, according to the DENR. It hosts a mining community deep in the highlands of the Cordilleras with a population of about 14,000.


Fines readied vs Philex after Padcal mine tailings leak

by Rappler.com

6 August 2012

MANILA, Philippines - Environment officials are now in the process of assessing the violations and corresponding fines slapped on Philex Mining Corp., the country's largest mining firm, after leakage from the broken tailings pond at its Padcal copper-gold mine has been contained.

In an interview with Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Leo Jasareno on Monday, August 6, he said a technical team will be sent to the mine site in Benguet in north of Luzon to assess the damage, as well as the cost of rehabilitation and the violations that Philex committed.

"The MGB will assess the impact and determine the specific violation [committed by the firm] particularly the Clean Water Act and the ECC (Environmental Compliance Certificate) contract, and the Mining Act. This still does not include [the cost of] full clean up," Jasareno said.

He cited the following:

Mining Act penalties include P50 per ton of sediments that spilled from the tailings pond
Clean Water Act (Republic Act 9275) imposes a minimum penalty of P100,000 per day to a maximum of P200,000 per day for seepage of pollutants into bodies of water

Toxic chemicals

Since the tailings pond is where the mining firm contain the sediment and other dumps from the process of extracting minerals from ore, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje has earlier expressed concern on the possible impact of the spillage on the living organisms from the neighboring water bodies, especially the Agno and Balog rivers.

"Definitely there is [damage to aquatic resources in Balog and Agno rivers]. But we are determining if the spillage has already reached the San Roque Dam. As of yesterday, it still hasn't," he said, adding that aerial surveillance of the affected areas will be conducted.

"There is a need to conduct a science-based investigation here in order to allay fears and apprehensions of the public," Paje stressed.

So far, no human casualties were reported. "Benguet governor Nestor Fongwan was able to issue an early warning to his constituents," said Paje.

Jasareno said laboratory tests will confirm if the water and sediment that leaked out from the pond do not contain toxic chemicals. The joint team composed of technical staff from the MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau will conduct and complete the tests within a week.

"The sediment that leaked is non-toxic. They do not fall under toxic substances identified in the law. But even so, there will be an effect," Jasareno said, citing initial investigation by the MGB last week.

"It is clear that the sediments have not reached the San Roque Dam which is the source of irrigation and power generation," Jasareno said.

Overflow water from the tailings pond normally discharges into the Balog Creek, which in turn drains into the Agno River. San Roque Dam is situated downstream of the Agno River.

Suspended

The MGB has issued to Philex a cease operation order on Friday, August 3, after the company reported the leakages. The company said no tailings were added to the pond since August 1, following heavy rainfall from typhoons Ferdie and Gener.

In a statement on August 4, Philex said the release of water and sediment from the broken tailings pond No. 3 of its Padcal mine had been contained. Philex said the mine would be closed to allow the full assessment of the tailings pond.

"The leak has been plugged. It is holding on," confirmed Jasareno on Monday.

Given the suspension, Philex's last shipment will be on August 7.

The Padcal copper-gold mine is the only operating mine of Philex, the country's biggest mining firm. The mine produces 150,000 tons of concentrate and 26,000 tons of ore.

In a press conference last August 3, Philex chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said the suspension would result in losses estimated at P30 million to P40 million per day.

Whether the fines from the government have been included in these estimates is yet to be confirmed.

Pangilinan said Philex has taken out a $50 million environmental insurance coverage and a $30 million business interruption insurance to cover the cost of the incident. - Rappler.com


Defend Patrimony criticizes MGB for quickly absolving Philex from recent mining spill

Defend Patrimony press release

6 August 2012

The anti-mining plunder group Defend Patrimony! Alliance disputed statements of the Philex Mining Corporation claiming that the tailings dam spill have already stopped and mine wastes spilled into Agno River is non-toxic.

