MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines Closure notice served on OceanaGold

Published by MAC on 2013-07-23
Source: Philippine Star, statement, Sun Star, Rappler (2013-07-19)

The leading news in this update from the Philippines is that the Mayor of Kasibu has issued a closure notice on OceanaGold's Didipio mine in Nueva Vizcaya. This comes after what appeared to be a drop-off in visible opposition after the mine starting production in May this year.

Despite the elders of Mankayan town refusing to cooperate with attempts by the government to run a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process for Lepanto Consolidated and Goldfields of South Africa (see: Philippines: Once more to the barricades), the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has resumed the FPIC process.

Glencore Xstrata's Tampakan mine on Mindanao has been subject to another violent attack by leftwing insurgents on the offices of the local partner Sagittarius Mining Inc (SMI).]

In nearby Sarangani, local activists and indigenous leaders have been marching against a proposal to convert Kiamba's public forest lands into a Mineral Reserve Area.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  have agreed a "wealth sharing annex" to their peace negotiations, agreeing on revenue sharing for resources. Whether it will settle this key issue in the long standing dispute remains to be seen.

The arguments in the Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the financial parts of the Mining Act of 1995 continue, with the government being challenged to prove their contention that the poor benefit from mining (which should prove a tough challenge).

Finally, there was been  interest in the techniques developed in the indigenous Cordillera region to avoid mercury use in small-scale mining. How far it can be replicated in other areas is debatable, but there are useful lessons here -  even though small-scale mining is tending to become larger-scale in many areas of the Cordillera.

OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya shut down

By Artemio Dumlao

Philippine Star

17 July 2013

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines - Alleged failure of mining giant OceanaGold Corp. to comply with local government-set requirements on their Nueva Vizcaya operations has prompted local officials to shut down the mining firm.

A closure order was issued July 12, a week after Kasibu town Mayor Chito Bumolo pointed out OceanaGold's failures to comply with the local government's requirements and agreements.

OceanaGold reportedly failed to seek and renew its business permit and barangay clearance and failed to pay local taxes. It also reportedly failed to fulfill its promises set in the memorandum of agreement with the local government unit specifically with the village where its mining operation is held. Moreover, it has also allegedly failed to address the human rights violations complaint filed against its security personnel.

Bumolo gave the company until July 10 to address the complaints and meet the terms set with the local villagers, but the mining firm snubbed it, he claimed.

OceanaGold has been in Kasibu since 1988 when the firm was seeking the needed requirements from the local government unit for their application permits to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Now that it is operating and hauling tons of high grade gold and copper, it has stopped dealing with the local government of Kasibu, the mayor said.

The mayor further claimed that the firm has been transacting with Quirino province and yet a big part of the company's mining area is in Kasibu town. "Does this mean that the company does not recognize anymore Didipio, Kasibu to be a part of Nueva Vizcaya? And that, it is now a part of the province of Quirino?" the mayor said.

The mining operation of OceanaGold lies along the disputed land boundaries of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya.

The company's trucks that haul tons of the mined rocks pass through Quirino.

Kasibu town is also asking why several conditions set in their memorandum of agreement have not also been met, the most important of which was employment opportunities promised to the local residents who should be given priority over those from other places.

At present, only a few locals from Kasibu are employed, and most employees are not even from Nueva Vizcaya, Bumolo added.

The Mayor further cited that with several human rights violations complaints filed against OceanaGold's security guards, it has instead pulled out its present security personnel and replaced them with guards from a new security agency.

In December last year, a village councilor and a village watch were killed in a supposed altercation with a security guard of the firm.

Bumolo and the town's Sangunniang Bayan ordered Oceana Gold Company to cease and desist its operation in the area until it has addressed the filed complaints.

Anti-mining advocates who have lamented the destruction of the environment because of the firm's operation are calling for a final closure of the company as it has caused irreparable damages to the land, livelihood and the environment, they said.

A local resident said, "Mano pay laeng nga bulan nga agop-operate dayta nga kumpanya ditoy, makita tayon ti nalawa nga nadadael a daga, aglalo pay nu itulok tayo nga agtultuloy ti aramid da." (The company has been operating for only few months, yet we see the vastness of destruction it has done to our land; how much more if we allow them to continue operating.)

"Even the indigenous people who worked, developed and protected those lands were displaced by the mining company, why do we still allow them to prevail? We lose our rights to use, to own and protect our lands," said Pacita Balinggan, the acting chairperson of Alliance of Multisectoral Group Against Mining in Dupax del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya.

For some time, five barricades were reportedly set in Kasibu and Dupax Del Norte demanding for OceanaGold's final closure.

"The inability of a big company like OceanaGold to fulfill its promises, to abide by the local government's policies, and to respect the people's collective will is more than enough ground to finally end its operation, not to mention the great destruction it will cause not just in Nueva Vizcaya but in the whole region, not just in our time but more so with the next generation of our children" said Santos Yonga-an, chairperson of Kasibu Intertribal Response for Ecological Development.

OceanaGold formally started its operation in Didipio, Kasibu Nueva Vizcaya last May 15.


