MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: one mine disaster after another

Published by MAC on 2013-02-19
Source: Statements, Rappler, Malaya, Business World (2013-02-14)

At the time of writing, five people are dead, with five missing in a landslide at the Philippines' main coal mine in Antique. It is the third accident to occur in Philippine mining sites over the last six months.

The Office of the President has finally intervened to force the Department of the Environment to issue the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to Xstrata's Tampakan mine.

This is despite the fact that no new information has arisen; those with power and connections to money merely want to trump due process. All of this is happening while the area around the mine site dissolves into further violence because of the project (see: Philippines: Another killing at Xstrata's Tamapakan mine).

At the same time the Government is reviewing the (temporary) re-opening of Philex's Padcal mine after the failure of its tailings system. This is despite new evidence of the toxic nature of the spill, a proposed congressional enquiry and the imposition of further fines on the comp;any.

Citinickel has also paid a large fine for a similar mine spill in the tourist island of Palawan.

Given the track record of mining in the Philippines (under the new regime of 'sustainable mining'), how many other disasters are still to be reported, or will happen in the future?

5 killed, 13 trapped in Semirara landslide

Rappler.com

14 February 2013

MANILA, Philippines - Rescuers recovered two more bodies from a landslide at the country's biggest coal mine site in Caluya, Antique on Thursday, February 14, bringing the death toll to 5.

Thirteen miners remain trapped, and 5 are missing, George San Pedro, resident manager of Semirara Mining Corp.'s Panian mine, said in a text message to reporters.

Three people have been rescued in the landslide, which happened when a section of the mine's wall caved in at 11:55 pm Wednesday, February 13. Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas earlier identified the survivors as Marjun Catoto, Adrian Celmar and Leonardo Sojor.

The accident was the third to occur in mining sites in the country over the last 6 months.

Semirara said it "stopped mine operations to ensure the safety of its personnel." It added its management is still trying to determine the cause of the accident "in coordination with relevant government authorities."

Police however said incessant rains might have caused the landslide. Rescue operations for the missing miners are ongoing.

Semirara is the biggest and only large-scale coal producer in the Philippines. It is owned by the Consunji group, which has stakes in construction (via DMCI Holdings), utilities (Maynilad Water), toll roads, real estate, and power, among others.

David Consunji, chairman of the company, is the Philippines' 5th richest man in 2012, according to Forbes.

Mine accidents

This is the 3rd mine accident reported in the country in the last 6 months.

In August, one of the tailings pond of Padcal mine in Benguet province broke, spilling waste into the nearby Balog creek, which flows into the Agno River and the San Roque dam.

Padcal owner Philex Mining Corp., the country's biggest copper-gold producer, also blamed incessant rains for the accident.

Three months later, silt spilled from the Toronto mine of Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. in Narra, Palawan. The waste flowed into a river and irrigation canals affecting farms and a fish pond.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau fined Philex and Citinickel for the mine spills, claiming both were negligent in their operations.

Philex will pay a P1-billion fine under the Mining Act, on top of other fines imposed on the company for violation of its environmental compliance certificate. Citinickel was fined over P500,000.

The two companies were asked to clean up and rehabilitate affected waterways.

Citinickel is a subsidiary of Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc.

Philex, Oriental Peninsula, Semirara and parent DMCI Holdings are publicly traded companies.

Semirara's stock price plunged following news of the mine accident.

At 1:46 pm Thursday, Semirara was down P17.80 or 6.9% at P240 per share in the Philippine Stock Exchange versus its close of P257.80 on Wednesday, February 13. - Rappler.com


Palace OK on SMI-Xstrata mining to worsen violence in Tampakan

Kalikasan PNE Press release

11 February 2013

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment warned Malacañang that approving the mining application in Tampakan will lead to more violence and resistance in the area, after the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) recommended the granting of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to Sagittarius Mine Inc (SMI-Xstrata).

"It is devious and foolish for Malacañang to approve the Tampakan mining project. The people of Mindanao have opposed the mining project for more than two decades now, and giving Sagittarius the go signal to mine will only add fire to the volatile situation in the south," said KPNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista.

The MICC, citing the report of the Department of Finance, said that rejecting the application will result in the loss of potential investment and revenues from the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper and gold project. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources had earlier disapproved the ECC application, following the local government's ban on open-pit mining in the province.