The group also hit the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for its quick absolution of Philex from any possible environmental impacts of the dam failure on the communities and ecosystems along the River Agno.

"It is irresponsible to claim that the tailings spillage is non-toxic when experts in the San Roque Dam observed an unnaturally muckish, dirty-gray discoloration that did not mix well with the water in the outflow of the dam's turbines. It is questionable how the MGB is quick to assert that the leak is safe, when communities along the Agno River continue to anxiously observe that the dam remains cracked and continues to leak siltation," said Santos Mero, deputy secretary general of the Cordillera People's Alliance and convener of Defend Patrimony.

"The fact that it is the only tailings dam operational in the Padcal Mines means that all toxic waste produced by the daily mining operations is dumped in the pond. It is scientifically proven that mine wastes are laden with heavy metals and other toxic chemicals," said Mero.

"Previous dam failures in various mining projects of Philex have all resulted in fish kills, siltation of affected rivers, dams and agricultural lands, and flash floods that damaged communities," the alliance said in a statement.

The Philex Mining Corp. has a history of tailings dam failures, including the overflowing of the silt dam in their Sibutad gold project in Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte in 1998, a leak in the decant tower of a tailings pond in their Bulawan gold mine in Sipalay, Negros Occidental in 1995, and the collapse of a dam wall also in the Padcal mines way back in 1992.

"All mining operations of Philex in the Philippines should be immediately suspended until a comprehensive review of their facilities and necessary improvements have been implemented. We ask the Senate and Congress to investigate the Philex mine spill, for we are wary that the investigation of MGB will just cover up the culpability of Philex," Defend Patrimony asserted.

The alliance also noted that "Padcal is just one of the many mining projects validated by the Aquino administration's recently passed Executive Order 79 that have track records of environmental disasters."

The Defend Patrimony reiterated the urgent need to revoke EO 79, which was strongly criticized by environmental advocates to be lacking in substance in terms of environmental protection and people's welfare. They also called for the junking of the Mining Act of 1995, which provided anti-environment and anti-people rights and privileges to foreign and large-scale mining corporations.

--

The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment is a convener organization of the Defend Patrimony Alliance, a national network opposed to mining liberalization and plunder.

KALIKASAN PEOPLE'S NETWORK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel./Fax; +63 (2) 924-8756
Website: www.kalikasan.net


Environmentalists want all mining operations suspended due to rain

Jonathan Mayuga

Business Mirror

6 August 2012

AS the country continues to experience excessive rainfall that led to the failure of a tailing pond structure of the Padcal Mines in Benguet, the environmental group Kalikasan Party is pushing for the immediate suspension of all operations of mines to prevent mining disaster.

Frances Quimpo, secretary-general of Kalikasan Party-list, said a full review of safety measures for tailings dams in all mining operations is necessary, in light of the fact that more storms are expected to hit the country this year.

"All mining operations in the Philippines must be put on hold until a full inspection of all tailings dams and the necessary improvements that the investigation will identify is implemented. The people cannot rest assured when even Philex, regarded by its fellow industry giants as among the most environmentally safe mining operations, experiences tailings spills during typhoons," she said.

The operations of Padcal Mines of Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet was suspended since August 2 after an accidental discharge from tailing pond no. 3. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources wants to make sure that the integrity and safety of the mines' structure is assured before it allows Philex to resume operations.

Quimpo said the country is hit by an average of 20 typhoons every year. With the compounding effects of climate change, the immediate cessation and review of all mine operations is of great urgency, she said.

There are 30 large-scale metallic mines and at least 21 abandoned mines across the country in which dam failure can occur, Quimpo said.

The Philippines has a long history of mining disasters, with at least 21 mine tailings dam failures recorded in the past 25 years, she said.

"This recent dam failure in Padcal proves that large-scale mining operations clearly contribute to the increased vulnerability of communities to disasters. This also proves that President Benigno Aquino III's Executive Order 79 on mining is patently anti-environment and anti-people, as it validated all mining contracts and projects including these operations that have proven hazardous," Quimpo said.

