MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: The Assault on the Mining Act Continues

Published by MAC on 2013-04-28
Source: Statements, Nordis, Manila Standard, Mindanews

The challenge continues to be made to the constitutionality of the benefit sharing parts of the 1995 Mining Act (see: Philippines: Another legal challenge to the Philippine Mining Act).  The case has kept issues related to the costs and benefits of mining in the news (particularly in arguments over Xstrata's Tampakan project), while the industry has been hitting back.

Lie down protest in front of government mining offices, Surigao City, on Earth Day 2013
Lie down protest in front of government mining offices, Surigao City,
on Earth Day 2013. Photo: Roel N. Catoto, Mindanews

Environmentalists are also mobilising over the forthcoming elections, and during the recent celebration of Earth Day. There was a particularly spectacular protest in Surigao to support the indigenous peoples and activists who have been blockading MMDC to prevent its mining in a declared watershed forest reserve (see coverage in: Philippines: Another legal challenge to the Philippine Mining Act).

An industry expert, speaking at a mining lunch, reminded the companies that, when accidents happen it is the fault of the miners, and not God. This was timely, considering that Semirara Mining is due to reopen its North Panian area coal mine after a recent fatal accident.

And an article by Bernie Lopez questions the renewed operation at Philex's Padcal mine after its own tailings spill.

Groups ask high court to strike down Mining Act

By Kimberlie Olmaya N. Quitasol and Delia Bagni

Northern Dispatch

24 April 2013

BAGUIO CITY - Environmentalists, church people and activists staged a rally at the gates of the Supreme Court (SC) grounds here, April 16, to demand the junking of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

The groups trooped to the SC just before the start of the oral arguments for the petition questioning the constitutionality of sections 80 and 81 of the Mining Act.

Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) secretary general Abigail Anongos challenged the magistrates to once more declare the Mining Act unconstitutional and pave the way towards the creation of a mining law that will truly serve the interest of the people, protect the environment and boost national industrialization.

Anongos explained that in January of 2004, the SC declared some major provisions of the law as unconstitutional. In the same year, however, the high court reversed its decision, allowing 100 percent foreign ownership and control of mining activities in the country, contrary to the provisions of the Philippine Constitution. The Philippine Constitution allows only a maximum of 40 percent foreign ownership and control over industries and corporations in the country.

"What have we gained from the Philippine Mining Act of 1995? Environmental disaster, economic dislocation, food insecurity and militarization that wreak havoc in communities," Anongos said.

Representative from affected communities of Zambales, Nueva Vizcaya, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Surigao del Sur, environmental and religious groups that include Didipio Earth-Savers Multipurpose Association (Desama), Columbio Multisectoral Ecology Movement (CMEM), Social Action Center-Justice and Peace of the Discese of Marbel, Salaknib and SOS Yamang Bayan are joined the protest action urging the magistrates to declare the Mining Act unconstitutional.

‘Flip-flop for the people'

In an earlier forum held by the same groups before marching to the SC, Makabayan senatorial bet Teddy Casiño who is one of the petitioners urged the magistrates to flip-flop and decide in favor of the people. "The SC has flip-flopped a couple of times already. How about this time they flip-flop to favor the interest of the people?" he said.

Casiño pointed out that in declaring the Mining Act unconstitutional, the SC would make it easier for the lawmakers to craft a more pro-people mining law. He said that there is a consolidated alternative mining bill pending in the 15th Congress which will be filed again in the next congress.

During the short program before the oral arguments, Casiño called on the SC to help correct the mistake of Congress that led to the enactment of the Mining Act 18 years ago. He reiterated that only the foreign transnational mining companies were happy with the passage of the law because it facilitated them to earn billions from the sellout of the country's patrimony.

"The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 offers huge benefits, huge benefits for the big foreign transnational corporations. Even the government is short-changed because the share it gets is a pittance compared to the billions of profit being raked in by the big foreign mining companies," he said.

Miners warn: Rules change costly

By Rey E. Requejo

Manila Standard

17 April 2013

Mining companies have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss petitions seeking to strike down Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 over constitutional issues that the high tribunal has already resolved with finality in a landmark ruling in 2004. They said "there is a price to pay in changing the rules in the middle of the game."

