MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines Update

Published by MAC on 2006-07-15


Philippines Update

15th July 2006

The 30 day trial period of operation at Lafayette's Rapu Rapu mine has now started, and as you would expect the decision continues to be very controversial, with the chair of the government's own Commission that it set up to investigate the previous cyanide spills being particularly critical. The government's Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has since agreed to test tailing ponds and waste dumps of other mines as the rainy season sets in, to allay the fears of many, but how transparent this process will be is open to question. With those fears in mind there have been warnings of further potential problems on Marinduque from the containment facilities of the closed Placer Dome mine. There are further reports on a province wide conference in Zamboanga del Norte on the activities of TVI Philippines, and on the recent demolition of a residence in the way of the mine's expansion. Finally, following the arguments of the damage from quarrying "Tea Rose" marble at the culturally important site at Biak-na-Bato, it now appears that the company involved has had its operations suspended.


Mining firm starts 30-day test run

By Katherine Adraneda and Rocel Felix, The Philippine Star - http://www.philstar.com/philstar/News200607110402.htm

11th July 2006

The government's P1.4-billion flagship mine project on Rapu-Rapu island in Albay began yesterday its 30-day test run to determine if it can efficiently perform a sustainable mining system and warrant the permanent lifting of its suspension by the government.

The start of Lafayette Philippines' test run came almost simultaneously with the approval of the four-page resolution issued by the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) giving the green light for the test run by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Angelo Reyes.

Reyes visited Lafayette's polymetallic mine facility over the weekend and finalized the validation of the mining firm's compliance with government-set conditions for its test run.

Lafayette chairman and president Carlos Dominguez welcomed Reyes' order, saying it is a "watershed milestone for the company that is determined to prove it stands for responsible mining and is a sincere partner in the growth of its host communities and the country in general."

He said after passing all tests, the company expects to be allowed to resume full operations after a lull of eight months.

The Rapu-Rapu polymetallic project started commercial production in July last year, producing an average of about 2,500 ounces of gold a month.

Lafayette was shut down for pollution violations during the same year. A fact-finding committee investigating two cyanide spills in October 2005, chaired by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, called for the permanent closure of Lafayette's operations, a moratorium on mining on the island and a review of the law allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of local mines.

In June this year, the company paid a fine of P10.4 million imposed by the government for the twin spills at the Rapu-Rapu mine.

Lafayette said the DENR had verified the company's remedial environmental measures and a temporary order allowing operations to restart on a 30-day trial.

Lafayette, the first foreign firm to develop and run a mine in the Philippines in almost 40 years, estimates the lode will generate revenues of $350 million a year from annual production of 10,000 tons of copper in concentrates, 14,000 tons of zinc, 50,000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver.

Dominguez said that once the mine is "back in business, we expect to have the needed funds soon enough for our community projects, with education, livelihood, public health and environmental protection as priority."

He heads the new management that put P400 million worth of new systems and remedial measures in place to comply with the requirements and conditions imposed by the government before it could be allowed to conduct test runs and resume operations.

The mining project is expected to employ 900 people, most of them from host communities, and pay the government P3 billion in taxes, P244 million of which would go to local governments. Lafayette will also provide P31.3 million in social development projects for the communities. Strict conditions Aside from allowing Lafayette to start the test run, the PAB resolution instructed the regional Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to issue necessary permits to the mining firm to facilitate test run operations.

The EMB and MGB in the Bicol Region separately canceled Lafayette's wastewater discharge and milling operation permits after the twin mine spills last year.

The EMB-Region 5 also stopped Lafayette from using cyanide by suspending its chemical control order registration certificate. Cyanide is used in the milling operations of Lafayette.

MGB director Horacio Ramos said eight to 12 technical experts from the DENR's central and regional offices will be deployed to monitor the Rapu-Rapu mine and will submit weekly reports on the test run.

"But we may also submit daily reports if needed," he added.

On June 13, the DENR allowed Lafayette to resume its mining operations, subject to "certain stringent pre-conditions" that include a three-stage test run to determine the efficient compliance of the mine firm on the requirements set by the government, especially to environmental standards.

The DENR issued a 30-day temporary lifting order (TLO) on June 16 to pave the way for the test run to determine the production efficiency of the base metal plant to process copper and zinc, sufficiency and adequacy of remedial measures and environmental safeguards, and receptivity of the mine facility's emergency response.