Quimpo advised people in mining-affected communities to be vigilant and prepared for mining disasters. She said that mining-affected communities and hosts to large-scale mining operations should come up with contingency measures in response to possible spilling such as what happened in Padcal Mines.

Meanwhile, the group supports the passage of House Bill (HB) 4315, or the People's Mining Bill, "to ensure the highest environmental standards in the management and regulation of the mining industry," said Quimpo.

HB 4315 was filed in 2011 by Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna with the aim of reorienting the mining industry toward domestic economic development, environmental safety and the industrialization and nationalization of the mines sector.


Revised rules readied for community OK

THE GOVERNMENT is reviewing the guidelines for obtaining the consent of indigenous peoples (IPs) to mining ventures as part of discussions for the implementation of Executive Order (EO) 79, a senior environment official said.

Business World online

5 August 2012

"The review of the FPIC (free and prior informed consent) process guidelines was part of the directives issued by the Office of the President for implementing and operationalizing EO 79," said Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo L. Jasareno in a text message last week.

"The MGB and the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) were tasked to review the guidelines. Working groups were created during the first meeting of various agencies involved in drafting the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) for EO 79 last Wednesday. The working group on that will now work within the deadline given," Mr. Jasareno said.

A copy of the memorandum concerned, dated July 6, that issued directives for EO 79 noted the new rules on the FPIC process must be issued by October, or within three months from the issuance of the memo.

The government, through the NCIP, requires that companies planning to operate in ancestral domain areas go through an FPIC process before they can proceed with any other undertaking.

The NCIP had published on May 16 revised FPIC guidelines containing several new provisions, which prompted the mining industry, led by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) to air its concerns, arguing that the new rules could have severe impact on mining investments.

Among the new provisions cited by the group were the requirement for an FPIC process for each major mining phase (exploration and development) and the prevention of mining firms from remitting royalty fees without the consent of the regional NCIP commissioner and the NCIP chairman.

Previously, an FPIC process was required only at the start of a project, and mining firms were allowed to freely remit royalties.

CoMP had filed a protest with the NCIP last May 22, seeking suspension of the implementation of the new guidelines and to subject the revisions to consultations with the mining industry.

According to Mr. Jasareno, the industry will be consulted in the government's review of the new FPIC guidelines.

"The working group will review all its provisions, and the guidelines will be issued separately from EO 79's IRR," said the official.

Sought for comment, Rocky G. Dimaculangan, CoMP vice-president for communications, said in a separate text message last week that the industry welcomes the government's decision to review the guidelines.

"The review will undoubtedly bring to fore the merit of our formal protest against the promulgation of NCIP's revised FPIC guidelines, which failed to comply with procedural due process requirement of prior notice and hearing," said Mr. Dimaculangan.

"With the review, we as an industry hope to be able to express our views in a deliberate consultative process," he added. -- Bettina Faye V. Roc


Monsod: Mining not proven to be a catalyst for economic growth

By: Bong D. Fabe

InterAksyon.com

4 August 2012

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines -- Claims of mining proponents that the industry has the potential to be the country's catalyst for economic growth and, thus, address mass poverty have never been proven.

"The role of mining is always described as ‘potential' because mining has never played a major role in our development, even during the mining boom of the seventies and early eighties," lawyer and civil society leader Christian Monsod said during a forum on Executive Order 79 at the Archbishop Patrick Cronin Formation Hall here recently.

Although, according to the book, "Investing in ASEAN 2011-2012," produced by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines possess at least US$1 trillion in untapped mineral resources, Monsod explained that "most of the mining in our country, after 50 years, is still extract-and-export-ore activity and there is no significant industrialization footprint based on our mineral resources. Not surprising, since the mining companies have to protect their downstream plants or those of their partners abroad."