"It seems that President Aquino values the interest of the foreign miners more than the lives and safety of our indigenous peoples and mining-affected people in the project area. However, the provincial ban and the on-going pangayaw (tribal war) of the B'laan people attest to their firm resistance against large-scale mining. Mr. Aquino's administration should submit to the people's wish, or else risk fuelling violence and increasing the casualties," said Bautista.

The mining project in Tampakan is at the core of several cases of extrajudicial killings, most recently the murder of Juvy Capion, wife of anti-mining tribal leader Daguil, and her two minor sons on October 18. A B'laan tribal warrior was also killed in a military operation last January.

"Instead of giving its approval, Malacañang should abandon the Tampakan mining project and pull-out the military in the mining-affected area. These actions will definitely reduce human rights violations and start to bring peace in the communities," stated Defend Patrimony, an alliance against large-scale mining.

Tampakan is also the site of the B'laan people's declaration of war against SMI-Xstrata and the company's security forces. The mining project threatens to displace more than 30,000 B'laans in the mountain ranges of Saranggani, Davao del Sur and South Cotabato provinces.

"As long as the government supports foreign and large-scale mining, bloodsheds, community displacement, and environmental destruction will continue," said Bautista. ###

Reference: Clemente Bautista, 09228449787.
--
CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Website: www.kalikasan.net


Green group denounces ECC approval of Tampakan copper-gold mine project

Kalikasan PNE Press release

19 February 2013

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment denounces Malacanang and DENR's recent approval of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. for its Tampakan copper-gold mining project in South Cotabato.

"This is a dastardly act and should be condemned. How can you give permit to a mining company which project is already causing massive community displacement and enormous environmental damage? The people of Mindanao have strongly opposed the mining project for more than two decades; there is a provincial government ban on open-pit mining and an on-going pangayaw (tribal war) by the indigenous people (IP) B'laan against the project. Is the Aquino government not convinced enough that this foreign mining project is unwelcome?", said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje issued the ECC to the SMI project upon the recommendation of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). The ECC granted was subjected to certain conditions for SMI to fulfill such as social acceptability, protection of the rights of IP, resolution of land conflicts, and assumption of ‘continuing liability'.

"This is a brainless decision. It seems that President Aquino values the interest of foreign miners more than the lives and safety of our people and the pristine environment in Mindanao. The Aquino government's approval of the project will surely encourage the people to resist more in different ways. This will only add fire to the volatile situation in the mining-affected areas," Bautista added.

Tampakan is also the site of the B'laan people's declaration of war against SMI-Xstrata and the company's security forces. The mining project threatens to displace more than 30,000 B'laans in the mountain ranges of Saranggani, Davao del Sur and South Cotabato provinces.

"With this approval, the government as always will increase the military forces and intensify militarization in the mining-affected areas to dissuade the people in opposing the project. This will definitely result in more violence and increasing human rights violations," Bautista explained.

Last October 18, 2012, Juvy Capion, wife of anti-mining tribal leader Daguil, and her two minor sons were killed by the military. Recently a B'laan tribal warrior was also killed in a military operation last month. Several anti-mining activists were also assassinated because of their opposition to the project, one of which is Eliezer Billanes in March 2009.###

Reference: Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator - Kalikasan PNE, 09228449787.

--
CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Website: www.kalikasan.net


Philippines clears Xstrata's $5.9bn Tampakan mine

Reuters

19 February 2013

MANILA - Global miner Xstrata Plc's $5.9 billion Tampakan mine in the Philippines has been granted an environmental compliance certificate by the government, the company said on Tuesday, removing one of the hurdles delaying work on Southeast Asia's biggest copper-gold prospect.

The Tampakan project, the Philippines' single largest foreign direct investment, has been held up by a 2010 ban on open-pit mining imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

That ban is still in place, but the central government's grant of the environmental compliance certificate, or ECC, puts Xstrata a step closer to actual construction of the mine. The company, however, still needs at least three more local permits before work can begin.

"We received an official notification that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has signed the ECC for our Tampakan mine project," Sagittarius Mines Inc, the local unit of Xstrata, said in a statement.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said the government had included certain conditions in the ECC "in order to protect and mitigate possible adverse impacts of the project on the community health, welfare and the environment."

Sagittarius said it was reviewing the conditions.

Sagittarius had filed for an ECC in 2010, shortly before the local council of South Cotabato banned open pit mining -- the extraction method the company plans to use.