Under the PAB resolution dated July 9, but approved by Reyes on July 10, the TLO shall start when Lafayette receives the order.

The PAB resolution proves that the TLO shall be implemented in stages, working up to resuming 30 percent of the mine's capacity in order to simulate normal operations.

"Before, during and after the test run, certain conditions would have to be met. After the company complies with all these conditions, a final lifting order shall be issued to Lafayette for it to resume full operations," Reyes said.

Bastes and environmentalists vowed to intensify its campaign against mining operations on the island. They said that a protest rally will be held today to condemn Lafayette's re-opening. They also plan to file a lawsuit against Lafayette.

"Our campaign to save the people and environment of Rapu-Rapu island continues. We will do everything to kick out Lafayette Philippines from our communities," said Fr. Felino Bugauisan, Coordinator of Sagip Isla, a local alliance in Rapu-Rapu opposed to Lafayette's operations.

He added that Bicolanos "will go out into the streets to condemn the re-opening and demand the permanent closure of Lafayette mining."

Bastes said the people of Sorsogon and Albay condemned Reyes for allowing the "irresponsible mining company Lafayette to resume operation."

"The re-opening of Lafayette endangers the health and safety of our people. Based on our experience and scientific studies, large-scale mining operation in a small island ecosystem like Rapu-Rapu is inappropriate and will just bring disasters and miseries to the people," Bastes said.

He also said Rapu-Rapu residents hold Reyes "and Lafayette responsible for further danger and damages that will occur in the area" due to resumption of mining operations.

Last March 2006, President Arroyo created the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission, headed by Bastes, to investigate the twin spills. In its report, the RFFC recommended the permanent closure of Lafayette and a moratorium on large-scale mining in Rapu-Rapu island.

"The re-opening of Lafayette demonstrates how indifferent the Arroyo administration and the DENR are to the demands of the people and protection of the environment. It shows no qualms in giving in to... transnational mining companies like Lafayette," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the environmental activist group Kalikasan-PNE.

He added that the DENR's move proves "that under the liberalization policy of Mining Act, foreign mining companies can despoil our environment, endanger the people's health, and cheat the government of taxes and still operate in the country."

Clemente reiterated their group's call for the scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, saying that the Rapu-Rapu spills provide glaring proof of the administration's "environmentally destructive, anti-people and pro-foreigner" mining revitalization program.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines expressed dismay over the government's decision allowing Lafayette to resume mining operations.

Bastes said the bishops agreed to stand against mining operations during their semi-annual plenary assembly held in Manila over the weekend.

"The minds of the bishops are one in believing that mining is not the savior of our economy but rather a cause of destruction and havoc to the people and the environment," he said at a press conference at the CBCP yesterday. Optimistic outlook Lafayette managing director David Baker earlier expressed confidence the company can resume full operations and start delivering the first of its contract shipments this September.

"We are definitely looking forward to an immediate resumption of operations in a strong commodity market. We hope to make the first of four contracted deliveries this September," he said.

Baker said that stakeholders' support for the Rapu-Rapu project, including its "anxious" creditors, never wavered despite the controversy that stalled the project.

He said that at the height of RFFC's hearings, Lafayette managed to gather additional financing for the project.

"We raised $20 million from the issuance of new shares for Lafayette and this was a positive signal to investors," Baker said.

Aside from the $20 million that was raised through the successful share placements and a share purchase plan, Lafayette also acquired an additional $11 million through a placement to domestic and overseas investors arranged by ABN Amro Morgan, $3 million on a placement to AuSelect Ltd., while Lion Manager Pty Ltd. also agreed to take a placement of $2 million.

At the same time, additional funding was obtained from the company's 26 percent joint venture partners in Rapu-Rapu, LG Collins and Korean Resources, which contributed $6.7 million in subordinated debt. Lafayette also received approval for a $20 million standby credit facility from its creditor banks.

"Our banks are anxious for us to go into production, we have a fully-drawn facility and they expect us to go into full production and make our deliveries as scheduled this September," Baker said.

He added Lafayette is also bent on improving its relations with Rapu-Rapu residents and those in Albay and Sorsogon.