Monsod also debunked mining firms' claims the industry can provide enough work to stem the diaspora of Filipino jobseekers.

"Extraction mining is known all over the world as a low job-generating activity. In our country, its average employment contribution over the years is about 1/3 of 1 percent of total employment ... In the proposed Tampakan project in Mindanao, involving some US$5.9 billion investments, the permanent jobs will only number 2,000, or an invested capital per job of about P125 million. The comparable rate for call centers is reportedly P6 million per job," he said.

"Investing in ASEAN 2011-2012" says the Philippines' gold ore reserves alone are the third largest in the world, estimated at four billion tons, while copper ore deposits are estimated at 7.9 billion tons, the fourth largest.

The Philippines also has the fifth largest nickel deposit in the world, estimated at 815 million tons. This is aside from deposits of high-grade chromite, silver and other minerals.

If all these resources are tapped, the Philippines could fuel Southeast Asia's emergence as a "global mining force" within the next few years, the ASEAN book claimed.

But Monsod, citing former Economic Planning Secretary Cielito Habito, said based on national input-output tables, the backward linkages of mining are only .46 or less than half of other industries, and the forward linkages a low .82 (below 1) -- which does not give mining "enough value-adding activity" to merit priority.

News reports have also quoted Ruperto Majucas, assistant director general of the National Economic and Development Authority NEDA, as saying the full impact of the mining industry, particularly on employment and the domestic economy, remains limited.

The agency placed the industry's impact on the country's gross domestic product at less than P200 billion with direct and indirect job generation less than half a million this year and the next.

NEDA estimated the contribution of the industry this year to be only 0.74 percent of GDP. Projection for next year is 1.17 percent, while jobs will reach only 276,000 this year and 485,000 next year.

Based on available statistics, Monsod said mining's average contribution to GDP from 2000-2009 was only a mere .91 percent, though this grew in 2010 to 1.30 percent.

As for job generation, the industry's average share to total employment from 2000-2009 was a mere 0.376 percent and 0.5 percent in 2010.

Neither, he said, has mining done much for the country's exports sector.

The average contribution of metallic mining to total exports in 2000-2009 was just 2.96 percent and 3.7 percent in 2010; while mining's average share of investments to total investments is only 2.5 percent.

Monsod also pointed out that from 1997 to 2010, government revenues from mining in taxes, fees and royalties was a mere total of P64.2 billion although total production value of mining companies for in the same period totaled P842 billion.

Does not reduce poverty

Contrary to claims of mining proponents and defenders, the mining industry has not reduced poverty but actually contributed to it, Monsod said.

"Figures derived from FIES (Family Income and Expenditure Survey) 1988-2009 (show that) mining has the highest poverty incidence at 48.7 percent of any sector in the country. It is the only sector where poverty incidence increased between 1988-2009," Monsod said.

The same survey placed the highest poverty levels in regions that host large mining operations such as Caraga with 47.5 percent, Zamboanga Peninsula (42.75 percent) and Bicol (44.92 percent).

At the municipality level, (small area poverty estimates 2003), Bataraza in Palawan, where Rio Tuba has been operating for 30 years, has a poverty incidence (53 percent) double the national rate (26 percent), he added.

"The mining industry is correct in saying that the figures do not establish causality. But they do show an association between mining and poverty that at least raises questions on the claim that mining substantially improves life in their communities," he said.

Dr. Romulo Virola, who resigned recently as secretary general of the National Statistics Coordination Board, said that among the mineral commodities, gold accounts for the biggest share to total mining, contributing, at constant prices, an average of 30.7 percent form 1998-2010.

Virola said that there were 10 companies in the country that produced gold as of 2010 -- six primary producers and four secondary.

He also said the Philippines' potential gold resource/reserves, as of 2010, were estimated at 4.914 billion metric tons, with the biggest reserves found in Region 12, accounting for 44.4 percent of total reserves, followed by the Cordillera Administtative Region and Region 11.