Paje had previously said an ECC for the project cannot be issued while the ban was in place. But a mining council, overseen by President Benigno Aquino's office, ordered the environment department to grant Sagittarius the ECC if it had complied with all requirements.

Sagittarius has pushed back the target date to start production at the Tampakan mine in South Cotabato by three years to 2019 as it struggles to win regulatory approvals.


DENR to rule on Tampakan ECC

Malaya

6 February 2013

The Office of the President has remanded the appeal of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) for an environmental compliance certificate to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the operator of the stalled $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato said yesterday.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Leo Jasareno also confirmed an earlier report that Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang announced the action taken by Malacacang on SMI's petition.

"The OP is now asking the DENR to determine whether (or not) SMI has complied with all the requirements for the granting of the ECC for the proposed Tampakan mine project," said Manolo Labor, SMI spokesperson.

In May 2012, the DENR confirmed that both the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) and the independent Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee (EIARC) have agreed that SMI had satisfactorily completed the procedures and requirements under the Philippine Environment Impact Statement system.

"Our records show that we have not violated or reneged on our commitment to safeguard the environment and the communities around us," Labor said.

Both the EMB and the EIARC have recommended to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje also in May 2012 that SMI be issued an ECC because it has complied with all the requirements needed for the issuance of an ECC.

"With this development, we look forward to the issuance of the ECC by the DENR," Labor said.

"Once the ECC is issued, we look forward to starting with work programs together with other key approvals and regulatory requirements including the preparation of our Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP), Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan (FMRDP), and the development of the Social Development Management Plan (SDMP)," he added.

The approval of the ECC by the DENR will ultimately allow the company to start with the development phase, which is considered to be the single largest foreign direct investment in the country.

Labor said SMI will resolve issues surrounding the project through dialog and appeals process rather than questioning the constitutionality of the local ordinance in court.

In 2010, then South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes signed an ordinance banning open pit mining in the province.

Current provincial Gov. Arthur Pingoy said the provincial board is not inclined to repeal or amend the ordinance.

SMI earlier announced that it is pushing back the target date for the start of commercial operations of Tampakan project to 2019 as it deals with regulatory and operational difficulties.

The company said it had provided the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) with an updated project development plan for the Tampakan copper-gold project "that outlines the potential for commercial production to commence in 2019."

SMI has originally intended to begin the commercial operations of the mine in 2016.


Grasping at straws

Dante Gatmaytan

Business World online

10 February 2013

THE SECRETARY of Justice recently warned local officials of South Cotabato that they face administrative charges for enacting a resolution banning open-pit mining (Edu Punay, South Cotabato execs may face raps over open pit mining ban, Philippine Star, Jan. 31, 2012). This warning is the latest in a string of national government attempts to weaken opposition to open-pit mining in a number of provinces.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima's objection to the province's resolution is not based on an alleged violation of law. Instead she cites a policy or "standing position" of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to allow open-pit mining in the country.

The Secretary's statement is misleading and lacks legal basis. The statement also reveals a change in legal theory.

For an ordinance to be valid it must conform to well-established principles: In Tatel v. Virac (G.R. No. 40243, March 11, 1992) the Supreme Court held that a municipal ordinance must (1) not contravene the Constitution or any statue (2) not be unfair or oppressive (3) not be partial or discriminatory (4) not prohibit but may regulate trade (5) be general and consistent with public policy, and (6) not be unreasonable.

In those cases when the Supreme Court invalidated ordinances, "the national laws were clearly and expressly in conflict with the ordinances/resolutions of the LGUs." The court stated that in these cases, "the inconsistencies were so patent that there was no room for doubt." (Social Justice Society v. Atienza, Jr., G.R. No. 156052, February 13, 2008).

Neither the DILG nor the Department of Justice (Do), however, has identified any provision of law that the ban ostensibly violates.

This is probably why the Secretary of Justice is now citing the "standing position" of the DILG to allow open-pit mining. She argues that the ordinance is invalid because it "must be general and consistent with public policy." This argument finds no support in case law.

Let me address some preliminary matters.