Interviewed before the oral arguments held at the court's summer session hall in Baguio City on Tuesday, lawyer Tito Lopez, counsel of Australian mining firm Oceana Gold that operates in Nueva Vizcaya, warned of massive repercussions to the national economy should the high court nullify the law and cancel all Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements and Mineral Production Sharing Agreements.

"Can you imagine the possible impact of canceling the FTAA or MPSA? These foreign companies have already invested a lot in their explorations and actual operations and you will cancel their permits. Will that not discourage foreign investments?" he stressed.

He said that one of the respondents in the case, has already invested in its operations-just like other foreign mining firms.

Lopez also assailed the move of petitioners to seek relief from the high court in pushing for an equitable sharing of revenues.

He said such call is already being addressed by the executive and legislative branches.

On technical ground, the lawyer said the arguments of petitioners were already resolved by the high court in its Dec. 2004 ruling in the case of La Bugal-B'laan Tribal Association vs. Ramos administration. He said their case, in particular, was also already adjudged in 2006 where a division of the high court upheld the legality of their contract with the government.

"All these claims had already been raised and passed upon by the honorable court in the earlier cases, where rulings were already declared final," he stressed.

One of the petitioners, Bayan Muna party-list Representative and senatorial bet Teddy Casiño admitted in a press conference before the oral argument yesterday that it would take a "flip-flopping" by the SC for them to win their case.

Apart from Casiño, other petitioners in the case are Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III and former Akbayan party-list Rep. and Liberal Party senatorial bet Risa Hontiveros.

The respondents-including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Hallmark Mining Corp. and Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp.-stood by the constitutionality of the assailed law during the hearing.

Justice Marvic Leonen did not participate in the oral argument. He inhibited from the case since he served as legal counsel of La Bugal in the earlier case.

In their petition filed in 2008, the group was joined by several persons affected by mining activities in Davao Oriental in filing the petition in asking the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the law.

The groups urged the Court to bar the DENR from acting on any application for MPSA, which covers 17,215.4474 hectares within the three municipalities of Mati, San Isidro and Governor Generoso, both in the Davao Oriental province.

They also asked the SC to nullify the seven MPSAs that it had already reassigned to respondent mining firms.

Petitioners argued that R.A. 7942 is unconstitutional arguing that it violates Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution which provides that "all lands of public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests, timber, wildlife, flora and fauna and other natural resources are owned by the State."

Tampakan and responsible mining

By Dean Tony La Viña

Manila Standard

23 April 2013

Since we just celebrated Earth Day yesterday, it would be wise to revisit the challenges and controversies surrounding mining in the Philippines. Touted as the nation's economic salvation, yet carrying with it potentially irreversible or crippling risks to the environment or to local communities, the debate-in-detail over mining pits important ideals and interests against each other.

These are the environment and the economy, job creation and the preservation of local culture and livelihoods, local autonomy and national governance. And the Philippines' biggest mining stake to date brings all those interests into a grand collision course.

Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI)'s Tampakan Mining Project, a proposed copper and gold open-pit mine in the Municipalities of Tampakan in South Cotabato and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur, was granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate by the DENR, raising once more the debate concerning mining in the Philippines. Mention was made in the news that the project was worth $ 5.9 billion in investments.

The size of the investment is worth noting. Computed at their present trading value in the London Metal and New York Commodities Exchange, the mineral stake in Tampakan stands at around $ 73.4 billion, roughly three-fourths the size of the entire Philippine GDP. This is a tempting number from a business point of view. Such a sum is almost irresistible. Almost.

To be able to reap the immense value of the copper deposits (estimated at 375, 000 tons/year) and gold deposits (estimated at 360, 000 ounces/year) in the towns of Tampakan and Kiblawan for 17 years, SMI will of course have to build and maintain the necessary infrastructure.

The open-pit mine area itself spans 10, 000 hectares and will measure 800 meters deep. It will also involve a 400-watt coal-fired power station and a hundred kilometers of transmission lines and pipelines for the copper-gold concentrate, dozens of access roads and a port, in addition to the enormous equipment and machinery necessary during the construction phase and actual operation.

We must ask the question: will all this investment have any value for the local community, beyond the mining project?

Mining projects of this extent will also unavoidably affect the natural resources and ecosystems in the immediate and surrounding localities. And of course, as in any mining activity, the Tampakan Project is expected to generate tons of mine tailings and other waste products, 2.72 billion tons in fact.