Oceana Gold Mining Served Closure, More of People's Barricades Call for Finality

ALMUSEGAM press release

16 July 2013

A week after Mayor Chito Bumolo of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya held a press conference regarding Oceana Gold Mining Company's failures to comply with the local government's requirements and forged agreements, a closure order was served. In the press conference held last July 5, 2013 the mayor said that Oceana Gold Mining failed the Local Government in three instances namely: 1.Failure to seek and renew its business permit, and baranggay clearance including the failure to pay local taxes 2. Failure to fulfill its promises set in the memorandum of agreement forged with the local government unit specifically with the village where its mining operation is held 3. Failure to address the human rights violations complaint filed against its security personnel.

The local government executive gave the company until July 10 to address the complaints and meet the terms set with the local villagers. Mayor Bumolo said that since 1988 when Oceana Gold Mining Company was seeking the needed requirements from the local government unit for their application permits to the DENR-Bureau of Mines and Geosciences, they have been transacting with the LGU of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. Now that it is operating and hauling tons of high grade gold and copper, it has stopped dealing with the local government of Kasibu. The Mayor further said that the Company has been transacting with the province of Quirino and yet a big part of the company's mining area is in Kasibu. "Does this mean that the company does not recognize anymore Didipio, Kasibu to be a part of Nueva Vizcaya? And that, it is now a part of the province of Quirino?" the mayor said. The mining operation of Oceana Gold lies on the disputed land boundaries of the Provinces of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya. However, more of the trucks that haul tons of the mined rocks pass through Quirino that justifies its deals with the Quirino province.

Several conditions set in their Memorandum of Agreement with the local government units of Kasibu have not also been met. One of which is the employment opportunities promised to the local residents who should be given priority over those from other places. At present, only a few locals from Kasibu are employed by the company, worst, most employees are not even from Nueva Vizcaya, Mayor Bumolo explained. The Mayor further clarified that with several human rights violations complaints filed against the Mining Company's security guards, the Mining Company is instructed to pull out its present security personnel and replace them with guards from a new security agency. One human rights violation complaint filed against the company's security guards was the altercation they had leading to the alleged accidental death of a village councilor and a village peace keeper (baranggay tanod) sometime in December of 2012.

After the set deadline was snubbed by the mining company, the Mayor together with the Sangguniang Bayan and several anti mining advocates served the closure order last July 12. Oceana Gold Company is ordered to cease and desist its operation in the area until it has addressed the filed complaints, a move highly approved by anti mining advocates of the province. However, majority of the people call for a final closure of the company as it has caused irreparable damages to the land, livelihood and the environment. As one local resident said, "Mano pay laeng nga bulan nga agop-operate dayta nga kumpanya ditoy, makita tayon ti nalawa nga nadadael a daga, aglalo pay nu itulok tayo nga agtultuloy ti aramid da." (The company has been operating for only few months, yet we see the vastness of destruction it has done to our land how much more if we allow them to continue operating.) " Uray pay dagiti nainsigudaan nga tattao nga nangtrabaho, ken nangpadur-as, nangsalaknib kadagita nga dagdaga ket napapanao da gapu iti ganganaet a kumpanya nga mangminas, apay pay laeng nga ipalubos tayo ida? Naawan kadatayo iti karbengan, ti panagaramat ti daga, panangtagikuwa ken panangsalaknib." (Even the indigenous people who worked, developed and protected those lands were displaced by the mining company, why do we still allow them to prevail? We lose our rights to use, to own and protect our lands) said Mrs. Pacita Balinggan, the acting Chairperson of Alliance of Multisectoral Group Against Mining (ALMUSEGAM) in Dupax del Norte.

Even the community people who are supporting the 5 barricades set in the province found in Kasibu and Dupax Del Norte demand for Oceana Gold's final closure. "The inability of a big company like Oceana Gold to fulfill its promises, to abide with the local government's policies, and to respect the people's collective will is more than enough ground to finally end its operation, not to mention the great destruction it will cause not just in Nueva Vizcaya but in the whole region, not just in our time but more so with the next generation of our children" said Mr. Santos Yonga-an, chairperson of Kasibu Intertribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED). He further said that the people and the LGU should unite to scrap RA 7942 popularly known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as this law serves as the legal basis of Oceana Gold's blatant exploitation of the province.

Oceana Gold Mining Company formally started its operation in Didipio, Kasibu Nueva Vizcaya last May 15, 2013 after a grand opening program was held. Many of the local government officers and executives were invited including some well known staunch anti mining advocates like Bishop Ramon Villena of the Diocese of Bayombong. Bishop Villena, though did not attend the event, aptly described the event as the "grand opening of the destruction of Nueva Vizcaya".

Reference person: Mrs. Paz Balinggan, Acting Chairperson ALMUSEGAM
Contact Number: 09068617227


FPIC in Mankayan town resumes

By Maria Elena Catajan

Sun Star Baguio

4 July 2013

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has resumed Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) proceedings in Mankayan town.

The halted talks are for Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation's (LCMC) Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc. (FSGRI) which applied for a Foreign and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau who in turn referred it to the NCIP for the conduct of the FPIC in the IP community.

LCMC administration manager Ventutimo Masindo said the June 28 general assembly was successfully conducted by the NCIP, making its rounds individually to the eight barangays.