The Secretary of Justice claimed that, "Whenever we issue [an Opinion] on any legal issue or concern referred to us, we deem our views expressed therein as having strong persuasive effect, especially among government functionaries and as such we are entitled to respect." The Secretary's statement is incomplete. The principle is not directed at all government functionaries, but rather at courts whenever they are engaged in the interpretation of laws. The Supreme Court has held that statutory interpretations of executive bodies (like the Department of Justice) "do not hold decisive sway upon the judiciary but are merely persuasive." (The City of Davao v. The Regional Trial Court, Branch XII, G.R. No. 127383, August 18, 2005). The opinion of the Secretary of Justice does not have a controlling effect upon the Supreme Court (Paa v. Chan, G.R. No. L-25945, October 31, 1967).The Secretary's Opinions are opinions and are not necessarily correct.

I am unaware of any DILG policy or position, which allows open-pit mining.

I also cannot find a Supreme Court decision that invalidated a local measure because it violated a public policy. There are cases, however, where the Supreme Court cites public policy to invalidate contracts that are intended to circumvent the law or because they are simply unfair. For example:

In International School Alliance of Educators v. Quisumbing (G.R. No. 128845, June 1, 2000), the court invalidated a school's practice of giving higher salaries to foreign employees.

In Gatchalian v. Delim (G.R. No. 56487, Oct. 21, 1991), the court nullified a waiver by an injured passenger to claim damages arising from an accident because it would "dilute and weaken the standard of extraordinary diligence exacted by the law from common carriers and hence to render that standard unenforceable."

Contracts that contain fixed periods of employment that are used to prevent the workers' acquisition of security of tenure are invalid (Caramol v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 102973, August 24, 1993).

An employment contract cannot be used to circumvent the compulsory coverage of its employees under the Social Security Law (Republic of the Philippines v. Asiapro Cooperative, G.R. No. 172101, November 23, 2007).

An employer must have a legal basis for dismissing an employee and cannot insist that the dismissal was validly effected pursuant to the provisions of her employment contract (Philippine National Bank v. Cabangsa, G.R. No. 157010, June 21, 2005).

May these cases be applied where a local government bans open-pit mining? When local governments enact such measures they do so to protect the health of their constituents, and the environment from the destructive effects of mining. Both health and environmental protection are constitutionally recognized rights.

The Supreme Court has upheld local government efforts to protect the environment. ]It upheld a city ordinance banning the shipment of all live fish and lobster outside Puerto Princesa City for specified periods, as well as a resolution by Palawan prohibiting the catching, gathering, possessing, buying, selling, and shipment of live marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms (SeeTano v. Socrates, G.R. No. 110249, August 21, 1997).

Invalidating bans on open-pit mining based on public policy would suggest that local measures designed to protect public health and the environment should be invalidated because it contradicts a national policy that allows open-pit mining. This proposition offends the constitutional directives on local autonomy and should never be sanctioned by courts.

The national government should work with local officials to ensure that the latter's concerns are adequately addressed. Perhaps there can be a more constructive approach to mining that does not require straining the legal system beyond recognition or conjuring arguments that find no support in law.

"The author is associate orofessor of the UP College of Law and teaches Constitutional Law and Local Government Laws, among others. He is a fellow of Bantay Kita."


Full Force for SMI-Xstrata Mining

by judy a. pasimio, LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights)

12 February 2013

It is like watching a full orchestra playing a symphony. An ugly, sinister symphony.

The Office of the President recently issued a decision to the appeal of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) (Feb. 4, 2013), finding no grounds for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to deny the mining company the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for its Tampakan Gold Project. The decision, which was heavily siding with the Xstrata-Indophil owned mining company, basically instructed DENR to just please, issue the ECC.

DENR Secretary Paje twice denied issuing the ECC to SMI, "until the issues and concerns on the use of open pit mining method shall have been clarified and resolved by the Company (SMI) with the Provincial Government of South Cotabato." According to DENR, this "involves a delicate interplay between local autonomy and national policy. . . . the denial of the application was grounded on the issue of the open-pit mining as prohibited by the provincial government."

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who signed the Palace decision, however said, that the SMI has fully complied with the requirement of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) System, and therefore no grounds for denying. Rebuking Sec. Paje, Ochoa said " The DENR Secretary, despite the recommendation of the grant of the ECC to SMI, denied the application, not because SMI had failed to comply with the requirements of the EIS System, but merely because of the prohibition of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato against open-pit mining." (underscore mine)

So basically, Sec. Paje is being scolded for taking cognizance of the will of Provincial Government of South Cotabato, who has stood on the side of the people who would be adversely affected by the large-scale mining operations in the province. Basically, Ochoa, who echoes the will of the President, is saying, "$#@& the provincial government." Ah, that's good governance for you.