It is not surprising that some communities and local governments units are contesting the mine, such as the B'laan indigenous peoples. The Province of South Cotabato, which has jurisdiction over Tampakan, enacted an Environmental Code in June 2010 prohibiting open-pit mining. The DENR cited this ordinance in previously denying the first filing by SMI for an ECC in January 2012.

Open-pit mining is a destructive way of extracting mineral resources, basically involving removing the earth covering the minerals. Large-scale open pits thus result in artificially large excavations on the land.

The immediate effect of having such an expansive excavation in the landscape, especially given the Tampakan mine's scale, is the major and permanent change in the landscape that it will create, which will have a downstream effect in sources and quality of water, as well as the possibility of flooding and groundwater seepage. And the question that begs to be answered is this: What will become of the open-pit mine, a gaping 10,000 hectare-sized hole, after the mining operation is over? And how about climate change - what risks are exacerbated by this project?

Part of SMI's ECC application included the submission of an Environmental Impact Statement, stating the expected impacts of the project, and planned mitigation measures. SMI's EIS acknowledged the mine's substantial and negative expected impacts in the affected localities, but also proposed measures by which to avoid or mitigate the foreseeable damage to the environment, as well as probable perils to human life and livelihood. The Office of the President, in ordering DENR to finally grant the ECC for the Tampakan Project, essentially conveyed the message that the EIS will put in place sufficient safeguards to address the possible adverse impacts on community welfare and the environment.

In the meantime, the DENR's grant of ECC for Tampakan does carry certain conditions for its continued validity, such as ensuring the social acceptability of the project, as well as respect for South Cotabato's ban on open-pit mining, in the face of a DOJ declaration criticizing the constitutionality of such ordinance. There is also a reiteration of provisions of the Philippine Mining Act for the creation of a multi-partite monitoring team that will monitor compliance to the conditions attached to the ECC. While these are welcome, it remains to be seen whether the EIS and mining laws as implemented are indeed effective since most recently, two open-pit mining projects that similarly complied with both laws - the Semirara mining site in Antique and the Padcal mining in Benguet province - both registered significant environmental disasters resulting in serious loss of lives.

In my next column, I will tackle the arguments surrounding the validity of South Cotobato's open-pit mining ban, as well as similar policies and actions by other local government units.

Earth Day protesters expose ecological destruction under PNoy;

Aquino admin's policies worsened degradation of environment

Kalikasan PNE Press Release

22 April 2013

Environmentalists and militants protested today in the Quezon Memorial Circle where President Aquino was the guest of honor in the PH government's Earth Day activity. The protesters decried claims of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that ‘ecogovernance' is one of the top priorities of the Aquino government.

"We are dumbfounded by government's claims that the administration is serious in its ‘ecogovernance'. The environmental track record of the Aquino administration shows otherwise. In 2012, three devastating mine spills happened including the Philex' Padcal mine spill which is touted as the biggest mining disaster our country has ever experienced. These mine spills happened right after PNoy issued his Mining Executive Order or EO 79, a policy that is nothing but propaganda to make the mining industry appear strictly regulated," said Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

In August 1, the Padcal mining project of Philex Mining Corporation started to release millions of metric tons of mine waste into the water bodies in Benguet and Pangasinan. Another mining company, CitiNickel, had two mine spills that contaminated rivers in Palawan province. Philex is the biggest mining company in the country.

"Pinayagan din ng gobyernong Aquino ang mga kumpanya na may mahabang listahan ng paglabag at pagsira sa kalikasan. Sa pamamagitan pa nga ng EO 79, kinokontra ng Malacanang ang awtoridad ng mga lokal na pamahalaan na pigilan ang mga mapaminsalang pagmimina sa kanilang mga probinsya," Bautista added.

Based on government data, the Aquino administration granted mining permits covering 945,660 hectares of lands. It also granted an environmental compliance certificate to infamous mining company Xstrata.

"The Aquino administration has also aggravated the fragile state of our marine and coastal ecosystems. It has done nothing substantial to address the impending reclamation of 38,000 hectares of foreshore areas, which covers 10 percent of important habitats such as seagrass expanses and mangrove forests. It had allowed foreign vessels to destroy significant areas of coral reefs in Tubbataha, not once but twice, and seems bent on letting the culprits off the hook," Bautista pointed out.

