MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Updates on mining in the Philippines

Published by MAC on 2005-10-29


The following updates on mining in the Philippines consist of a press statement on the impacts on indigenous peoples of the government's attempts to revive mining, news of a cyanide leak at the Rapu Rapu mine, the fatalities of miners in an accident at Mt Diwalwal and a resolution against mining adopted by the Provincial Board at Marinduque (including the text of the resolution itself).

Influx of mining, an ever present threat to indigenous peoples and environment

PRESS STATEMENT

October 29, 2005

Reference: Himpad Mangulmnalas (a Higaonon)
Acting Spokesperson SIPA-Gloria (Solidarity of Indigenous Peoples & Advocates for GMA’s Ouster)
Brgy. Central Diliman
Quezon City
kamp_phils@yahoo.com

When the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 in December 2004, environmentalists, indigenous peoples and concerned groups raised hell to condemn it. Then, the fiscal crisis was used by the pro-mining clout in the highest ranks in government, led by pro-mining President Gloria Arroyo herself to justify the reversal of an earlier decision from the Supreme Court declaring some sections of RA7942 (Mining Act of 1995) as unconstitutional.

Now, the reason for the outcry becomes more justified and right, as the entry, re-operation, or expansion of mining firms become an ever glaring threat to the people, especially to the indigenous peoples and the environment.

As per experience, the indigenous peoples consider mining as tantamount to forcible and oftentimes bloody displacements, killings and the eventual loss of ancestral lands and its resources.

A specific case is the heightened operation of TVI Pacific Inc., a Canadian mining firm which plans to put US$12M additional investments to its zinc and copper operations in Mt. Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga.

Ironically, this area is part of the ancestral lands of the Subanen indigenous peoples who have been in fact awarded by the President herself a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), a document certifying the prior right of the Subanens over the lands which the TVI lays its mining claims. Due to the inutility of such a certificate to protect the ancestral land rights of the indigenous peoples and on top the Arroyo government’s servility to transnational corporations, the Subanens are forcibly displaced from their own ancestral lands while the mining operations of a foreign mining firm is justified as constitutional with the guaranteed protection from the military.

With the government-endorsed entry of mining in their sacred mountain, the Subanen people realized that the CADT, which they thought as the State’s symbol of recognition to their rights to land, proved to be a useless sheet of fancy paper awarded merely to serve as photo opportunity sessions of the president.

Others justify that the huge dollar investment from mining is worth all the woes and bane that mining poses to the anyway, “minority” population. But is it?

Mining, especially large scale foreign mining which uses the open-pit mining method is an extractive and destructive industry. This is a fact and there could never be such a thing as sustainable mining. Mining involves the logging of vast hectares of mountainous areas after which mountains are tunneled or carved out to as deep as wherever the minerals lay. As a result, mountain bases weaken causing many communities and mountains to erode or cave in. Mine wastes end up nowhere else but in the rivers and other water systems, causing severe pollution of water systems. This in turn leads to the spread of diseases among the residents, an overarching issue that touches on the state’s health dimension accountability which the Philippine government could not afford.

Also contrary to the argument of government officials that mining is the key solution to the fiscal crisis, let us be reminded of our experience with the Marcopper Mining and Placer Dome companies which left the Boac river in Marinduque biologically dead after its controversial mine spill and refusal to clean up its wastes . This caused not only the loss of livelihood for the population of Marindique but greater economic loss for the Philippine government as well.

The point is that profits from mining is not even enough to clean up the wastes that foreign mining firms leave behind after they plunder our country’s gold and minerals. On the same note, given that the Mining Act allows 100% foreign capital investment, these foreign firms have 100% repatriation rights to all their profits.