This OP Decision comes at the heels of the warning issued by the Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to the Provincial Government of South Cotabato (January 30, 2013) that it may face administrative charges for the enactment of its resolution to ban open pit mining in the province. De Lima reiterated her Nov. 2012 legal opinion "supporting the DILG's plan to initiate administrative cases against local executives who would insist on implementing ordinances prohibiting open pit mining in their respective provinces and towns." (Phil. Star, 1-31-13)

Then you have the muscle of the government at work. In October last year, the horrible Tampakan Massacre happened. Juvy Capion and her children - Jordan, John and Vicky were shot at while sleeping in their hut in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur. 4-year old Vicky was wounded but managed to escape. This killing happened during a military manhunt for Daguil Capion, the husband of Juvy, and one of the B'laan leaders who have staged armed resistance against the encroachment of SMI to their ancestral domains. In January 29, Kitari, the brother of Daguil was also murdered, along with two other companions. The killing was led by Army Capt. Joel Wayagwag, head of Task Force Kitaco, in an area in Barangay Bong Mal. This borders the three municipalities which are the main sites of the SMI mining operations - Kiblawan, Tampakan and South Cotabato. Task Force KITACO is a special task force created under the Army's 1002nd Infantry Brigade assigned to oversee and secure areas where SMI-Xstrata's mining project operates.

So what is this we are witnessing? A concerted action by the government, using its full force to protect the interest of this mining investment; using its full force against the B'laans, the people of the provinces covered by the Columbio Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), and the natural resources that the peoples of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Saranggani are protecting.

What we are witnessing is a discriminatory activation of the full force of the law - Where was the full force of the government when the Capion family was massacred? The military, while insisting that what happened was a legitimate encounter, admitted that there were operational lapses. The killer soldiers were supposed to be tried under a Court Marshall. But no trial, no administrative charges were made, no court has been convened. What is the legal opinion of Secretary de Lima here? Where was the full force of the law when Kitari and his companions were killed? The full force was used against them, and is being used against the B'laan women and children who have fled from their homes in the wake of the increasing number of troops and CAFGUS being deployed in the provinces covered by the SMI-Xstrata operations.

Pres. Aquino issued Executive Order 79 last year, putting a moratorium in approving new mining applications, and committing to review issued mining permits. Why not put the efforts and resources of the government in the review of this FTAA? The Tampakan project has no Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the B'laans. The FTAA overlaps with several ancestral domains. This project has been the site of intense conflict and increasing violence over the years. This 99,400-hectare mining concession which was originally awarded to Western Mining Corporation (WMC), then transferred to SMI-Xstrata in 2002, has turned out to be one of the bloodiest mining (dis)agreements issued by the government. Instead, the Malacanang-led Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) created by this EO, is now pushing for a review of the decision of the denial of the ECC. According to Sec. Paje, MICC has endorsed the issuance of the ECC. (BusinessMirror, 2-17-13)

The strong and concerted push by the Aquino government for the SMI-Xstrata mining operations to commence, at this moment, in this context, is indeed a crystal clear message: the rights and lives of the B'laans, the will and autonomy of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato, the peace and order situation in the three provinces covered by the SMI FTAA, the food security of the provinces, and the natural resources to be irreparably damaged by the large scale open pit mining - all these are less valuable to Aquino compared to the promises of the $5.9 Billion dollar mining investment of SMI-Xstrata.

In less than a week from now, Sec. Paje said he has been instructed to make its decision again on the ECC of SMI. Let us see how this tragic symphony plays out, while we brace ourselves for stronger, more determined fight against the deadly presence and influence of SMI-Xstrata in the country.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lilak-Purple-Action-for-Indigenous-Womens-Rights/446251688730248

mobile: 09175268341


‘Padcal spill released toxic heavy metal '

Groups dissuade gov't from reopening Philex mines - No second chance for Philex.

Press Release

15 February 2013

This was the call of environmental and scientist groups that conducted a fact-finding mission on the Padcal mining disaster, adding that reopening Philex mines in Benguet will pose more danger to the communities and environment.

"A company with a history of disastrous mining like Philex deserves to be punished for its negligence, not a second chance at operation and mindless exploitation," said Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment National Coordinator Clemente Bautista, Jr.