"On top of these, the PNoy government failed to arrest state-sponsored impunity towards environmental activists. Not a single case from the at least 66 recorded killings of environmental advocates has been resolved. In fact, under the Aquino administration a total of 26 killings of environmental activists were registered and remains to be addressed," said Leon Dulce of Task Force Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF JED).

"Kamakailan lang, mahigit 70 na health worker, social worker, madre, mamamahayag at maging mga kasama naming environmental advocate ay patuloy na nililigalig ng mga militar pagkatapos nilang maglunsad ng isang national humanitarian and fact-finding mission sa mga apektadong lugar ng bagyong Pablo. Nararapat lang na bigyan ng karampatang tugon dito ang gobyernong Aquino bago sila magyabang ng kanilang pamamahala sa kapaligiran at mga komunidad na apektado ng pagkasira nito," reiterated Dulce.

The TF-JED cited prominent environmentalists killed under the Aquino administration to include Palawan environmental broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega, top botanist Leonard Co and Italian priest Fr. Pops Tentorio.

"Ang pagtapon ng lason sa Subic Bay, ang pagsadsad ng USS Guardian at ng Tsinong barko sa Tubbataha, ang bigong tugon sa trahedya ng Bagyong Pablo sa Mindanao, at ang mga mapanirang proyektong reklamasyon sa Manila Bay ay ilan lang sa mga kongkretong ebidensya ng kapalpakan ng administrasyon Aquino sa pangangalaga ng kapaligiran at pamamahala ng ating likas-yaman. 'Total failure' ang pamamahala sa kalikasan ng gobyernong Aquino," Bautista ended. ###

Reference: Clemente Bautista, national coordinator, Kalikasan PNE, 09228449787
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

Resign, anti-mining groups tell MGB-Caraga chief

By Vanessa L. Almeda


23 April 2013

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/23 April) - Anti-mining advocates from the provinces of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur marked the Earth Day celebration Monday with another protest at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional office in this city to renew calls for the implementation of a court order temporarily stopping the operations of a mining company.

The protesters also called on MGB regional director Roger A. de Dios to resign for repeatedly refusing to impose the order stopping Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC) from operating within a watershed forest reserve in Cantilan town in Surigao del Sur.

The order was issued by Judge Alfredo P. Jalad of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 41 in Cantilan in November 2010, and affirmed on May 26, 2011 as "subsisting and effective until there is an order, lifting, revoking or dissolving it."

Chito Trillanes, a spokesperson of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Tandag, said they will continue pounding on the gates of the MGB until the order was enforced.

The group was also awaiting the go-signal of MGB Director Leo Jasareno to send a multi-disciplinary team that will investigate alleged environmental violations by MMDC.

De Dios said the team was scheduled to conduct the probe between April 20 and 23.

In a March 13, 2013 memorandum from the MGB Central Office signed by Elmer B. Billedo, de Dios was told that the regional office "is not at liberty to disregard" the order and that "whether or not it would be appropriate to issue an Ore Transport Permit and Mineral Ore Transport Permit" in favor of MMDC "under the circumstances is a matter that is ultimately addressed to the sound discretion of the regional office."

"However, it bears stressing that the exercise of such discretion must be done responsibly," the memorandum added.

The same memorandum reminded de Dios of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, particularly paragraph 3, Section 4 which obliges officials from "doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public safety and public interest."

But de Dios said that while the memorandum "blames him and his office" for the fiasco, he said he will stand by his decision.

"I really did not find any reason to order a closure when the allegations of siltation and the reduction of water of the irrigation system were not substantiated. We really cannot attribute it (to the mining activities)," he argued.

"What we found out was the siltation was due to the rampant logging in the watershed and small-scale mining activities upstream. Why can they not expose this?" he said.

He added he is willing to conduct another probe that will include Trillanes, Emma Hotchkiss, media and others so the real situation will be known.

Hotchkiss is a leader of the Nagpakabana nga Carcanmadcarlanon (NnC), an environment group covering the towns of Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen and Lanuza, all in Surigao del Sur.

"Before, I was also shouting and marching on the streets calling for Marcos to resign, but now I am the one being protested and told to resign," de Dios said in half jest. "That is their right. I have nothing to hide."