The highest quality of gold reserves is in Region 8, hitting an average grade of 11.4 grams Au/MT.

Yet, for all its gold reserves, Region 12's poverty level continues on a downward spiral.

The NSCB report said the poverty situation in Region 12 "worsened between the period 2006 and 2009. Poverty incidence in the region, or the proportion of families with per capita income falling below the poverty line, was estimated at 28.1 percent in 2009. This was 1.0 percentage point higher than the 27.1 percent poverty incidence in 2006."

NSCB also said: "The said data set also showed that the per capita poverty threshold in the region, or the amount needed by a person to satisfy his food and other basic needs annually, was estimated at P15,762 in 2009 or about P1,314 monthly. This would mean that in 2009, a family of five in the region needed a monthly income of P6,570 or P78,840 annually to provide for the family's basic food and non-food needs to stay out of poverty."


Pickets vs mining firm ‘peaceful'

By Maria Elena Catajan

Sun Star Baguio

27 July 2012

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The protests in Mankayan town are still within peaceful grounds, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.

Benguet Police Provincial Office Intelligence chief Mario Mayames said Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC) tried but failed to implement the order of the National Commission on Indigenous People to allow Goldfields Philippines to drill in the Far South East site.

Mayames said it was LCMC that later gave way when protesters refused to let equipment and materials pass through the site. "They decided to back down; they did not want to harm anybody."

LCMC faced picketers to ask them to allow Goldfields Philippines to continue to drill in the contested site holding an NCIP order.

Mayames said police were in the area to oversee a peaceful negotiation.

"The Madaymen picketers demonstrated that they will openly defy and continue to defy the lawful order of the National Commission on Indigenous People's Rights, even making use of threats and violence to carry out their avowed intentions," LCMC Acting Public Information Officer Joann Gatchalian said.

She added that in its desire to ensure the safety of everybody from both sides, Lepanto deemed it more prudent to suspend execution of the order for the time being, bearing in mind that the yet to be decided preliminary injunction by the RTC will strengthen its case against these illegal claimants.

The company will continue to seek legal and peaceful means to exercise its rights over the property but will not be pressured to move out its drill rig from the area, she said.

Meanwhile, Luzon Indigenous People's leaders are steadfast in their campaign to stop Lepanto's operations and to cause the immediate pullout of South African mining company Goldfields.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 27, 2012.


Sagittarius asks Palace to OK Tampakan permit

BY Bettina Faye V. Roc,

Business World online

29 July 2012

SAGITTARIUS Mines, Inc. (SMI) has formally asked Malacañang to overturn the Environment department's rejection of an environmental permit for the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project.

"SMI submitted [last Friday] a detailed appeal memorandum with the Office of the President appealing the denial of our mine area's environmental compliance certificate (ECC)," SMI corporate communications manager John B. Arnaldo said in an e-mail.

"Our appeal outlines a clear case that the process for issuing ECCs under current national law should not be impeded by a conflicting provincial law," he added.

Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus P. Paje last Thursday hinted that the firm's latest plea could be viewed favorably, especially after the Palace's issuance of Executive Order (EO) 79.

"Through the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), we will endeavor to harmonize existing conflicts between national and local laws, including Tampakan's case," Mr. Paje said.

Pursuant to EO 79, the DILG could talk with the South Cotabato local government -- which has so far upheld its predecessor's ban on open pit mining -- to "work the issue out," Mr. Paje said.

Mr. Arnaldo, meanwhile, noted that "while the DILG may issue implementing rules and regulations of Section 12 of EO 79 directing consistency between national and local laws, the formal mechanism for overturning the ban remains with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or the courts".

The Tampakan project, described as the largest undeveloped copper-gold reserve in Southeast Asia, is controlled by Australia's Indophil Resources NL and Swiss-based Xstrata Plc, which have a 40% stake in SMI.