The NCIP was divided into three teams who went to barangays Tabio, Bulalacao, Sapid, Poblacion, Suyoc, Paco, Colalo, and Cabiten where the two issues were raised.

First is the confirmation of the elders to stand as leaders and representatives of each area and second the confirmation of the elders of the chosen representatives. There were 50 elder leaders chosen for each site, except for Tabio, which has 39 representatives.

Masindo said the conduct of the FPIC process has resumed without a hitch this time, with security and safety of the NCIP as well as the attendees put at foremost.

In the past, there were glitches in the process with opposing groups disrupting the talks, breaking out violence which pushed the NCIP to halt the talks altogether.

Today, the NCIP resumes the halted talks in the hope the process will be finished at the end of the month.

Masindo said after the general meeting in June a meeting of the elders is set on July 18. The meeting is crucial as it will set to a vote the fate of FSGRI.

If all matters go on smoothly, a verdict will be out by the end of the month.

The NCIP is looking into a faster decision making process, six months at most.

However, if communities have issues on the matter, like that of the case of FSGRI, the time frame is extended.

The talks for the FPIC process are to be the first in the town being conducted to decide the fate of Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc. (FSGRI), the newest investor of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation were halted because of misunderstandings between groups.

The meeting of the elders originally set on July 8, was moved to July 18 due to issues on royalties as well a request of people's group MADIPO to drop MPSA 151, needing more clarifications both from the MGB and the NCIP.


Civic/religious and tribal leaders march to the municipal hall to show strong opposition to mining in Kiamba

Coalition of Organisations to Save Kiamba Rainforest / Kiamba Natives Organization Worldwide (KNOW) Press Release

9 July 2013

Kiamba, Sarangani Philippines - A group of men and women representing the civic, religious sectors and Tribal Leaders of Kiamba, Sarangani, Philippines, led by Social Action Group (SAG) representative Virgie E. Nabor, marched to the Municipal Hall to personally deliver a letter voicing their united stand to object and oppose in the strongest manner the conversion or proposal to convert Kiamba's public forest/ancestral lands/watershed to a Mineral Reserve Area (MRA) and/or allow mining operations tagged as "Minahan ng Bayan".

‘We call on President Benigno Aquino Jr. to intervene and order an immediate freeze, investigation and review of all applications for Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) in Kiamba, specifically Hardrock Mining Corporation which seem to be a midnight deal, with the MGB website showing approval of the exploration permit date as June 29, 2010, a day before the term of Office of former President Gloria Arroyo expires, the leaders said. "The MGB website has since been updated and no longer show the dates of approval and names of specific municipalities where mining companies applied to operate, another area worth looking into."

The letter pointed out major reasons why mining in Kiamba should not be allowed.

Foremost is the danger to the lives of the people and a serious threat to their safety, livelihood and property. There exists scientific evidence that Kiamba is prone to flood and landslides as shown in maps by the the Mines and Geo Sciences Bureau(MGB), which will endanger the lives of 53,040 of its inhabitants (2007 Statistics).

"The degradation of Kiamba's rainforest and the destruction of Kiamba's watershed through the introduction of any mining activity in Kiamba is a gross violation of the people's right to a balanced and healthy ecology as mandated under Article II Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines", the letter states.

The area to be converted is classified as a watershed by MGB, with a total area covering 14,500 hectares which is roughly thirty percent (29%) of the total area of the whole town. The area proposed to be mined is larger than the now controversial Tampakan Gold mines.

A part of the letter states: " Research will show that when the forest is removed, there is no longer any sponge to absorb the water and the result is massive flooding, soil erosion and siltation of the waterways. Siltation causes the water to become choked with mud and all life that depends on that clean water eventually suffocates".

The Tribal leaders led by Anito Untal, President, Tri-people Coalition for the Environment and newly installed Municipal Chieftain Gerry Bangon, expressed strong opposition to any mining activity in their ancestral domains, because it is the biggest threat to the Indigenous People's (IP) right to their survival and bring about irreparable damage to their hunting grounds and their environment, impinge on their sacred sites, burial grounds, cultural beliefs and practices. The impact of any mining legislation/endorsement/grant of a permit to operate or failure to stop mining operations in their ancestral domains is taken as a form of active aggression and ethnocide.

Twelve out of the fifteen Municipal Tribal Leaders signed the letter.

The rights of the Indigenous People are guaranteed under Republic Act (RA) No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.

The letter cites violation of mining laws in the Philippines which prohibit mining to be undertaken in watershed areas, protected areas, cemeteries, burial grounds,near dams, areas planted to valuable crops, and other National Integrated Protected Areas (NIPAS), among others.

Kiamba is part of Important Bird Area (IBA) which is part of a protected area comprising the coastal range of mountains in South Cotabato Province that includes Mt Parker, Mt Three Kings and Mt Busa of Kiamba, with it's old growth virgin mossy forest, a watershed forest reserve and a wilderness area, a game refuge and bird sanctuary which is home to critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable bird species.