He expressed disappointment at Monday's activity which he called a "mob rule" as the protesters rammed the MGB gate, padlocked it and waved tarpaulins with the words "MGB for sale".

"That is already a violation of human rights of our employees who were also working at the time," he said.

The official called on Trillanes and Hotchkiss to be "more objective" and to "respect me and my credentials and intelligence."

"I will stand pat on my decision. I can face them in any forum to defend my decision," the beleaguered public official said.

Aside from the Social Action Center and NnC, Monday's protest action was also participated in by Iglesia Filipina Independiente priests and laymen from Dinagat, Siargao Island and Surigao City, and the United Church of Christ of the Philippines.

IFI Bishop Rhee Timbang refused to call the activity a protest but "an expression of the faith of the nation about the value of the earth because we only have one home".

"Every 22nd of April the whole world celebrates and the various faiths here in Surigao join in this celebration," Timbang said.

"This is also part of our solidarity with the people of Carcanmadcarlan who have been here for a long time now because of the MGB's failure to implement a court decision to stop mining activities in Cantilan," he said.

"The first threat to human beings on earth is large-scale mining," he added.

Some 3,000 members of the Nagkahiusang Gagmay'ng Minero (Nagami) and their families joined the Earth Day commemoration.

Nagami spokesperson Ating Bustillo said their participation is to show support to the people's sentiment against the massive destruction caused by large-scale mining.

Bustillo claimed that small-scale mining operations near the Parang-Parang watershed in Barangay Mat-I, this city the past 40 years have not disturbed the surrounding environment. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)

Groups challenge electoral candidates to heed victims' call to stop destructive mining in PH

Demand human rights be top priority over environmental destruction

ATM Press Release

23 April 2013

Quezon City - Today, 200-strong activists from church, human rights, and environment groups launched the campaign in celebration of Earth Day and in time for the May elections to remind the mid-term electoral candidates to take a firm stand on different mining issues that have plagued the country.

To dramatize their stance on these mining issues, the group locked down the head office of Mines and Geosciences Bureau in North Avenue and marched to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The group also demanded a moratorium on mining activities in the country and that the 10-Point Human Rights Agenda on Mining be prioritized.

"The Tao Muna-Hindi Mina campaign seeks to put at center stage large-scale destructive mining as a major electoral issue that candidates need to respond to," said Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines.

"But even before and beyond elections, candidates as well as government itself must be able to heed the peoples demand for an end to large-scale destructive mining."

Meanwhile Fr. Marlon Lacal, Executive Secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines AMRSP) challenged the electoral candidates to put people first before profit, people first before power, God and Creation first before Mammon and greed. "It demands no less than a shift from "soulless development" to a development paradigm that takes paramount the care of Creation wherein our generation and future generations' survival depend on", he added.

Noting the different agenda of electoral candidates specifically at the local level, anti-mining groups reminded the future leaders to prioritize the social issues of mining-affected communities and victims.

Judy A. Pasimio of LILAK - Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights said: "We are at this point where mining is no longer just an issue among environmentalists. Mining is a human rights issue. The different forms of human rights violations being experienced by the women, men and children especially from the indigenous communities in mining areas, need to be recognized, and be addressed by the government and those who are wanting to join the government through this election."

Specifically, the groups demand that justice be given to families and victims of human rights violations in mining affected areas as well as an end to large-scale destructive mining in the country. They added it is time to seriously consider the Alternative Minerals Management Bill as a just resolution to the conflict engendered by the current corporate-biased, exploitative, unjust mining policy.

No CAGE Campaign

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, a coalition of communities and organizations that call for a new policy on mining said: "We challenge the candidates to take a stand on mining. At the national level, we are campaigning against senatoriables who have interests in mining and who we believe will push for their agenda to promote pro-mining policies.

They are Cynthia Villar (own Queensberry Mining-directly involved in the King-king copper-gold project in Compostella Valley), Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara (member of the board of directors of Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority (APECO)), Richard Gordon (independent director of Atlas Mining Corporation), and Rep. Jack Enrile from Cagayan where anti-mining advocates threatened and some killed."