"We have a strong commitment to develop responsible mining in the Philippines. Our operations would reflect best practices and our mandate now is to translate this new support into tangible, positive benefits for residents," Baker said. — With Edu Punay, Reuters


Bishop, Bicolanos and environmental activists condemn resumption of Lafayette mining operation

10th July 2006

Press Release - Kalikasan-PNE

"You can count on it. Our campaign to save the people and environment of Rapu-rapu Island continues. We will do everything to drive out Lafayette Philippines, Inc (LPI) in our communities. We will intensify our protests and will file legal actions against LPI," vows Fr. Felino Bagauisan, Coordinator of Sagip Isla, a local alliance in Rapu-rapu opposing La Fayette mining. "We, Bicolanos will go out of the street tomorrow to condemn the re-opening and demand the permanent closure of Lafayette mining."

Last Friday DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes flew to Rapu-rapu and gave the green light to the resumption of the poly-metallic mining project of Lafayette in the island starting today (July 10, 2006).

"We strongly object to the DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes' approval for the irresponsible mining company, Lafayette Philippines to resume operations. The re-opening of Lafayette endangers the health and safety of our people. Based on our experience, other scientific studies and expert opinions, Lafayette's large-scale mining project in the small island ecosystem of Rapu-rapu, is inappropriate and detrimental to the environment and the lives of our people in Rapu-rapu, Albay and Sorsogon," slams Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, head of the now defunct Rapu-rapu Fact-finding Commission (RFFC). "We will hold the DENR Secretary and Lafayette responsible for further danger and damages that will occur in the area," Bishop Bastes adds.

Lafayette mining operation was suspended on November 2005 because of the water contamination brought about by the tailings spills last October 11 and 31, 2005. Last March 2006, the government commissioned the RFFC to investigate the mining incidents. In its report, RFFC recommended the permanent closure of Lafayette and issuance of moratorium on large-scale mining in Rapu-rapu.

"The re-opening of Lafayette demonstrates how indifferent the Arroyo administration and the DENR are to the demands of the people and the protection of the environment. It has no qualms in giving in to the interest of transnational mining companies like Lafayette. The DENR's action on Lafayette validates that under the liberalization policy of Mining Act, foreign mining companies can despoil our environment, endanger the people's health, and even cheat the government of taxes and still be assured of mining rights in the country" says Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan-PNE.

In the report of both the RFFC and DENR, Lafayette was found to be negligent in its mining operations and violating environmental laws. Its mining project was also deemed to be grossly disadvantageous to the government.

"The mining spills in Rapu-rapu and the continued operation of a proven irresponsible mining company like Lafayette are glaring proof of how environmentally destructive, anti-people and pro-foreign interest the current 'Mining Revitalization Program' of President Arroyo is. The program should be trashed along with the Mining Act of 1995. Only under a more progressive and patriotic mining framework can the country look forward to a genuinely experience responsible mining and optimize benefits from this economic endeavor," said in the statement of Kalikasan-PNE.

Reference:

Fr. Felino Bugauisan - 09214853771

CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City , Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099


Greenpeace statement on the resumption of Lafayette's operations

10th July 2006

http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=20060710215854258

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis said: "The countdown to another oceans disaster has begun. The start of the controlled 30-day test run granted to Lafayette by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) signals the resumption of Lafayette's operations in Rapu Rapu, and the continuation of the destruction that the mine will wreak on the fragile marine ecosystem around the island, and consequently on the coastal communities that depend upon these waters."

"Pollution from Lafayette's mining operations will seriously damage Rapu Rapu and its surrounding fragile marine ecosystem. Its toxic tailings and the inevitable acid mine drainage associated with this operation will continue to pollute the seas. More siltation from the mine's extractive activities will continue to choke corals and other marine life in the island's immediate vicinity."

"Another spill is not necessary to demonstrate that Lafayette's mining operations will be severely detrimental to Rapu Rapu and its surrounding waters. This operation is a self-perpetuating ecological disaster that will leave serious, long-term negative effects on the oceans at the expense of the area's outlying coastal communities for generations to come.

"By allowing Lafayette's reopening, the government has once again betrayed its duplicitous nature- shamelessly mouthing platitudes and clichés for a 'Green Philippines' while willingly condoning long-term damage to the environment in its myopic pursuit of spurious economic gains."