Kiamba's shores is also a part of Sarangani's protected coastal watershed as mentioned in the Sarangani Report. The Food Safety of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority data show that around 10,000 fishermen of Sarangani supply 250 metric tons of tuna in a day, 90 per cent as export and 10 percent for the domestic market. Kiamba's fishermen supply thirty percent (30%) of the export grade Sashimi tuna product.

European, Asian and worldwide markets are very keen on the food safety of its imports and any mining activity is a severe threat to the fishing industry. Any form of mining will also greatly affect the people's source of livelihood, majority of Kiamba's population of which depend on fishing, farming and tourism as their source of income.

Kiamba, once known the cleanest and greenest town in the Philippines and known as Paraiso (Paradise) ng Sarangani, has become a famous local and international tourist destination.

The Tuka National Marine Sanctuary, with it's white sand, blue waters, beautiful corrals and verdant forest faces the Celebes Sea, the municipal waters being a part of strategic agriculture and fisheries development zone and fish refuge and sanctuary. It is home and nesting ground to the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles, which belong to the category of marine turtles protected by various international treaties and agreement including local laws such as the Republic Act No. 9147 otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Bacud Reef is an offshore reef encompassing the municipal waters of Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum with a total area of 2,150 square kilometers . The area falls under NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Area System) through Presidential Proclamation Number 756 promulgated in 1996.

Bacud Reef is said to be one of the few sites in the Philippines where the endangered Mameng (Napoleon wrasse) lives. Napoleon wrasse is one of the most valuable fish in the international live reef food fish trade because of its rarity and taste. It was declared as an endangered species under the

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2010. At present Sarangani including Kiamba has been identified as one of the priority area for Mameng conservation.

The letter also takes the case of exploitation of children through child labor in the existing minesites of Kiamba and neighboring areas, a serious social issue.

‘ The lack of knowledge on the part of our people and the apparent lack of transparency in matters relating to mining activities in Kiamba lead us to take a position that no public consultation with the people of Kiamba was done, unless proof is submitted and fully scrutinized and verified to prove otherwise. Such is a violation of social acceptability and the free, prior and informed consent of the people, as required by Mining Laws of the Philippines", a part of the letter stated.

The leaders expressed fear of the possible lack of legislative and executive check and balance, noting the present composition of the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council), all of whom belong to the People's Champ Movement (PCM), with present Mayor Raul Martinez admitting in his inaugural speech his open support for mining in Kiamba. The Vice Mayor Danny Martinez is the son of Mayor Raul Martinez. The new set of Officials assumed office July 1, 2013.

The people has yet to hear the stand of Sarangani Governor Steve Solon (PCM) and international boxing icon Congressman Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquaio, also a PCM party member, on mining issues. Congressman Pacquaio is a supporter of Bantay Kalikasan but has remained mum on his stand about large and small scale mining. The wife of Congressman Pacquaio, Jinkee Pacquaio (PCM), also won the seat as Vice Governor of Sarangani.

Kiambans worldwide only came to know of the existence of mining companies through the social media sometime in May, 2013, when two barangay mining resolutions were presented to the SB of Kiamba for endorsement but were aborted because of the vigilance of opposition Councilors James Pimentel, Jaime Fado and Rico Amador . The 2,000 plus strong Kiamba Natives FB site has since become an effective anti-mining campaign media and forum.

"Sana makinig si Mayor Martinez at President Aquino sa hinagpis ng bayan (We hope that Mayor Martinez and President Aquino will listen to the cries of the people)", Rosejane Montano, an IP youth said. She was inspired to write a touching poem "Hinagpis Ng Tribo" highlighting her people's struggle to save their home: Kiamba Rainforest, where her tribe and ancestors lived and hunted since time immemorial.

Copy of their letter was furnished the United Nation Commission on Human Rights, the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Greenpeace International, and Bantay Kalikasan, among many other offices furnished with the letter.

(SGD) Carolina Villanueva Peralta
International Public Relations Officer
Kiamba Natives Organization Worldwide (KNOW)
New York, NY, USA
Facebook: Kiamba Natives


NPA attacks mining firm facility in Mindanao, 1 hurt

by Jeoffrey Maitem

Rappler.com

8 July 2013

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Suspected leftist rebels stormed the offices of the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mining Inc (SMI) in Davao del Sur, leaving a company guard wounded, police said Monday, July 8.

An undetermined number of New People's Army fighters opened fire on a police detachment as they raided the headquarters of SMI on Saturday morning, July 6, in the village of Kimlawis, Kiblawan town, said town police commander Senior Inspector Arnold Bacaling.

Bacaling said the incident sparked a 30-minute gun fight. A security personnel of SMI, identified as Reydan Homocan, 32, was wounded.

The attackers later withdrew toward the mountains of Kimlawis.

"There's a pursuit operation. We have alerted our men in the town," he said.

In 2009, the rebels also stormed the SMI's base camp in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

The SMI is largely owned by Xstrata Copper, the world's fourth largest copper producer. The 9,605-hectare Tampakan project is expected to produce an average annual yield of 375,000 metric tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold per year. - Rappler.com


Government, MILF sign annex on wealth sharing

Sun Star Davao

14 July 2013

MANILA (Updated) -- The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front finally agreed late Saturday night on the wealth sharing annex of the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) after six days of peace talks in Malaysia.