Look at the Cordillera region for instance where 100 years of foreign mining operation has only brought about forcible displacement, landlessness, and marginalization of the majority of the Igorot indigenous peoples, as well as grave environmental destruction which causes spates of landslides and the literal collapse of community infrastructures. With the influx of foreign mining applications, enticed by the Arroyo government’s liberalized and foreign –dependent economic policies, the remaining indigenous peoples in the country are finding themselves squatters in the lands that their forefathers have tilled and nurtured. Future generations would be born to a devastated and lifeless environment, the riches of which have been shipped to some foreign country’s own gold reservoir.


Sorsogon execs seek help on cyanide leak

By Bobby Labalan, Joanna Teressa P. Los Baños,

October 28, 2005

SORSOGON CITY - THE PROVINCIAL Agriculture Office here has sought the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in investigating the reported leakage of cyanide from the mining site of Lafayette Mining Corp. in Barangay Pagcolbon in the island town of Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

Serafin Lacdang, head of the Provincial Fishery Division, said he was informed by residents through text messages quoting the mining company as saying they were told not to use water in the area for fear of contamination.

The leakage occurred on Oct. 11 and it was apparently kept under wraps until Oct. 24, he added.

Officials expressed fears cyanide would contaminate bodies of water around the mining area and eventually reach the Pacific Ocean, which narrowly separates Rapu-Rapu island from this city.

Lacdang said they sought the help of the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR that sent an investigating team to the area earlier.

provincial government is awaiting word from DENR and BFAR on the result of the investigation, Lacdang added.

Rey Juan, Mines and Geosciences Bureau Bicol regional technical director, said in a report faxed to the Inquirer that there was indeed a tailings spill on Oct. 11 after the tailings pump of the Rapu-Rapu mining project malfunctioned.

Mine tailings containing cyanide overflowed from the emergency pond of the mill.

Juan said the spill was reported to his office and he sent men to check on it. He said his office suspended the operations of a machinery in the mill until the tailings pump was repaired.

He said the spill was confined to the mining site and tests of samples, taken from the mouth of the mill’s drainage, were conducted Oct. 22. Test results showed the cyanide level was within tolerable limits, said Juan.

Juan said his office continues to monitor repairs being done on the tailings pump and the mill’s drainage system.


Rescue operation in collapsed tunnel continues

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Philippine Sun Star

CIVILIAN and military rescuers Friday rushed to search for any survivors inside a collapsed mine tunnel in Mt. Diwalwal, a known gold-rush area in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley in the southern Philippines.

At least six bodies have been recovered and as many as 50 others are believed trapped inside the tunnel. Ten miners were also rescued, presidential aide Jesus Dureza said.

"We recovered six bodies and rescued 10 injured miners and efforts are ongoing to find the other victims," Dureza said.

The tunnel is operated by JB Mining Corporation, he said.

Civil defense officials said rescuers were trying to locate dead bodies inside the tunnel that collapsed late Wednesday following a huge explosion in Mt. Diwalwal.

"Rescuers are having a difficult time in locating the bodies or any survivors. The stench is terrible, aside from the dangerous holes and shafts inside the tunnel," regional civil defense official Atilano Adi said Friday.

Adi said soldiers and policemen were also helping in the Mt. Diwalwal operation.

He said official reports put the number of casualties at 6, and at least 11 others are trapped in the tunnel.

But Diwalwal village chieftain Franco Tito said as many as 50 miners were believed trapped inside the tunnel.

"We have reports saying that as many as 50 people still trapped down there and they could all be dead by now," he said.

He said heavy rains were making it difficult for rescuers and volunteers to dig for bodies or find survivors. "There was an explosion inside the cave and the tunnel gave in, trapping everybody," Tito said.

Dureza, who is supervising the rescue operations, said they would continue to search for survivors until all miners have been accounted for.

"This rescue operation will not stop until everybody has been recovered and accounted for," he said.

Environment officials said that an estimated $1.8 billion worth of gold reserves remain untapped in the 5,000-hectare Mt. Diwalwal.

Adi said they are also monitoring another mountain gold-rush area in the town of Tungawan, where hundreds of villagers have dug tunnels, and a huge coal mine operation in Malangas town in Zamboanga del Sur province.