Scientist group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) and environmental research institution Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines (CEC-Phils) reiterated the extent of damage to the environment caused by the Padcal mining spill in a press conference today on the findings of an environmental investigative mission (EIM) held on October 26-28, 2012.

"The breach of Tailings Pond 3 last August resulted in the deposition of the heavy metal copper in the Balog-Agno junction," said CEC Phils Senior Researcher Rog Amon. Laboratory analysis of sediments collected in the impact areas pegged the highest concentration of copper in the area at 450 ppm.

"At that level, the amount of copper in the junction is four to five times greater than threshold limit for copper in sediments based on international standard," added Amon. The maximum tolerable copper concentration in sediments in mining country Australia is set at 86 ppm.

The sediments underwent elemental heavy metal analysis performed by UP Los Banos BIOTECH and the Philippine Institute for Pure and Applied Chemistry.

"Before the spill, Balog river was deemed a Class A water body where flora and fauna can thrive. But during our visit, the EIM team observed that the river was biologically dead as indicated by the absence of macroinvertebrates. This change can be attributed to the massive deposition of mine tailings and high concentration of copper in the soil," explained Feny Cosico, AGHAM environmental expert.

The finding of the group contradicts the laboratory findings presented by Philex and its commissioned scientists and corporations that heavy metals in their mine tailings and Balog River is below the standard limit of DENR.

High level of copper is toxic to plants, insects and invertebrates, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. In human, on other hand, toxic copper levels can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea, and at worse, damage the lungs, liver, kidney and pancreas.

"Ingestion of heavy metals by aquatic organisms may increase the toxicity of the metals due to biomagnification along the food chain. Complaints of digestive illnesses in downstream communities immediately after the mine spill could be a manifestation of the contamination," added Amon.

Citing the effects of the mine spill, the groups challenged the government to hold the mining company accountable for the disaster, instead of letting Philex resume operations. Philex had earlier requested permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to re-open the Padcal mines, in order to fill up the ‘void' in TP3 with fresh mine tailings.

The mining company also claimed that letting the ‘void' fill up with pure water will further weaken the dam structure and risk a greater breach.

Engineer Vergel Aniceto of Katribu Partylist advised DENR to reject the request from Philex, saying the plan of reusing a damaged dam to prevent another disaster is "devious and preposterous."

"Allowing Philex to use the TP3 for its operation is like courting disaster. The Philex Padcal mines has a history of dam collapse and mine spills. The DENR should continue the suspension of operation of Philex and force Philex to immediately pay its obligations and fines," said Engr. Aniceto.

"The government must not give in to Philex, and should be firm in demanding justice and compensation for all the damages caused by the spill. Philex mine workers should also get financial compensation and livelihood support," stated Defend Patrimony, a national alliance against large-scale mining. ###

References: Rog Amon, CEC Phils 09054971124
Feny Cosico, AGHAM expert, 09178115445


Govt may allow Philex mine to reopen temporarily

by Rappler

7 February 2013

MANILA, Philippines - The government may allow Philex Mining Corp. to resume its Padcal mine operations as early as next week.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau Leo Jasareno said they are taking into serious consideration Philex's request to be allowed to produce tailings and fill the void in its compromised pond for up to 4 months to prevent it from breaking again.

Jasareno said there was no other way to fill the void.

"There is still no alternative being considered. This is the first time this happened," Jasareno said in a public hearing at the MGB head office in Quezon City Wednesday, February 6.

Representatives from indigenous groups and employees of local government units in Benguet province also filed a petition for Philex to be allowed to temporarily resume operations.

"We will fully take into consideration your petition. It is clear to us that the supension order has an effect on your livelihood. We will always take into account the socio-economic effects of the situation," Jasareno told the representatives of the groups in the hearing, adding his office will hand a decision in a week.

Padcal's tailings pond, which broke due to incessant rains in August 2012, was designed to hold solids. Foreign consultants hired by Philex recommended a process called "beaching" where 3.5 million tons of fresh tailings must be dumped into the pond to push the water away.

"We are requesting the MGB to lift the suspension to enable Philex to undergo rehabilitation before the rains come," said Philex President and OO Eulalio Austin Jr.

Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president for operations and Padcal resident manager, said beaching must begin this month so it could finish before the rainy season starts in June.

A total of 20 million tons of waste spilled into the dead storage of the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan, and into the Agno and Balog rivers.