Notes to Editor

The pristine waters of the Bicol region are acknowledged as the feeding grounds and migratory route of the whale shark, the largest fish in the sea. It is also home to five of the seven known marine turtles in the world, and its rich seagrass beds and mangroves, which make for a high marine biodiversity index, have turned the area into exceptionally rich fishing grounds for the region's fishermen.

The Philippine government allowed Australian firm Lafayette Philippines Inc to start the extraction of gold, silver, copper and zinc within Rapu Rapu in April 2005 despite strong opposition from local and national groups concerned that toxic mine tailings will be released into the sea. The island is a dangerous place for a mine: not only is it situated along the country's typhoon belt, but also along a major fault, making it a high-risk area for mining catastrophes.

During its few months of operation, the mining company showed negligence with regard to its operations. (During the Rapu Rapu Factfinding Commission hearings in April-May 2006, Lafayette officials in fact admitted that they mined "too fast, too soon" even while the mine's structural safeguards meant to minimize environmental damage were not yet completed.) As a result, after heavy rains in October 11 and 31 2005, cyanide and other contaminants from the mine spilled into the sea and around the island, resulting in massive fish kills which Lafayette, to this day, continues to downplay.

In January 2006, Lafayette was fined PhP10.7 million, PhP10.4 million for violating the Clean Water Act, and PhP300,000 for violating the conditions of their Environmental Compliance Certificate. They paid only PhP300,000 initially, and contested the rest of the fine, finally only paying up 6 months later on June 20, when payment for the fine was stipulated as a precondition to the mine's 30-day test run.

The 30-day test run period which was granted to Lafayette by the DENR, and which was given despite the mine's several violations to their ECC, is expected to be a mere prelude to the mine's complete reopening.

http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en
http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/save-our-seas/act-now/stop-lafayette-from-polluting


Changing gov't policies to deter mine investors

By Daxim Lucas, Inquirer - http://business.inq7.net/money/topstories/view_article.php?article_id=8687

7th July 2006

Publised on page B1 of the July 8, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

LARGE, FOREIGN MINING FIRMS WILL BE deterred from investing in the country if the government continues to vacillate on its policies for the mining sector, a leading advocate of the industry warned yesterday.

In an interview, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines president Benjamin Philip Romualdez pointed out that foreign investors were critical for the development of the mining industry since local companies lacked the capital to exploit the full potential of the country's metal and mineral reserves.

"There will always be noise [from opponents of mining] in any country," he said, referring to civil society, environmental and Church-oriented groups opposed to the development of the local mining sector. "That doesn't put [the potential investors] off. What will deter them is if government's policies continue to shift and change."

The administration of President Macapagal-Arroyo had initially welcomed the resurgence of the mining sector with open arms last year, but its enthusiasm has waned in recent months in the face of popular opposition to the industry.

The government is hoping to be able to tap the country's estimated $840 billion in metal and mineral reserves to help lift the country out of poverty.

Romualdez, however, welcomed the rabid opposition to mining from some sectoral groups, saying it was part of the country's "vibrant democracy."

"When an influential group like the Catholic Church objects, it makes political sense for the policymakers to listen," he said at the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Bishops-Businessmen's Conference on Human Development yesterday at the Asian Institute of Management. "And they should listen to these ideas."

During the forum, representatives of various groups took turns assailing the government's mining policies, citing the dangers to the environment and to the social order.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo M. Bastes was particularly vocal, since his diocese encompasses the site of the controversial Rapu-Rapu mining operation.

"I'm disappointed and I'm fearful for what will happen," he said. "[Mining] is a danger to the environment, and there is great danger [for] the future."

Despite this, the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) appeared to have softened its stance against the controversial industry.

In an interview yesterday, CBCP president and Jaro Archbishop Angel M. Lagdameo said he was now open to dialogue with concerned parties about the possibility of allowing "sustainable mining" in the country.

"We can talk about responsible mining," he said. "We are open to suggestions."

Romualdez lamented that the forum failed to highlight the benefits of mining to the local economy and to the local communities.

He predicted that the mining industry would march on, regardless of the opposition being raised against it.