"The GPH (Government of the Philippines) and MILF peace panels completed the wealth sharing annex at 10:30 p.m.," the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.

After a 12-hour session, both parties signed the Annex on wealth sharing past midnight of Sunday, July 14, in Kuala Lumpur.

In a joint statement, the GPH and the MILF said they are closing the 38th round of Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia "with the signing of the Annex on Wealth Sharing to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB)."

"In a show of true commitment, the Parties extended the meeting, originally scheduled for four days, to six days to be able to overcome their concerns and reach an agreement on the Annex," the statement said.

"The Parties believe that the Annex, which forms part of the FAB, will provide sufficient guidance for the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law's provisions on wealth sharing and revenue generation for the Bangsamoro as envisioned by the FAB," it added.

The statement said that progress was also made by the Technical Working Group on Normalization and the special team on power sharing.

The most contentious issue that faced the panels did not necessarily concern percentages on wealth sharing but a "core principle" over natural resources, or the "Regalian doctrine" in the Constitution.

The Regalian doctrine is embodied in Section 2 Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, which states that all lands and natural resources in the public domain belong to the State.

With the signing of the wealth sharing agreement, the GPH and the MILF can now proceed with the discussion on the two remaining annexes on power sharing and normalization. The annex on transitional arrangements and modalities was signed early this year.

The Parties expressed their appreciation to President Benigno Aquino III "for his commitment to a just and lasting peace in Mindanao."

They also thanked Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak "for his continued support in the facilitation of the GPH-MILF Peace Talks," and to the members of the MILF Central Committee headed by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim "for their continued commitment to the peaceful resolution of the Bangsamoro Question."

The Parties also extend their gratitude to the members of the International Crisis Group (ICG), namely Japan, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Turkey, the United Kingdom, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiyah, and The Asia Foundation.

They also thank the members of the Technical Working Groups of both Parties which had worked on the Annex on wealth sharing.

The 38th round of formal exploratory talks were extended for two days following the government's request last Thursday. The negotiation almost ended up on an impasse after both sides found hard time agreeing on the taxation and revenue sharing.

President Benigno Aquino III sent last Thursday OPAPP Secretary Teresita Deles and Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda to Kuala Lumpur to join in the peace talks. (SDR/PNA/Sunnex)


Most mining firms have no environmental work program - CJ Sereno

By MARK MERUEÑAS

GMA News

16 July 2013

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday slammed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for failing to ensure that mining firms in the Philippines have measures to protect the environment from their mining activities.

Sereno, reading from a list submitted by the DENR to the high court, revealed that most of the 350 registered mining companies in the country apparently do not have or have not indicated any "environmental work program" (EWP) in their mining concessions with the government.

Sereno added that for the small number of mining firms that have EWPs, the budgets allotted for them have had "minuscule" discussion.

For instance, Sereno cited the Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor), which only has a budget of P765,000 for environmental protection.

Celestial Nickel, meanwhile, only has a P20,000 environmental protection budget for the 2,800 hectares of land it is mining.

The chief justice slammed the DENR for being "an agency which is not even able to share to the court how much is being spent to protect the environment."

"Data submitted to us [so far] does not give this court comfort that the posterity of the country is being taken care of [sufficiently]," Sereno told Assistant Solicitor General Magtanggol Castro, who is representing the government in the case.

The oral arguments stemmed from separate petitions filed by former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño and Akbayan Rep. Risa Baraquel-Hontiveros in March 2008, contesting Sections 80 and Section 81 of the law on the government's share in mining operations.

Making things worse during Tuesday's oral arguments, Sereno found out that Castro has not gone over the data from the DENR.

"You had gone here very strongly defending what has been happening and you haven't looked at data of the DENR? How can we say you are credible," Sereno asked.

"If this is the kind of data coming to this court, [then] we have no basis to believe you," she added. "This has been disastrous for you because you are not looking at the facts and you want us to turn a blind eye."

She said there was a need to review what has happened to the mining industry since the high court in 2004 ruled that the Mining Act of 1995 was constitutional (La Bugal et al vs. Ramos).

"You convince this court to restrain itself but we don't have anything to hold on to," Sereno said.

"Assumptions of La Bugal are out the window. They don't hold," she said.

Castro insisted there was no "viable reason to revisit" the La Bugal decision.

Upon questioning from Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Castro expressed fears that mining companies might pull out if the high court strikes Section 80 and 81 as unconstitutional.

Associate Justice Roberto Abad emphasized that the high court was not concerned with economics but with the constitutionality of laws.

"The Constitution did not define equitable share. Congress has passed a law to implement it, but it has not fixed a permanent ratio of mining," he said.

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro told Castro to include in the memorandum that his camp should later submit to the SC ways on how the government could monitor compliance of the mining firms with the mining law requirements.

Oral arguments are set to resume on July 30. - BM, GMA News


Justices to gov't: Prove poor benefit from mining

by Rappler.com

17 July 2013

MANILA, Philippines - Does the mining industry benefit the 28 million poor Filipinos? Why are mining companies taxed less?

In oral arguments on the Mining Act on Tuesday, July 16, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said poor Filipinos remain hungry and lacking in basic resources, while only the rich benefit from the measly 2% excise tax that government receives from the extractive industry.