Mining-affected communities in different parts of the country also mobilized yesterday (April 22, Earth Day) and today to launch the campaign in support of anti-mining and human rights advocates running for leadership posts, and in opposition of pro-mining candidates. This includes Marbel in South Cotabato, Zambales, Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan, Palawan, Romblon, Leyte, Agusan del Norte and Surigao.


For more information, please email, or contact 0921-9645017 (Egay) or 0923-5122374 (Farah).

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Mining accidents not 'acts of God' - expert

by Lean Santos


16 April 2013

MANILA, Philippines - When mining accidents happen, who's to blame? The miners, an expert said.

Speaking at the Philippine Mining Luncheon on Friday, April 12, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Asia-Pacific principal consultant Keith Halford said that mining incidents are caused by human errors and not by "acts of God," or natural catastrophe that no one can prevent, such as an earthquake or a tidal wave.

"The industry should understand that mining incidents or accidents are not 'acts of God,' but a product of human error, poor planning and insufficient understanding of HSE risks," he said.

He spoke at a time when the the local mining industry is reeling from a series of accidents, putting the industry in a hot seat.

Mining accidents

In August 2012, the tailings pond of gold and copper producer Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet province leaked into the neighboring Balog Creek, which flows into the larger Agno river, one of the primary sources of livelihood of 42 surrounding communities.

Philex attributed the mine spill to "unfavorable weather conditions" brought by "unprecedented" rainfall in the area at the time.

The company contested the P1-billion fine imposed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), saying the incident was caused by "force majeure."

In the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, force majeure is defined as "acts or circumstances beyond the reasonable control of contractor" -- a reason the MGB did not accept.

Philex paid the fine in full in February.

Other mining incidents that put the mining industry in the hot seat the past year include the silt spill in the Toronto mine of Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. in Narra, Palawan in November 2012.

In February, the landslide in the coal mine of Semirara Mining Corp in Antique, the country's largest coal mine, killed 5 people.

Semirara, the mining firm led by the country's 5th richest man David Consunji, cited "incessant rains" as the cause of the landslide.

Community's trust

Halford stressed that mining incidents are the sole responsibility of the mining company as these would also affect the image of the firm.

"One of the main issues affecting mining companies today is earning the trust of the (host) community and the local government. Not taking responsibility for such incidents does not help in this," he said.

The Philippine Mining Luncheon is a bi-monthly meeting of industry leaders and other stakeholders to discuss the issues the industry is facing. -

Criminal Charges Vs Philex

Renewed operations questioned

By Bernie Lopez

Eastwind News

21 Apriul 2013

(Author's note. Philex failed to grant a request for an interview to this author about its renewed operations, strengthening the suspicion of NGOs that saving dam no. 3 is just an alibi. MVP of Philex also refused an interview with a private group because it had said earlier Philex management should be charge for criminal negligence. This ‘selective media blackout' is working against Philex by inducing information gaps. They were warned about this. This article is based on an interview of Mines and Geodetic Bureau (MGB) Chief Leo Jasareno.)

Jasareno said that when MGB charged Philex with ‘negligence', it appealed the case with the office of DENR Secretary Paje, where it sits currently, gathering dust. Thus, the clamor from many quarters, government, non-government, and the private sectors, to charge Philex with criminal negligence in court, is increasing. But, no one has come forward to do so. Meanwhile, rubbing salt on the wounds of the affected Cordillera communities clamoring for the total pullout of Philex, it was allowed to once more renew operations, in order to, according to MGB and Philex, save dam no. 3. Engineer Virgel Aniceto of Katribu Party List asks why does the government keep on insisting to renew operations when ALL OF THE THREE PHILEX DAMS HAD LEAKED WITHOUT EXCEPTION? Is this a total disregard of welfare of the Cordillera people?

The basis for the charge of criminal negligence is essentially the raising of the dam walls by 5 meters at a time when the life of the dam was at its end, and the dam was at its fullest, causing the rupture of the underwater outflow pipe when rains reached 150mm. See more technical details -

Philex was accused of scrimping to make a new expensive dam no. 4, and of not being proactive enough to build it in advance, which would take a few years. They just decided to use the already-full dam no. 3 anyway so income will not be disrupted. Philex was accused in news articles of ‘greed' and ‘mismanagement'.

