MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Same problems, new mine

Published by MAC on 2013-05-21
Source: Statement, Business Mirror, Nordis, AP (2013-05-16)

Once again there have been environmental problems at a mine site in the Philippines. In this case it is Red 5's Siana mine in Surigao del Norte. This was another of those mining projects that was championed in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's revitalisation of the mining industry.

A pipe spews water mixed with waste black sand coming from a magnetized black sand mining equipment along the shore line of Ilocos Sur, in northern Philippines
A pipe spews water mixed with waste black sand coming from
magnetized black sand mining equipment in Ilocos Sur,
Philippines, May 2013. Photo: Erik De Castro, Reuters

It now appears that milling operations have been suspended due to the instability of the tailings dam. In response, the government has noted it is conducting inspections to check company compliance with environmental law.

Elsewhere, as peace talks between the government & communist rebels collapse, there have been rebel New Peoples Army (NPA) attacks on mine sites. These have been at Philex Mining's site in Negros Occidental and at Lepanto's Mankayan area in the Cordlillera.

The latter is the site of recent indigenous blockades against mine expansion. In Zambales community leaders have blocked ore trucks from LNL Archipelagic Mining Co. to hold them to account on promised new roads.

Green groups question MGB issuance of permit for unstable old mines in Surigao del Norte

Warn against risky mines

Joint Press Release

15 May 2013

Quezon City, Philippines - Alyansa Tigil Mina and its international partners question the Mines and Geosciences Bureau decision to allow the Siana Mines operation to continue in Surigao del Norte despite historical reports of mine flooding and underground fire.

The group is also wary of the silence of the government agency pertaining to recent reports of land instability in mines since April. Meanwhile, a release by Siana Mines owner, Red 5 Limited, stated that due to the instability of the tailings dam, the milling operations have been suspended.

"This is very terrible that the government has been very careless in its issuances to mining companies. Unfortunately, as in the earlier years of mines, the DENR and MGB seem to have forgotten their role to ensure that the environment is secure in balancing this destructive and exploitative industry," said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.

Further research by members of ATM led to the knowledge that the Siana Mines of Red 5 Limited, located in Surigao del Norte, was an abandoned mine previously operated by Surigao Consolidated Mining Co., Inc. which was first opened in the 1940s. However, it closed down during World War II and was reopened in 1946, producing 4,800kg of gold and 8,000kg of silver. It was closed down again due to mine flooding and underground fire.

The abandoned mine site was not rehabilitated until Red 5 Limited secured a mining permit in 2002. It was granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate in April 2009 despite a prior scheduled Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan expected late May of the same year.

Dr. Robert Goodland, a Social and Environmental Assessment Specialist and member of the London Working Group on Mining in the Philippines stated, "Siana Mines owner Red 5 should certainly not have been allowed to reopen and use the old tailings facility. MGB should know better than that before permitting the reopening without rehabilitating the old facilities. Meanwhile, Red 5 Limited should have also known this before it operated in the area-mining under the circumstances was reckless.

"Therefore, a transparent emergency action plan is essential: 1. Immediately halt all milling operations; 2. Immediately alert local authorities and downstream communities of the big risks and encourage them to get out of the way of any breach that looks likely to happen at any time; and 3. Immediately get MGB to conduct an onsite safety/risk assessment to prevent damage and reduce risks to some semblance of acceptability.

"The major lesson to be learned from this risky episode is that old tailings facilities must have safety assessments before new mining is permitted. Furthermore, to guarantee adequate mine closure and restoration, escrow bonds must be created and updated annually before a mining corporation is permitted to abandon a mine site," Dr. Goodland added

Reports earlier said that geotechnical experts representing different parties of Red5 have individually concluded that there is an unquantifiable risk in returning the tailings dam to operating status.

Garganera concluded, "At this time when we're actually facing different threats (both natural and man-made) and risks, this mine should be immediately closed down and rehabilitated. This situation seriously merits a response from the MGB. Consequently, the review of all mining projects in the country should start. Lastly, we urge the NDRMMC at the provincial and regional levels to immediately conduct parallel investigations on this continuing event, so that we can safely determine if there are risks that face the communities in the CARAGA."

The Siana Gold Project comprises of both an open pit and an underground mine. The project, as originally designed, delivers a minimum 849,000 ounces of gold production at a cash cost of sub US$400 per ounce over a ten-year life.

Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who oppose the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of EO 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, and passage of the AMMB. (30)

For more information:

Dr. Robert Goodland, London Working Group on Mining in the Philippines, rbtgoodland[at]gmail.com
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, 09277617602
Farah Sevilla, Policy Research&Advocacy Officer, 0915-3313361


MGB sets periodic review of 36 operating mines

Jonathan L. Mayuga

Business Mirror

16 May 2013

THE government is set to conduct a thorough assessment of mining operations in the country to determine the level of compliance by mining companies of its contract with the government and all laws relevant to mining operations in the country.