The High Court is holding oral arguments on the basis of petitions asking the justices to declare the Mining Act unconstitutional.

Carpio and other justices grilled government lawyer Magtanggol Castro on why mining companies pay only 2% excise tax while "they exploit our natural resources more." Carpio noted that other industries, including cigar, cars and liquor, "pay higher taxes while they do not exploit natural resources."

Carpio stressed that the government should not be blinded by the mining companies' "promise to build houses, schools" and others in communities where they conduct mining activities.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno castigated Castro for not knowing whether mining firms pay correct taxes.

Citing documents submitted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Sereno noted that most mining companies do not even have an environmental work budget. The DENR document showed only Sagittarius Mines Inc., which is set to operate the Tampakan mine in South Cotabato, has an environmental work budget, which is mandated by law.

Castro, who is from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), insisted that only Congress can determine the amount of taxes that mining companies need to pay.

The Aquino government said the rationalization of the government's share in mining revenues is among its priority bills in Congress.

Castro said that if certain provisions of the Mining Act are stricken down as unconstitutional, the OSG believes mining companies may just pull out.

Mining investments

In a July 16 statement, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) insisted that mining investments "support job creation, inclusive growth and poverty alleviation, at the same time protect the environment and uphold human rights."

It added that "about P173 billion (US$4 billion) in mining investments have been poured into the country since 2004 following the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in La Bugal-B'laan upholding the constitutionality of the Mining Act or Republic Act 7942, making the industry a significant contributor to national development."

The Supreme Court has allowed the COMP to intervene in the petitions that former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, former Bayan Muna Rep Teddy Casiño, and others filed.

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and former Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza are representing COMP. - Rappler.com


Philex mine resumption a precedent for more environmental crimes

Letter to the Editor

12 July 2013

The lifting of the cease-and-desist order on the operations of Philex Mining Corporation's Padcal mine in Itogon, Benguet, first issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Mines and Geosciences Bureau on July 1 and reiterated through its Pollution Adjudication Board on July 5, would set a precedent for more mining disasters with greater impunity. That the perpetrator of PH's largest mining disaster is now easily off the hook will surely embolden other destructive large-scale miners to run roughshod over environmental regulations.

Philex's case is the first litmus test of the Aquino government's political will to arrest the mounting environmental crimes of miners under his Executive Order 79 on mining. Its treatment so far of the erring corporation is a P1.034-billion slap on Philex's wrist and its unjust exoneration of the polluter, despite damning evidence of their tailings pond 3 (TP3) dam failure's massive pollution that affected ecosystems and communities along the Agno river.

The results of the environmental investigation mission led by the Defend Patrimony Alliance and the Cordillera People's Alliance last October 2012 were crystal clear: the spilled mine waste smothered aquatic life that rendered the Balog River and its confluence with Agno River biologically dead. The tailings were proven to contain toxic heavy metals including zinc, arsenic, cobalt and copper, with copper being most prevalent registering the highest value of 4.5 times the allowable level.

Adverse effects on affected people were immediately apparent. Downstream communities reported cases of head aches, chest pains, and skin rashes. Those who drank water from contaminated wells dug up beside Agno river experienced loose bowel movement and itchy sore throats. Fisherfolks observed a decrease in the catch of carp fish, and farmers noted that productive agricultural lands have been contaminated with pollutants.

Bearing this in mind, the continuation of the rehabilitation is a laughable excuse for the resumption of Philex's commercial operations, especially with DENR officials openly stating they are still in the process of reviewing the company's technical plans for rehabilitation. In the first place, Aquino and his DENR lackeys should be directing Philex to decommission TP3, not rehabilitate it. It is the Balog and Agno rivers that require full rehabilitation and ecological restoration, not the dam. Philex must also pay not only the violation fines as prescribed by law but to fully compensate all affected communities and mine workers for all the livelihood, health and ecological costs the Philex mining disaster has caused.

Three years into PNoy's term, Philex's brand of irresponsible mining still runs rampant. PNoy, stop noynoying on this urgent issue our people and environment is currently facing!

LEON DULCE
Campaign Coordinator, Kalikasan PNE
26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman
Quezon City, Philippines, 1100

KALIKASAN People's Network for the Environment is a network of people's organizations (POs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental advocates. It believes that the struggle for the environment is a struggle of the people, thus all environmental action shall have the interest of the majority at their core.


Pinoy develops environment-friendly gold mining technology

By Rainier Allan Ronda

The Philippine Star

8 July 2013

MANILA, Philippines - A mercury-free gold mining process being practiced by small-scale miners in Benguet for several years is getting the attention of their foreign counterparts.

The process does not require rocket science and does not involve the use of a substitute to mercury or expensive equipment, but merely the tweaking of the ore grinding process during which rocks are crushed to get to the gold within.

Leoncio Na-oy, a member of the Emerald Small-Scale Miners Multi-purpose Cooperative under the Benguet Federation of Small-Scale Miners Associations, Inc., said their system has been proven to be "more profitable" so it has been widely used by many small-scale miners in the mineral-rich Northern Luzon province.