According to Jasareno, when it was slapped a fine of P1 billion penalty by MGB, Philex initially refused to pay, claiming it was force majeure, that is, due to heavy rains (150 mm). This was rejected by MGB. Philex finally admitted its culpability when it said it would pay in installments. This was again rejected by MGB, requiring full payment. Philex requested to use the penalty fee for rehabilitation. MGB again refused. Finally, Philex paid in full with a single P1 billion cheque, showing that its financial situation is very healthy.

Renewed operations questioned

The renewed operations of Philex, approved by two DENR sub-agencies, MGB and the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) thru its Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), was met with an avalanche of angry protests from NGOs and Cordillera communities, branding its explanation to save dam no. 3 as a ‘lie', and an ‘alibi'. Not being able to get inputs from Philex, this author resorted to an of Jasareno, who said that Philex warned MGB that if tailings were not put into dam no. 3, the water could undermine the secondary dike, and may eventually cause a major rupture, releasing a staggering 140 million metric tons (mmt) of tailings into the Balog and Agno Rivers, once heavy rains come.

Jasareno clarified that dam no. 3 is not just a tailings dam, but a major catchment basin for all surrounding rainwater. Such a mega-disaster would be seven times of the last spill, already the largest so far in Philippine history. This will paralyze San Roque dam, a major supplier of power to the Luzon grid and of irrigation water to tens of thousands of hectares of lush Pangasinan farmlands. This will also increase Philex rehabilitation efforts ten fold.

The designed capacity of dam no. 3 is 142 mmt. Since 21 mmt was released in the first spill in August 2012, why is 140 mmt still sitting there today after the spill? Any math student will tell you that 140 + 21 = 161 mmt (this varies by 158 mmt compared to the figure (103 mmt) based on Boquiren's study, as shown in the first photo above. Either way, it is still way beyond the capacity of dam no. 3, proving criminal negligence.

Jasareno believed the danger described by Philex. See photo below, based on Jasareno's original sketch. He said, the first spill undermined 15% of the secondary dike, and the water is now dangerously scouring its surface. The Philex-MGB solution is to line the scoured surface with tailings to prevent it from being undermined by the water. Jasareno said water is by far heavier than tailings and has a scouring action. They need 3.5 mmt of tailings to do this.

Philex says it would take them 3 years to pump the already-spilt tailings from downstream with pumps and manual labor, which contradicts an earlier claim that their four imported super-pumps would do the job before the rainy season, strengthening the case of ‘alibi' mentioned by NGOs. MGB allowed Philex to renew operations for four months to quickly do the job. Whether MGB was fooled into allowing this or the dangerous situation really warranted it is not known. Philex started operations on April 5, and Jasareno said they have achieved 300,000 tons of tailings as of this writing (April 19), or about 8.6% of target.

Jasareno said that it is better to risk a second breach at another point of the outflow pipe near the first, the lesser evil, than have the entire dam crumble. He says there are two 40-meter cement plugs along this pipe leading to the Balog River. He just hopes if there is a second breach, those two plugs would hold.

Freeze the output of renewed operations

It was suggested that the output or income from renewed operations should be frozen. Jasareno said that he will refer this to Sec. Paje. If Philex is sincere to solve the threat of a total dam collapse, and its purpose is not additional income, it should be willing to agree to the freeze. The frozen mine output can be used later to pay for additional potential damage. The freezing of the mine output is not covered by the MPSA because it is an emergency solution to potential danger, not a renewed mining operation per se.

DOE clears Semirara's Antique coal project

By Iris C. Gonzales

The Philippine Star

20 April 2013

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) has given Consunji-owned Semirara Mining Corp. the clearance to proceed with its coal production activities at the North Panian area in Antique but cautioned the company to maintain preventive safety measures.

The North Panian area is 300 meters away from the site of a coal mining wall that collapsed and killed at least five miners in February.

"We allowed the coal mining operations to resume in the North Panian area but not on the accident site. The North Panian area is more than 300 meters away from the accident site. We also asked them to be careful so that what happened in west wall won't happen in the northern part," said Energy Undersecretary Ramon Oca.

The DOE, in an April 10 letter to Semirara, issued a clearance to the company to proceed with its coal production activities, provided that Semirara "maintain and closely monitor the preventive measures to ensure stability of the west and north walls of Panian Pit; control water seepages at the Panian west wall area and continue the search and retrieval operation for the missing mine workers."

Furthermore, the energy department required Semirara to operate in accordance with existing coal mine safety rules and regulations.