Gov't orders evaluation of mining sites after waste spill

Associated Press, http://business.inq7.net/money/topstories/view_article.php?article_id=9448

12th July 2006

THE PHILIPPINES on Wednesday ordered an evaluation of mining sites in the country after a cyanide-laced waste spill at an Australian-operated mine last year led to suspension of the company's operations.

The evaluation should zero in on the facilities' tailing ponds and waste dumps as the rainy season sets in, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes told a news conference.

Lafayette Philippines Inc., wholly owned by Australia's Lafayette Mining Ltd., has temporarily suspended operations on Rapu Rapu island in the central Philippines after the incident last year.

Reyes said Lafayette on Monday began a 30-day test run of its mining facility, which could pave the way for resuming its mining operations.

A fact-finding body created by the President to investigate the spill has recommended that the mine be closed, but the government appeared inclined to let it reopen on condition it takes measures to prevent a repeat of the accident.

Regional directors of the environmental department who were directed to make the evaluation were asked to submit reports on the mines within the next 10 days. Mining companies found to have defective facilities will be suspended, Reyes said.

Lafayette's Rapu Rapu Polymetallic Project started commercial production in July last year, producing an average of about 2,500 ounces of gold a month.


ZAMBOANGA PENINSULA DECLARATION AGAINST THE MINING OPERATIONS OF TVIRD

29th June 2006

Press Release Tito Natividad Fiel, DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues

Jose Dalman, Zamboanga Del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines – The delegates from different towns and barangays [villages] in the region attended a three-day conference during 27-29 June 2006 on the impact of the mining operations of TVI Resource Development (TVIRD) Philippines Inc, and finished by signing a manifesto against the company.

The delegates demanded that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration cancel the company’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), because of its ill-effects on the Subanon community.

The three-page declaration expressed support for the initiatives of the different communities opposing TVI’s mining operations, as well as other aggressive mining operations in the region.

“We the delegates from different TVI mining affected communities of a three-day conference have united our stands and principles for the protection of our respective communities against large-scale and aggressive mining”, declaration says.

According to the conference declaration, TVI’s mining operations have resulted in human rights violations, environmental destruction, disunity of local communities, denial of people’s means of livelihood, dislocation of communities, and the use of abusive armed Special (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit or CAFGU) Armed Auxiliaries (SCAAs).

The conference was united in advocating a genuine development founded on the present needs of the people through prioritising life, the rights of Indigenous People to their ancestral domain and the rights of the ordinary people to access their local resources.

The conference was convened by TVI affected communities from Canatuan, Siocon, Tamarok Jose Dalman of Zamboanga del Norte and Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, with the cooperation of DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)-Western Mindanao and the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) of Jose Dalman Zamboanga del Norte.

A campaign staff member of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) National Office spoke on the relation of TVI operations to the Republic Act 7942 (the Mining Act of 1995) and why the Act needs to be scrapped.

Two municipal councillors and the vice mayor of Jose Dalman attended the conference and gave short messages of support. Zamboanga Del Norte Board Member Edgar Baguio spoke in the conference on his position against mining.

An interim body was established in order to carry through the plan of the conference. This new body is called the Initiative for TVI Mining Affected Communities for Good Environment towards Development (IMAGED).

This significant meeting closed with a religious parade along the highway, led by the parishioners and parish priest of Jose Dalman, Rev. Fr. Nemisio Sayon, and participated in by thousands of people from six chapels despite heavy rain.

Rev. Fr. Sayon said the conference, which centred on the grassroots people who are affected by TVI’s operations, was the first of its kind held in Jose Dalman. He expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the conference, affirming, “The recent conference was a real people’s.

TVIRD is the most active and aggressive mining firm in the peninsula at present, and are currently mining in Mt. Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, but is aggressively expanding its claim towards the adjacent towns and provinces of the region.


VICTIMS OF HARASSMENT ACCUSE TVIRD OF LIES

29th June 2006

Press Release Tito Natividad Fiel, DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues

Canatuan, Siocon Zamboanga Del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines – TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD), a Canadian mining firm, has claimed that it was the Subanon people who dismantled what they call an “un-occupied shanty” here, but the family of the destroyed house and those injured in the incident have accused it of lying.

The victims clearly lay the blame the demolition on members of TVIRD’s security force, the Special (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit or CAFGU) Armed Auxiliaries (SCAAs). They say the company has mobilised some young Subanon to claim they were responsible, via 500 Peso bribes handed out by Erdulfo Comisas, a TVI-declared “Timuay”, or chieftain.