"We have seen that it results in better gold recovery," Na-oy told The STAR in a phone interview. "We recover better gold grades from the process."

Na-oy explained that their system only introduces innovations in the early stage of the mining process when rocks are crushed to search for gold ore.

He said Benguet small-scale miners are practicing mercury-free mining by adding a sluicebox in a stage after the rocks are crushed right before they go into a chute during the process.

The system also requires a controlled flow of water during the crushing and washing process to find the gold ore among the crushed rocks or sand.

Na-oy said that in the olden days, gold miners in Benguet did not use mercury in the rock crushing stage. Mercury was introduced into the process only in the 1970s by large-scale miners. In the late 1980s, he said, mercury-free mining was already being practiced by some miners who did not want to use the toxic chemical.

The system was refined and improved with the help of Danish scientist Peter W.U. Appel.

Appel and Na-oy came up with a paper "How to Mitigate Mercury Pollution in Tanzania" after they introduced the mercury-free mining system to Tanzanian small-scale miners in 2010. Their paper was recently published in the Journal of Environment Protection.

Na-oy and fellow small-scale gold miner Rudy Onos are leaving today for Indonesia to teach their Indonesian counterparts the environment-friendly gold mining process.

Na-oy is also set to go to Bolivia in September as he has been invited by mining groups there that are interested in the mercury-free gold mining process. His next trips are to Peru and Ghana also upon miners' invitation.

Na-oy is a History graduate of the University of Baguio in 1987. He ventured into small-scale gold mining when he failed to get a job after graduation.


Mercury-free gold mining takes hold in Northern Philippines

Susan Egan Keane

Natural Resource Defense Council Blog - http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/skeane/mercury-free_gold_mining_takes.html

19 July 2013

Amid the spectacular beauty of the northern Philippines, I recently attended the 1st summit on Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) in Kalinga province. spectacular.jpgOn its face this meeting was a modest local gathering about small scale mining in the region, but in fact it is a harbinger of important changes coming to small scale gold mining not only in the Philippines, but throughout the world, as small scale gold mining takes on the challenge of going mercury-free. In the Philippines, a new Executive Order (EO 79) recently banned the use of mercury in small scale gold mining.

Further, should the Philippines sign onto the new Minamata convention as expected, the country's commitment to reduce or eliminate mercury in the small scale mining sector will become a matter of international law. The Kalinga summit brought together stakeholders to discuss the challenges of making this transition. But as usual, the summit revealed that the issues facing small scale gold miners go well beyond the technical issue of mercury use.

The new executive order also limited areas open to small scale mining (called Minahang Bayan or People's Small Scale Mining Areas), and to the dismay of many small-scale miners, it upheld the mining law that (in their view) favors large-scale mining. EO 79 also pushes for putting provincial or city mining regulatory bodies into operation, bodies that many small scale miners perceive as biased toward large scale mining interests. The summit reinforced the lesson that the problem of mercury use in small scale mining cannot be solved in isolation from the broader issues touching the legitimacy of the small scale mining sector overall.

After the summit concluded, I was invited to visit the Ga'ang mining area, in Balbalan municipality, where the use of mercury in small scale mining was recently prohibited by local authorities. The site has now nearly completely converted to mercury-free methods. The mining area is controlled by a tribal group called the Banao Bodong Association, which has asserted its rights as an indigenous people to control the exploitation of natural resources in the tribal area. And control it they do.

The area is very tightly administered. Mining is limited to tribal members and to residents of three "privileged" local communities. Miners must have a permit to enter the site; miners must pay a fee for each tunnel they exploit and for each rod mill they operate; no youth are allowed in the area except during school vacations; and no alcohol is permitted in the mine area. And now, no mercury use is allowed. There are stiff penalties for anyone caught using it.

I was excited to see this mercury-free operation in action, but I had to work for the privilege. To reach the mine site, we had to make a steep and treacherous trek 4.5 miles up the side of a mountain - a very challenging and in some places frightening ascent for me, but one that is easily navigated several times a day by the local haulers that carry all goods to the mining area from the closest local village, Sesec-An.

Everything must be hauled in by hand, from soda pop and soap to large steel rod mill drums. ball mill.jpg I asked why the local authorities do not improve the passage, to make it easier and safer for the miners and their suppliers to reach the mining site; the best speculation is that the elders and leaders want to intentionally keep the site remote and difficult to access, in order to maintain control over the site. As we hiked through the forest, our host and guide, Ms. Juliet, was quietly whispering to herself, and later told me that she had been whispering to spirits who live there, asking for our safe passage. "You cannot ignore them" she said and I believed her. I definitely needed all the help I could get to finish the journey.

Emerging from the forest after our long hike, we came upon a mining camp that was completely different than any I had seen before. I was struck by how cozy and almost pastoral it seemed. The mining tunnels were unobtrusive and sometimes even hard to spot, dug into the side of the mountain, hidden by the lush greenery. The mining camp itself, with processing areas, small shops and living space, consisted of a series of small structures tightly hugging the side of the river. Most impressive was that nearly all of the operations were run by hydropower, using water diverted from the river. Waterwheels made from old tires were used to turn to the rod mills.waterwheel4.jpg The dominant sound in the mining area was the soft thwap thwap thwap of water wheels turning and splashing water as scores of rod mills positioned along the river quietly ground tons of ore. I've never seen a camp appear more tidy and well-ordered, decorated both with natural flower gardens and with plastic flowers crafted from recycled soda bottles. As one friend put it, it was as if the mining camp had been built by the Swiss Family Robinson.