Director Leo Jasareno of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the performance review is pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 79 signed by President Aquino on July 12, 2012.

"Under EO 79, the department shall do a review through a multi-stakeholder team. We have already started but we will formally organize [the teams] in the regions. The organization of the teams is ongoing," he said.

Section 3 of EO 79 mandates a periodic review of the mining operations within six months after the new mining policy took effect.

It states: "To ensure compliance with environmental standards, laws and regulations, and to rationalize the management and utilization of minerals toward sustainable development, a multistakeholder team, led by the DENR, shall conduct a review of the performance of existing mining operations."

The said review, the same provision added, shall be based on guidelines and parameters set forth in the specific mining contract or agreement and on other pertinent or applicable laws, rules and regulations, such as the Mining Act of 1995 and the Labor Code.

EO 79 also mandated concerned government agencies to take action against violators, based on the findings and recommendations of the review.

The review will be the basis of the MGB in taking action against mining operators, depending on the level of compliance of the company that operates the mine, Jasareno said.

He said the teams will be composed of representatives from concerned government agencies, including the Departments of Trade and Industry, of Finance, of the Interior and Local Government, local governments and communities of host cities or towns.

Jasareno said each of the 15 regions will have its own team.

"I've already asked the head of the MGB regional offices to coordinate with stakeholders. We are asking for [their] representatives," he said.

He said letters to various stakeholders will be coursed through the regional directors of the MGB.

Jasareno said the review will assess the level of compliance of mining operators with mining and environmental laws.

The review will also look into compliance of the terms and conditions of the mining contract awarded by the government.

On Wednesday the anti-mining group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) reiterated the call for a thorough assessment of mining projects in the country, after Siana Mines owner, Red 5 Ltd., reportedly suspended its milling operation owing to the instability of its tailings dam.

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM, said Siana Mines that is located in Surigao del Norte was actually an abandoned mine previously operated by Surigao Consolidated Mining Co. Inc., which was first opened in the 1930s.

The mine closed down during World War II. It was reopened in 1946, producing 4,800 kilograms of gold and 8,000 kg of silver. It was closed down again owing to mine flooding and underground fire.

The abandoned mine site was not rehabilitated until Red 5 Ltd. secured a mining permit in 2002. It was granted an environmental compliance certificate in April 2009 despite a prior scheduled Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan expected late May of the same year, according to ATM.

The MGB chief vowed to look into the concerns raised by the group.

Siana Mines, along with the 35 other operating mines, will undergo the periodic review, to ensure the safety of its operations and compliance of the mining law, as well as all other environmental laws, Jasareno said.


NPA claims torching mining firm's machinery

By Aldwin Quitasol

Northern Dispatch

7 May 2013

BAGUIO CITY - The New People's Army (NPA) claimed responsibility for the torching of a drilling machine of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) at Colalo village of Mankayan, Benguet on April 25, 2013.

In a statement sent to media, the Jennifer "Maria" Cariño Command of the NPA-Benguet said the action is a punishment to the mining company, and in support and solidarity with the people of Mankayan and with people of other places against the destructive mining operations of LCMC and other giant mining companies in the country.

The drilling operations in Colalo are part of the planned construction of Tailings Dam 5B of LCMC for its expansion of mining operations in Mankayan and the nearby municipality of Tadian, Mt. Province.

The NPA stated that the setting up of the tailings dam 5B means the grabbing anew of many hectares of land of the people of Barangays Colalo and Bedbed by LCMC. In the 1990s, the statement mentioned the displacement of Colalo residents as LCMC built its Tailings Dam 5A.

"The LCMC's mining operations will mean the grabbing and destruction of hundreds of hectares of agricultural lands, forests and other parts of the ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples of Mankayan and Tadian," the statement read.

The LCMC is owned by Yap, Disini, Tecson and other big mining businesses in the country. It is also the biggest mining company and with longest mining operation in the country. At present, LCMC in partnership with the world's largest mining company Gold Fields.

"For more than 70 years of operations, LCMC has inflicted damage on the lives of the people of Mankayan and other neighboring areas in Benguet, Mt. Province, towns along the Abra River, and parts of Ilocos Sur ..." the NPA said.

The operations of LCMC brought massive destruction to the environment, lands and livelihood of indigenous peoples of Mankayan and other neighboring places. The rivers inside Mankayan, the Abra River flowing to the many towns of Ilocos Sur and Abra are contaminated by poisonous chemicals released by LCMC operations. It also cited the sinking of schools and houses in Colalo and Poblacion villages of Mankayan.

The statement stressed that there is no truth that LCMC provided employment for the workers.

"For many years, and until today, it is the practice of LCMC to terminate workers nearing their retirement to avoid its obligation of paying up to worker's benefits like pension," the NPA said.