In a statement, TVIRD claims that the Subanon dismantled the house of couple, who had refused to leave the TVI Canatuan Project area (which is also the Subanon Ancestral Domain), despite lengthy negotiations, and repeated requests for the couple to vacate the area (for their own safety).

However, the victims blame the company’s greed for the resulting demolition. Mrs. Manolita Galves, one of the victims, explained that the company does not negotiate fairly, but used force and intimidation.

She says that past experience shows that company negotiators would visit the targeted individual, asking them to go to the company’s office. When the individual was at the company’s office, they would make an initial payment and then force you to sign a paper that says you were entering negotiations voluntarily with the company and that your properties have been completely paid for.

But she said, she and her family are not interested in negotiations with the company, because she will only leave her home if the legal and legitimate holder of Ancestral Domain, Timuay Jose “Boy” Anoy, orders her to leave it. “TVI and SSAI have no right to order us to leave Canatuan. Only Anoy can order us to that.”

She notes that it is only TVI who call Mr. Erdulfo Comisas a Timuay. Mr. Comisas and his daughter are currently working with the company, but they have been residing in Barangay Makiang, Siocon, two hours drive from the Ancestral Domain where TVIRD is now operating.

Since its entry in Mt. Canatuan, the company has been accused repeatedly of human rights violations and abuses of the local Indigenous People and other settlers, through its practice of forced negotiations.


Time for the mining industry to clean up its act

Science Matters by David Suzuki

16th June 2006

From metals to minerals, we all need natural resources brought up from the earth through mining. But mining can have a huge environmental impact, and some companies are giving the industry a bad name around the world - with Canadian firms being some of the biggest offenders.

Our federal government offers a variety of incentives, tax breaks and other types of assistance to Canadian mining companies working in other countries. These mining companies are often assumed to be abiding by international human rights and environmental standards that have been adopted by Canada.

But the reality is something quite different. Since the federal government has no mechanism to monitor or enforce these standards, they're usually left up to the host country to enforce. However, most of these host countries are developing nations, which often lack the resources or the political desire to enforce standards against large corporations that provide their governments with much-needed revenue.

Last fall, the federal Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade presented a report based on a number of hearings into the conduct of some Canadian mining companies overseas. It found that indeed, "mining activities in some developing countries have had adverse effects on local communities, especially where regulations governing the mining sector and its impact on the economic and social well-being of employees and local residents, as well as on the environment, are weak or non-existent, or where they are not enforced."

The Committee made a series of recommendations to strengthen Canada's commitment to environmental and human rights standards, including: ensuring that project financing and other services offered by the Canadian government abroad are contingent on companies meeting "clearly defined corporate social responsibility and human rights standards," developing mechanisms for monitoring and investigating the actions of Canadian companies overseas, and ensuring clear legal accountability for their operations.

The Committee also singled out the Canadian mining company TVI Pacific Inc. in the Philippines as an example and noted that the Committee was "deeply concerned" about the possible impact the company was having on human rights in the local area. It recommended that the federal government conduct an investigation into the impact of the mining operation.

But no investigation was ever done. In fact, the federal government has effectively ignored all the Standing Committee's recommendations and instead continues to promote a voluntary standards approach. Such voluntary initiatives are problematic because, in order to get consensus from all participants, they usually reflect the lowest common denominator. They also lack monitoring and enforcement measures. They have no teeth, so why would companies pay attention to them at the risk of reducing profits?

Although the federal government has not followed up on the Committee's recommendations, it has agreed to hold a series of multi-stakeholder roundtables about Canadian mining operations overseas. Open dialogue is always a good thing, but these sorts of roundtables quickly become meaningless public relations exercises unless they are given clear direction that the status quo is not acceptable. And it isn't. We all need the goods mining provides, but it shouldn't be at the expense of basic human rights or the environment local people depend on for their health and well being.

This may seem very rational, fair and Canadian - but Canada has not exactly been living up to its reputation lately. Our environmental performance within our own country has been weak - recently ranked a dismal 28th out of 30 industrialized countries. Internationally, we've thumbed our nose at the Kyoto Protocol - which is now international law and most industrialized nations are working to meet. And we've ignored a government-appointed committee's recommendations to improve corporate responsibility.