Commercial operations are scheduled to start in 2016 and the mine is expected to generate total revenues of $37 billion or $1.8 billion annually over 20 years.

Last January, the Environment department cited South Cotabato's open pit mining ban in rejecting SMI's application for an ECC. The same reason was reiterated when the department dismissed SMI's motion for reconsideration in May.

The firm was formally notified of the dismissal of its appeal in June. Later that month, SMI notified the Palace of its intention to file an appeal.


One killed as gunmen ambush policemen guarding mining area in Davao

Philippine Star

9 August 2012

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Xinhua) - Gunmen ambushed a police patrol securing a gold-copper mining firm in the southern Philippines early today.

A policeman died of gunshot wounds following the attack against elements of the Davao del Sur Provincial Public Safety Company (DSPPSC) in Kimlawis village, Kiblawan town in Davao del Sur province, according to Superintendent Marcial Magistrado, spokesperson of the southern Mindanao regional police.

Magistrado said the lawmen were from a security patrol in Sitio Bongmal and were on their way back to the village proper onboard a police vehicle when fired upon around 6:45 a.m., local time.

"Five gunmen waited by the roadside and raked with gunfire the police vehicle. Police Officer Rommel Paccial was hit on his chest and died upon arrival at the Davao del Sur provincial hospital," Magistrado told Xinhua in a text message, adding pursuit operations were now being launched against the still unidentified assailants.

Kiblawan is the site of gold-copper mining firm Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), local partner of Australian miner Xstrata Plc., and which is engaged into open-pit mining operations in the tri- boundaries of Davao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato provinces.

The leftist New People's Army and armed B'laan tribesmen who opposed the mining operations have been attacking the firm in recent years, conducting arson against the company's equipment and killing government troops, police and private security forces guarding the mine site.


Local officials accused of illegal mining in Zamboanga

By Manila Standard

31 July 2012

A large-scale mining operator in Zamboanga del Sur accused local officials of engaging in illegal mining in Balabag Village in the hinterlands of Bayog town, as well as trying to discredit the company by sending fake emails to the president, other top government officials, government agencies, the military, police and the media.

"The local officials are among the illegal miners," TVI Resource Development Public Affairs Director Gene Gregorio told reporters in a news briefing on Monday.

"These are also the same people and the same groups involved in the peddling of lies to demonize the name of the company and besmirch the reputation of its top officials and even harass them," Gregorio added.

Gregorio, however, refused to name the local officials whom they accused of conspiring to control the mining operations in the area.

The TVIRD is a publicly-listed Canadian company involved in the production, development, exploration and acquisition of resource projects in the Philippines. It produces copper and zinc concentrates from its Canatuan mine, it pre-develops its Balabag gold and silver project, and carries out exploration programs on its other North Zamboanga tenements. It also has an interest in an offshore Philippine oil property.

TVIRD's Canatuan mine is the first foreign-invested mine to reach production stage after the passage of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and is operated by TVI Resource Development (Phils.) Inc.

But in a telephone interview, Bayog Mayor Leonardo Babasa said while the TVIRD's accusations may be true, the company's spokesman should have identified the officials involved in illegal mining.

"That was unfair. When they say local officials, that's already generalizing. We have many officials here. I am for one is not involved in anything illegal in my jurisdiction and I am also an advocate of responsible mining, whether large-scale or small-scale," said Babasa, who also verified reports that thousands of people have descended on his town in search of gold.

Babasa said that responsible mining simply means that mining operators should follow the law and secure permits before they start their operation.

The mayor, though, admitted that at least two Sangguniang Bayan members or councilors are indeed involved in illegal small-scale mining in his town.

"It's an open secret here. Some local officials are involved," said Babasa, who did not identify the councilors.

Babasa said small-scale mining have been going on in the area since the early 90s, way before the TVIRD secured an agreement with the provincial government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Babasa warned, though, that the "situation is more serious than what it appears, and there are people whose lives are in danger."