Philex submitted a clean-up and rehabilitation plan, which will involve taking the tailings out of San Roque's dead storage. The corporation managing the dam earlier informed Philex the silt was causing problems in the dam's seals and pumps.

The MGB will also decide in a week on Philex's rehab plan.

Philex will pay P1.034-billion fine for the tailing spill on February 19, the deadline set by government, Philex Spokeperson Mike Toledo said. - Rappler.com


Mines bureau: Philex may face more fines

By Rubyloida Bitog

Sun Star

6 February 2013

BAGUIO CITY -- The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said additional penalty may be imposed on Philex Mining Corporation if the earlier compensation for the damages of the mine spill is not enough.

Philex Mining is also hopeful that MGB will allow the resumption of its Padcal mine operations in Itogon, Benguet, where one of its tailing ponds leak millions of metric tons of mine waste last year.

MGB Cordillera updated the Provincial Board of Benguet on Tuesday the developments of the rehabilitation work Philex Mining is conducting on its tailings pond 3 in Itogon.

Benguet Board Member Benjamin Saguid asked Engineer Felizardo Gacad Jr. of MGB during the presentation on the possibility that the P1.034 billion penalty will be insufficient to cover damages by the spill.

Saguid expressed fears residents of the town will not be properly compensated.

However, Gacad assured Saguid that MGB will impose additional penalty if the earlier amount will not cover all the damages.

The board members also asked Gacad to explain the basis of the computation of the penalty.

Gacad explained that the computation was made by multiplying the estimate overflowed mine wastes (around 21 million metric tanks) by P50 per metric tank.

The mine engineer revealed the affected residents had already filed their complaints against the mining firm. But Gacad said the affected residents can also file their damage claims with the MGB-Cordillera.

On July 2012 an unusual amount of water accumulated in tailings pond 3 of Philex located in Balog, Ampucao, Itogon.

A sink hole resulted causing the pond to spill about 21 million metric tanks of mine wastes along Balog Creek until it reached the Agno River.

Later, the MGB central office issued a cease and desist order against Philex and asked for proper compensation of the damaged caused by the spill. The agency penalized Philex with P1.034 billion.

After a few months, the pollution adjudication board penalized Philex with a fine of P92.8 million.

The MGB - Cordillera earlier explained the suspension will only be lifted if the rehabilitation of the dam and its surroundings will be completed.
Philex have to clean up the Balog Creek and the river banks of the Agno too. These rehabilitations needed are now ongoing, and some were already completed by Philex.

Meanwhile, officials and consultants of Philex Mining have asked MGB to lift the suspension on Padcal Mines after presenting a rehabilitation plan for its affected tailing pond.

At a public hearing on Wednesday, Philex said consultants have recommended a process that will take three to four months to rehabilitate the affected tailing pond.

MGB assured to make a decision on Philex's plea within a week.

Senator Sergio Osmeña III has asked for a Senate investigation into the massive mine spill at the Padcal mine of Philex Mining Corporation following complaints from non-government organizations, indigenous peoples and church leaders.

Osmeña said the probe, which he wanted to be conducted during the break for the campaign period that started Wednesday, will help in crafting laws to prevent similar incidents.

On August 1, 2012, a leak was discovered in the tailings-pond of Philex's Padcal mines, spilling about 21 million metric tanks of mine wastes along the Balog Creek and also reached the Agno River.

On August 2, 2012, MGB-CAR issued a cease order to Philex Mining Corporation, suspending the operation of the company.

On August 30, 2012, another leak was discovered in the Tailings Pond 3 of the mining firm located in Balog, Ampucao, Itogon.

Philex, the country's largest mining firm run by Manny Pangilinan, had said the tailings-pond collapsed in Padcal mine was due to bad weather.

But Osmeña refused to buy Philex's arguments, recounting past accidents in the same mining site including the collapse of a dam wall in 1992 due to a weakened foundation caused by an earthquake that happened two years earlier.

He said the more than 20 million metric tons of tailings gushed from the tailings-pond in Padcal mine surpassed what was spilled out of the Marcopper mine in 1996 in Marinduque, which dumped approximately two million metric tons of wastes into the Boac River.

"As it is, these mining accidents could not just be justified as force majeure," he said.

The senator said the government has yet come up with findings on the toxicity, accurate volume of total discharges, and their impact to the communities directly and indirectly affected by the disaster.