Once considered an international environmental and human rights leader, Canada now has some catching up to do. And we can start by ensuring that Canadian companies operating overseas are held accountable for their actions.


All Biak-na-Bato quarrying stopped

By Christine A. Gaylican, Inquirer

13th July 2006 Published on Page A14 of the July 13, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources has suspended all quarrying and other mining-related operations in the Biak-na-Bato National Park in San Miguel, Bulacan.

Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes yesterday announced in a press conference that the agency is suspending the operations of Rosemoor Mining and Development Corp., which holds a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) in the premises of the Biak-na-Bato Mineral Reservation.

"The DENR has decided to suspend the mining/quarrying operations of Rosemoor until such time that the environment, social, safety and health measures are put in place, operating agreements are registered and approved and all proper taxes, fees and royalties are fully paid," said Reyes.

He said that the agency is also canceling all quarrying permits issued by the provincial and municipal governments covering areas in the national park, the mineral reservation, forest reservation and watershed area.

He said Rosemoor has violated the several conditions of its MPSA specifically on partially paying excise taxes.

The company, he said, still has to pay P167,308 to the government from Nov. 17, 2005 to Jan. 23, 2006.

"Moreover, the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP)'s requirements have not been fully complied with," he added.

Rosemoor had said it did not violate any conditions in its mining permits and has been paying taxes regularly.

Reyes said the DENR is currently investigating the alleged double-marking of marble blocks.

The said mineral reservation has a unique and internationally known marble deposit known as tea rose.

Rosemoor's MPSA, issued by the DENR in December 2002, covers 330.3 hectares within the eastern portion of the national park.


Fears raised over mining dam in danger of collapse

By Gerald Gene R. Querubin, Inquirer

14th July 2006 Published on Page A19 of the July 14, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

BOAC, MARINDUQUE-A non-government organization here raised concerns over the possible collapse of a mining dam that had been abandoned following massive spills in 1996.

Concerns over the dam came as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources identified 35 barangays in this province where landslides can possibly occur.

The MGB, in an earlier report, identified Marinduque as the seventh most landslide-prone province in the country.

The MGB identified the landslide-prone areas in a study and ocular inspection report.

Of the villages tagged as landslide-prone, eight are in the town of Boac, six in Gasan, three in Buenavista, seven in Sta. Cruz and 11 in Torrijos.

Aside from landslides, provincial board member Allan Nepomuceno, committee on public order and safety chair, and the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns, raised concerns on the possible collapse of a Marcopper dam.

According to them, engineers from the Marcopper Mining Corp. (MMC) have admitted that they had monitored leaks at the structures of the Makulapnit Dam, which is in imminent danger of collapse because of its rapid deterioration.

Should it break, 34 million cubic meters of water and silt will cascade down the Boac River.

"With the continuous heavy rains that we are experiencing now, the aging dam may not be able to hold additional volume of water and burst. This is the same scenario in 1995 before the tragic mine tailings spillage occurred a year after in 1996," Nepomuceno said.

In March 1996, the whole town of Boac was submerged in flood waters and tailings brought about by a collapsed tunnel of MMC's Tapian Pit.

The MGB said people living in the villages that were tagged landslide-prone must be forewarned.

The bureau said an information campaign was needed to prompt people in the villages to prepare for disasters and prevent a tragedy similar to that which struck Guinsaugon town in Southern Leyte.

Almost 1,000 people, many of them children, were buried alive in Guinsaugon.

In December 2005, two persons died when their hut was hit and covered by mud and rocks in Duyay, Boac.

In a study made by engineer Cirilo Monilla, a professor of the Marinduque State College, only four of the six municipalities of Marinduque have the capacity to respond immediately to disasters, such as landslides and flash floods.

The municipalities of Boac, Gasan, Sta. Cruz and Torrijos passed the criteria of preparedness.

The towns of Mogpog and Buenavista must improve their respective disaster preparedness programs, the study said.

Makulapnit Dam is among the dams of MMC identified to be in "imminent danger of collapsing" by the United States Geological Services, which made a two-year survey and assessment of the March 1996 Marcopper tailings spill.

Makulapnit Dam was built to supply water for MMC's operations and for household use of residences near it.

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