The TVIRD, which owns several Mineral Production Sharing Agreements issued by the DENR covering mining areas in Canatuan, Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte and in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, said that illegal mining operators have resorted to employing sophisticated and creative' modes to destroy the company.

The TVIRD said that a series of emails were circulated early this year implicating the company's executives in a murder conspiracy against certain illegal miners in Balabag, Zamboanga del Sur.

"It was a clear dirty-tactics operation using fake emails to criminally misrepresent TVIRD and mislead President Simeon Benigno S. Aquino III, and other top government officials including Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje and other Cabinet secretaries, heads of government agencies including the National Security Commission, private institutions, military and police officers, the media, our stakeholders and communities where we operate."

The deluge of emails prompted the TVIRD to seek assistance from the National Bureau of Investigation and international private risk assessment and security agency Pacific Strategies and Assessments, to separately run a check on the authenticity of the emails.

After a thorough investigation, the NBI and the PSA both said there was indeed a plot to influence top officials of the government and agencies against TVIRD.

"The emails did not come from the authentic source (TVI) and are maliciously created," said NBI Agent Francis V. Senora in his report dated July 13.

The PSA also branded the emails as "spurious" after making its own analysis. Its managing director Scott Harrison said they examined 48 emails that were all declared "fraudulent."

"A number of the "Suspect Documents" were copies of actual TVI emails that had been fraudulently amended from their original text," the PSA said. None of those "Suspect Documents" were generated from within the TVI IT systems."

Both the NBI and the PSA noted defects in the emails that made them question their authenticity, including inconsistencies between the graphic interphase in the email printouts and the real or actual emails of TVIRD from its email system and provider; significant differences in domain addresses used in the fake emails and with real TVIRD emails, inconsistencies with tem stamp formats and other email protocols used in the fake and real emails and language syntax and even grammatical inconsistencies.

TVIRD company lawyer Fulgencio Factoran strongly denied that TVIRD and its officials were involved in any criminal acts.

"We are a legitimate, multi-million dollar publicly listed business. Our business practices here and in various parts of the world are beyond reproach," he added.

On July 27, 2012, Factoran said TVIRD officials led by its president Eugene Mateo filed with the Makati Prosecutor's Office charges of libel and falsification of documents against Bayog Municipal Councilor Julieto Monding, Edgar Baling, and Joel Cayabyab.


Pickets vs mining firm ‘peaceful'

By Maria Elena Catajan

Sun Star Baguio

27 July 2012

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The protests in Mankayan town are still within peaceful grounds, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.

Benguet Police Provincial Office Intelligence chief Mario Mayames said Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC) tried but failed to implement the order of the National Commission on Indigenous People to allow Goldfields Philippines to drill in the Far South East site.

Mayames said it was LCMC that later gave way when protesters refused to let equipment and materials pass through the site. "They decided to back down; they did not want to harm anybody."

LCMC faced picketers to ask them to allow Goldfields Philippines to continue to drill in the contested site holding an NCIP order.

Mayames said police were in the area to oversee a peaceful negotiation.

"The Madaymen picketers demonstrated that they will openly defy and continue to defy the lawful order of the National Commission on Indigenous People's Rights, even making use of threats and violence to carry out their avowed intentions," LCMC Acting Public Information Officer Joann Gatchalian said.

She added that in its desire to ensure the safety of everybody from both sides, Lepanto deemed it more prudent to suspend execution of the order for the time being, bearing in mind that the yet to be decided preliminary injunction by the RTC will strengthen its case against these illegal claimants.

The company will continue to seek legal and peaceful means to exercise its rights over the property but will not be pressured to move out its drill rig from the area, she said.

Meanwhile, Luzon Indigenous People's leaders are steadfast in their campaign to stop Lepanto's operations and to cause the immediate pullout of South African mining company Goldfields.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 27, 2012.

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