The NPA also said that many workers who were victims of accidents in the mines were not properly compensated or allowed their legitimate benefits. The NPA stated the continuous massive retrenchments of workers to make way for replacements with contractual employees.

The NPA also criticized government for collaborating with giant mining companies instead of looking after its citizens. It cited the issuance of many laws to give freedom to mining companies to plunder the land like the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the latest order of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III of centralizing the power to the national government to approve new mining applications.

The NPA also denounced the deployment of military troops to the areas with mining applications and where there is strong opposition from the people.

The NPA stated that foreign mining investment is not the solution for developing the nation instead foreign investment will only crush the country's economy. Northern Dispatch


NPAs raid mining site; 5 soldiers dead

By Danny Dangcalan

The Philippine Star

5 May 2013

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines - Five soldiers were killed and two others were wounded yesterday during pursuit operations against communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels who attacked a mining complex in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental late Friday.

The rebels reportedly burned several vehicles and bunkhouses of the employees of Philex Mining Corp. in Sitio Omas, Barangay Camindangan.

Troops from the Army's 303rd Infantry Brigade launched a pursuit operation and caught up with the rebels, leading to a firefight that lasted for an hour and left five soldiers killed and two others wounded, the military said.

The slain soldiers were identified as Cpl. Aljun Francisco, Pfc. Charlie Magne Jomento, Pfc. Jan Granzo, Pfc. Ramer Aguilardo, and Pvt. Benjie Tolog.

The two wounded soldiers were identified as Pfc. Romel Agustino and Cpl. Ovimar Latiza.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the rebels, who also took away the firearms of the slain soldiers.

Philex, in a statement, said there were no casualties from among their employees following the NPA attack.

"It is unfortunate that this incident happened and we are unaware of the reasons why the rebels committed such acts of violence," Philex said.

Last Friday's raid on Philex followed by yesterday's fighting came several days after Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, military commander in Western Visayas, declared openly that almost half of politicians and candidates running in the May 13 elections in the region admitted to giving in to the NPA's extortion demands.

One senior officer said Negros-based NPA rebels are now supporting their comrades in Samar financially.

"This is because the insurgents have been amassing millions in extortion money from the landlords and politicians in Negros," the senior officer said.

The rebels apparently stepped up their attacks following the government's declaration that the peace talks are going nowhere.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government would not be threatened by the statements from Communist Party of the Philippines' founder Jose Maria Sison ordering the NPA to increase offensives throughout the country because of the supposed termination of the peace talks.

Lacierda said the increased activity from the NPA was because of the election period.

"What they are saying is not new, what is this intensifying operations that they are saying? It's election time and they extort money from politicians, they have a permit to campaign. Maybe every week or every two weeks that we have our briefing there is a question on NPA violence. It never stopped. So far as the defense is concerned, we will always defend our citizenry," Lacierda said.

He said the Armed Forces has been getting a lot of reports about extortion activities from the NPA, particularly in Sorsogon, Bulacan and Samar. - With Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude, Rhodina Villanueva


Communist rebels raid Philippine mining company, kill 5 soldiers

By The Associated Press

4 May 2013

MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine military spokesman says communist guerrillas have killed five soldiers and wounded two others in a clash after the rebels raided a mining company in the central Philippines.

Army Capt. Leo Christopher Cunanan said New People's Army guerrillas clashed early Saturday with security forces pursuing them a day after they raided the Philex Mining Corp. facility in a village in central Negros Occidental province. The military believed the rebels suffered casualties but had no details.

He says rebels burned two employee barracks, mining equipment and a generator in the latest attack on mining companies in the country. The rebels also seized six firearms from soldiers.

Such hit-and-run attacks have been common throughout the 44-year Marxist insurgency.

Norwegian-brokered peace talks have stalled. Each side blames the other for the breakdown.


Zambales folk push responsible mining

By Manila Standard

9 May 2013

Barangay leaders in Sta. Cruz, Zambales, acting on complaint of rice farmers against damage to provincial roads caused by 20-ton trucks hauling ore from the mines to the pier, set up roadblocks on Tuesday and rewed their call for responsible mining, officials said.

Association of Barangay Chairmen President Filmar Movilla said the roadblocks forced several trucks owned by LNL Archipelagic Mining Co, which were loaded with nickel ore, to park on the curb along the provincial highway.

"LNL and town officials agreed last January that they develop alternative roads to haul the ore to the pier," Mobilla said. "They violated that agreement."

On March 26, Sta. Cruz Mayor Luisito Marty banned the trucks from provincial roads. At least three other mining companies - Benguet Corp., Eramen Minerals, and DM Consunji - have put up their own access roads.

A staff at the office of the municipal mayor said the residents were not seeking a ban on mining operations, but urging the mining firms to engage in responsible mining.

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