"At the outset, we note that throughout the 13 years that you operated the Panian mine, the following parameters and precautionary measures were instituted: cut-off wall construction, dewatering wells, observation wells and crack monitoring by extensometers and observers. All of these proved to be adequate and served well prior to the incident," Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said in the letter.

Semirara sought the DOE's clearance to proceed with its coal production to meet its contractual and supply obligations to power and cement plants in Cebu, Panay and Calaca.

"In the North Panian area, based on the validation of our staff, you have instituted notable improvements/measures for the stabilization of the slope to ensure the smooth and safe operation," Petilla said.

In an earlier disclosure, the company said that it suspended the mining operations at the Panian, Antique coal mining as it conducted search and retrieval efforts.

Semirara Mining, owned by DMCI Holdings Inc. of the Consunji Group is a publicly listed company that has significant coal resources and reserves to supply a growing demand.

Public furor growing as start of coal mining in Catanduanes draws near

Written by Manly M. Ugalde

Business Mirror

11 April 2013

VIRAC, Catanduanes-People in the island province of Catanduanes, led by Catholic Bishop Manolo de los Santos, are expressing fear of economic and environmental devastation once coal mining starts in the area.

De los Santos cited the probable loss of the province's remaining virgin forests and the province's abaca industry once an Australian-Indonesian mining firm begins its coal-mining operation.

Public concern started when the residents of Catanduanes learned that Malacañang stated favoring granting a permit to operate to the multinational Altura Mining for a 7,000-hectare coal mining operation affecting the towns of Bagamanoc, Panganiban, Viga and Caramoran. Catanduanes has only 11 towns.

De los Santos said Catanduanes residents have reason to fear should the government allow the Australian-Indonesian firm to explore mineral resources in the province, saying it could be disastrous. He said he could never agree with the few mining backers and supporters over the claim of "responsible mining."

"We simply cannot allow mining to destroy the province," he said.

Quoting Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda's thesis about mining, de los Santos said "there are no provinces pestered by mining operation that had been economically emancipated citing Masbate, home of a gold mining operation."

Statistics from the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) tagged Masbate as one of the poorest provinces, with the highest number of beneficiaries in Bicol from the government's pro-poor Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

A known environmentalist and anti-mining advocate, Salceda lamented the small amount of taxes host provinces get from mining operations, citing that in the end, mining operators enjoy dollars salted outside the country with the poor host provinces left behind with a terribly damaged environment.

Altura Mining is the 33rd mining firm that had shown interest to explore Catanduanes after the government and mining experts reportedly found Catanduanes coal as the best, most desirable, and the hardest coal in the country. It was characterized by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 2006 with a heating value twice as those produced in other coal-producing provinces.

In Vancouver, Canada, Catanduanes residents Evelyn Manlangit and Teddy Traqueña called up to express strong protest over reports that Catanduanes is set to allow the start of coal-mining operations in the province.

"Coal mining will be disastrous for a small and depressed province like Catanduanes. Everyone in the province should resist and fight," said the two overseas Filipino workers in Canada.

At least two attempts in 2009 and 2011 to explore mineral resources such as gold and coal in the province failed to push through following strong protests mounted by residents in areas designated as exploration sites. The mining applicants were eventually driven out of the province.

De los Santos said the report he received indicated that Altura Mining will be allowed to extract 1.2 million tons of coal in a period of five years with the province reportedly getting a projected annual share in the amount of P76 million.

The newly established Catanduanes Sustainable Development Movement (CSDM) said Altura Mining would displace at least 10,000 farmers and fishers who are dependent on abaca-fiber production, tiger grass and coconut production, and crab and milkfish cultivation.

CSDM said coal mining could also affect the operation of three hydropower plants in the area.

CSDM President Eddie Ugalde said, "We could now imagine the many trees and coconuts that would be cut down in the 7,000-hectare exploration sites. Catanduanes's remaining virgin forests depleted due to illegal logging and cutting would be gone and the gloomy experience it had from severe flooding due to typhoons would never end, making the province barren and empty."

Gov. Joseph Cua would not answer text messages from the BusinessMirror. A source said the governor and the province's lone district representative Cesar Sarmiento had shown little concern about the economic and environmental disaster facing the province should coal-mining exploration begin.

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