Later that day, we were able to visit processing operations and talk to the miners. (I was not allowed to visit the digging operations, because it is considered bad luck for women to go into the tunnels.) Until this year, the miners used a process that involved a minimal amount of concentration achieved by washing the ore with a hose on an inclined plane, a process which concentrated the coarse gold but undoubtedly lost a lot of fine gold to the wash water.

The resulting washed ore was then amalgamated with a large quantity of mercury. In contrast, with the new mercury-free set up, coarse gold is still separated with an initial wash but the wash water is then flowed over a carpet-lined secondary sluice to capture finer gold.enhanced gravity.jpg Also, the tailings from this process are sometimes retained in a pond to be reprocessed (although ultimately water and tailings are discharged into the river, as attested by the river's milky white color). The resulting concentrate is then panned by hand, and then directly smelted to about 14 to 16 karat gold. Overall, the operations I saw seemed efficient, well-run, clearly profitable and blessedly mercury-free.

A number of reinforcing factors have likely contributed to the near-elimination of mercury from this mining site. First, my colleagues at the Filipino environment group Ban Toxics! provided intensive education and campaigning about the negative health and environmental impacts of mercury in the community. This outreach clearly made a big impression: ask any miner now in Ga'ang about mercury and he or she will recite the litany of its dangers. Second, the price of mercury has skyrocketed locally in the past few years. Mercury is currently sold locally at US$728 per kilogram (world market price is currently around US$50 per kilogram). So, the idea of no longer having to buy mercury certainly has its appeal. But maybe most importantly, the folks at Ban Toxics! also provided education on the use of mercury-free techniques, emphasizing enhanced gravity methods. They teamed with a group of miners from nearby Benguet province, who had already converted successfully and profitably to mercury-free methods, to help demonstrate the techniques.

Critically, these alternative methods actually yielded more gold than the old mercury-based techniques. More gold makes a big impression, too (obviously). So, in summary: the miners had the opportunity to switch to a process that gives them more gold, without having to buy an expensive input like mercury, and without having to expose themselves to a highly toxic chemical. A "no-brainer" if there ever was one.

What can the rest of the world learn from Ga'ang? Is this place a special case, or are there lessons here that can be applied to small scale gold mining sites in other locations? No doubt there are distinctive features about Ga'ang that have supported the widespread adoption of mercury-free techniques, such as strong social cohesion, clear control by the local tribal association, a successful awareness campaign about the toxicity of mercury, and the very high local mercury prices.

But my hunch is that it all comes down to the gold. The Ga'ang miners simply get more gold now than they did before, and that is strong motivation to change. But it is critical to understand that the mercury-free process adopted in Ga'ang works well because of the nature of the gold ore found there. When the initial concentration of gold in the ore is relatively high to begin with (about 1 g gold per 50 kg sack of ore in Ga'ang), it is feasible to use rudimentary (but effective) gravity-only techniques to further concentrate the ore to a level high enough to be smelted directly. And I can personally attest that these miners are able to produce a lot of gold this way. We got an eye-popping demonstration of this high productivity when we visited some miners who were busy smelting the fruits of two weeks of labor.

They estimated they would get around 500 g (half a kilo) of gold from one tunnel for the two week period. While it is true that this effort involved a big team (about 40 people) producing the ore, still. Wow. They let me hold the gold ingots they had produced so far - about 250 g. There I was, staring at around $10,000 worth of gold resting heavily in the palms of my hands, and they were only half way through. With results like that, it shouldn't be very hard to convince people to change processes.

Nonetheless, for some miners, change is still hard. The miners I spoke with admitted there is still surreptitious use of mercury in Ga'ang. They speculated that those still using mercury are short-term miners looking for quick cash - they are not concerned with getting the most gold they can get from ore, but rather getting gold fast, even if they leave some behind. But miners with longer term interests see things differently. For those of us looking to help miners transition away from mercury, it is worth remembering that this is an ongoing process, even in the best of circumstances like in Ga'ang. Changing attitudes and habits will not happen overnight.

And there are other troubles on the horizon for the tribe, beyond mercury. I was not surprised to learn that this gorgeous terrain overlaps with the Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park - another typical conflict that often arises between local people and national-level interests, who want to develop the tourism potential of the region. The Philippine government must find a way to balance its aims in establishing a national park with the rights of the tribe in their ancestral domain. Unfortunately, it seems this issue will play out long after the mercury problem in the area is over.

The story of Ga'ang's transition to mercury-free mining may offer an inspiring blueprint for other similar mining sites, but given the particular confluence of fortunate conditions that have favored the mercury-free transition there, I don't think it offers a one-size- fits-all-solution. But the experience does prove, without a doubt, that when there is deep understanding of the local situation (including the technical and social environment in which miners are working), and when solutions are tailored to fit those local circumstances (including mobilizing miners themselves), the results can be astonishing.

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