"We owe it to our people, the country and ourselves to know the truth about the massive leak, its impact to the affected communities and our ecosystem," he said Wednesday. (Sun.Star Baguio with Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)


Senate sets inquiry on Philex mining spill

By Matikas Santos

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5 February 2013

MANILA, Philippines-The Senate has set an inquiry into the "unprecedented" mine spill that occurred at a mining site of Philex Mining Corporation in the province of Benguet last August 2012.

"On August 2012, the country witnessed a mine tailings leak of unprecedented proportions," Senator Sergio Osmeña III said in a privilege speech Tuesday.

Mine tailings are a form of waste from the process of extracting the valuable minerals or metals from rocks or ore.

"The penstocks of the only operational mine-tailings pond or Pond ‘C' of Philex in Benguet had collapsed, causing the discharge of over 20.6 million metric tons of mine wastes," Osmeña said.

He said that the amount of wastes spilled in the incident was "20 times more than the infamous Marinduque Mining Disaster that left Boac River dead over a decade ago."

There have been no official findings yet from the government on the exact details of the spill such as the toxicity of waste, the accurate amount of waste spilled, as well as the effect on all those living near the Balog and Agno river systems, Osmeña said.

Various Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) have written to him calling on the Senate to conduct an investigation into the incident, he said.

"We owe it to our people, the country and ourselves to know the truth about the massive leak, its impact to the affected communities, the Local Government Units, and our ecosystem," Osmeña said.

"In the interest of transparency, fairness, and justice, I strongly and respectfully request that the appropriate committees of the Senate initiate proper inquiry, in aid of legislation, even while the Senate is on recess," he added.


Citinickel pays P375,000 fine for Palawan mine spill

by Rappler

8 February 2013

MANILA, Philippines - Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. has paid the over P375,000 penalties to the government following the November silt spill in its Palawan operations.

In a disclosure to the stock exchange on Friday, February 8, Citinickel's parent, Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc., said it has also constructed additional silting pond to prevent a similar incident in the future.

"Yes we confirm that there was an incident of overflowed water with silt in one of our silting pond...in one of our nickel mining operation located in Brgy. San Isidro, Narra, Palawan," the listed firm wrote.

The penalties were imposed after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached agencies, the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), conducted water sampling tests on the Pinagduguan River, where some of the water overflowed, two days after the incident in November 25, 2012.

"We immediately stop[ped] our mining operation and immediately clean[ed] up and rehabilitated the river and some adjacent farm lots that were affected by the overflow. The company finished [these] 15 days later...The company already paid [the P375,000-plus fine to] the DENR," it disclosed.

However, unlike the recent mine spill in Padcal, Benguet that gold producer Philex Mining Corp said was caused by force majeure, the Citinickel incident in Palawan was due to the mine's lapses, the government's investigation showed.

The report said the Palawan mine spill was "due to lapses in the judgement of the mine foreman who was tasked to drain water from silt pond no. 2 to silt pond no. 1." - Rappler.com


Citinickel pays P375,000 fine for Palawan mine spill

by Rappler

8 February 2013

MANILA, Philippines - Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. has paid the over P375,000 penalties to the government following the November silt spill in its Palawan operations.

In a disclosure to the stock exchange on Friday, February 8, Citinickel's parent, Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc., said it has also constructed additional silting pond to prevent a similar incident in the future.

"Yes we confirm that there was an incident of overflowed water with silt in one of our silting pond ... in one of our nickel mining operation located in Brgy. San Isidro, Narra, Palawan," the listed firm wrote.

The penalties were imposed after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached agencies, the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), conducted water sampling tests on the Pinagduguan River, where some of the water overflowed, two days after the incident in November 25, 2012.

"We immediately stop[ped] our mining operation and immediately clean[ed] up and rehabilitated the river and some adjacent farm lots that were affected by the overflow. The company finished [these] 15 days later...The company already paid [the P375,000-plus fine to] the DENR," it disclosed.

However, unlike the recent mine spill in Padcal, Benguet that gold producer Philex Mining Corp said was caused by force majeure, the Citinickel incident in Palawan was due to the mine's lapses, the government's investigation showed.

The report said the Palawan mine spill was "due to lapses in the judgement of the mine foreman who was tasked to drain water from silt pond no. 2 to silt pond no. 1." - Rappler.com

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