In Tungawan town, Adi said, villagers have virtually turned the mountain into a pit -- with tunnels snaking into each other -- searching for gold nuggets.

"They are like rats, literally searching for gold nuggets for food. And we are concerned about the danger these unsafe and illegal tunnels pose to everyone," Adi said.

He said safety is also their in the coal mining operation in the province.

Last year, six miners were killed when a coal tunnel collapsed in Diplahan town in Zamboanga del Sur.

But the worst tragedy was in 1995, when a huge methane gas explosion ripped through a coal mine tunnel in Malangas town, killing more than 100 people.

The blast set off a fireball, which swept through nine kilometers of mines, and setting off other explosives which had been stockpiled inside the tunnel.

Miners earn a little over 100 to 200 pesos a day - under half the estimated daily cost of living. Mining unions often claim that competition from casual contract workers has significantly decreased health and safety.


Sangguniang Panlalawigan declares 50-Year Mining Moratorium in Marinduque, condemns Supreme Court’s reversal of decision on the unconstitutionality of the Mining Act

The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) announces the adoption of a Resolution Declaring a 50-Year Mining Moratorium in the Province of Marinduque. The historic Resolution was adopted at 1:30 P.M. October 28, 2005 by the 10th Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Marinduque.

The Resolution also condemns the Supreme Court’s reversal of its previous decision on the unconstitutionality of some provisions of the Mining Act of 1995.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan also includes in the Resolution the proposal of MACEC "that in order to strengthen such legislation, it is also resolved that certain portions of the Central Marinduque Area be declared as provincial special agricultural zone, special biodiversity protected area, special eco-tourism zone and other special areas as may be determined in an appropriate provincial land use policy”, subject to subsequent legislation.”

It also culled MACEC’s proposal "that in order to successfully implement the spirit and intent of a 50-year mining-free policy, it is also resolved that the abandoned mining area be declared as a provincial special economic zone where medium-scale environment-friendly enterprises may be established to spur the economic and industrial activities in the province," subject to subsequent legislations.

MACEC Executive Secretary Myke R. Magalang addressed the august Body where he articulated the Resolution of the organization calling for a mining moratorium. He formally submits the 15,500 signatures of Marinduqueño opposing the resumption of mining operation in the Province. His 15-minute speech before the Body was made a reference during the nominal voting of the eight (8) Board Members who attended the 54th Regular Session.

MACEC also submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalwigan a Pastoral Letter of Bishop Reynaldo G. Evangelista, D.D. and Resolutions from the Sangguniang Bayans of Boac, Mogpog, Gasan, Buenavista, and Torrijos, which vehemently oppose the re-entry of mining companies in the province.

Msgr. Senen Malapad, Executive Chairman of MACEC, hails the decision of the Provincial Board, saying that “this is a partial victory of the Marinduqueños and all those organizations who have consistently supported our cause. But this is only a partial victory because the national policy on the revitalization of mining industry of the Arroyo Administration still exists. This decision of the Sangguniang Panlalwigan gives impetus to all Marinduqueños to strengthen our struggle in defending our patrimony .”

Reference:

Myke R. Magalang
Executive Secretary
Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns

EXCERPT FROM THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES AND PROVINCIAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE HELD ON OCTOBER 26, 2005, 10:30 A.M. AT THE SACRED HEART DIOCESAN PASTORAL CENTER, BOAC, MARINDUQUE

PRESENT:

Msgr. Senen Malapad Provincial Executive Chairman

Engr. Roberto M. Madla Provincial Executive Vice-Chairman

Mr. Rolando Larracas Treasurer

Mr. Edmundo Ola Trustee & Chairperson, Committee on Education

Mr. Celso Quinto Trustee & Chairperson, Committee on Mobilization

Rev. Fr. Allan Malapad Trustee & Chairperson, Committee on Para-legal

Mr. Arturo Leynes Trustee & Chairperson, MACEC – Mogpog Chapter

Rev. Fr. Eulogio Mangui Trustee & Chairperson, MACEC – Sta. Cruz Chapter

Mr. Eduardo H. Menorca Trustee & Chairperson, MACEC – Boac Chapter

Mr. Miguel R. Magalang Executive Secretary

ABSENT:

Mr. Sonny L. Paglinawan Trustee & Chairperson, Committee on Finance

Mr. Rafael Zoleta Trustee & Chairperson, Committee on Membership

Mr. Glenn del Mundo Trustee & Chairperson, MACEC – Torrijos Chapter

Mr. Ramon Mansalapus Trustee & Chairperson, MACEC – Gasan Chapter

RESOLUTION NO. 2005-09

RESOLUTION STRONGLY REITERATING THE EARNEST REQUEST OF THE MARINDUQUE COUNCIL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS FOR THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF MARINDUQUE TO DECLARE A 25-YEAR MINING MORATORIUM IN THE ENTIRE PROVINCE AND FOR OTHER RELATED PURPOSES

WHEREAS, the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) has consistently argued that shortsightedness in policy directions and merely thinking of profits in promoting large-scale mining will not gain something for the province especially when an irreparable damage to the environment will cost human lives, health, and livelihood capacity of women, farmers and fisherfolks and further endangering the food security of Marinduqueños;

WHEREAS, the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) recognizes the massive destruction of the province’s once pristine biodiversity and ecosystems, river systems, seas, forests and agricultural fields, aside from immense impacts to the health livelihood and economy of marginalized Marinduqueños wrought by the almost 30 years of mining operation in the province and the ironic stagnation of the entire province’s economic status which places it as one of the poorest provinces in the country (4th Class Province);

WHEREAS, these empirical realities were affirmed by the Provincial Govern-ment as narrated in clear details in the class suit filed against Placer Dome, Inc. docketed as Case No. A511078 in the District Court Clark County, Nevada, U.S.A. However, the present maneuvering of the mining corporation to forcibly make a re-entry in the province by taking advantage of the policy of the present national administration for the revival of the mining industry is totally irreconcilable to the integrity of what remains of Marinduque’s environment and genuine welfare and interest of the people;

WHEREAS, the Church and Local Legislators Roundtable Discussion on Mining initiated by MACEC on March 15, 2005 consolidated the stance of various entities opposing the reopening of mining operation in the province, viz, Resolution No. 2004-09 dated August 23, 2004 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Boac; Resolution No. 39-2005 dated March 21, 2005 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Buenavista; Resolution No. 15-2005 dated January 28, 2005 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Mogpog; Resolution No. 2005-07 dated January 17, 2005 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Gasan; Minutes of the 37th Regular Session of the Sangguniang Bayan of Torrijos dated March 21, 2005; Resolution No. 03-05 of the Board of the Councilors’ League of the Philippines – Marinduque Chapter led by Hon. Nancy Iturralde; and a Pastoral Letter of the Most Rev. Reynaldo G. Evangelista, D.D., Third Bishop of Boac;

WHEREAS, during the launching of the “Face-up, Clean-up and Pay-up” campaign organized by Oxfam Australia and Marinduque Council on Environmental Concerns on April 16, 2005, Congressman Edmundo O. Reyes, Jr., in response to the invitation, issued an open letter announcing his position against the reopening of the mines in Marinduque;

WHEREAS, MACEC emphasizes that during the roundtable meeting between its Officers, Atty. Walter Scott, Jr., and Board Members Leticia Monte and Eleuterio Raza, Jr. on October 14, 2005 on the class suit filed by the Provincial Government, the said Board Members vowed to support MACEC’s call for a 25-year mining moratorium, which has long been initiated by former Board Member Adeline Angeles and consistently been supported by Board Member Allan Nepo-muceno and others;

WHEREAS, Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns spearheaded a people’s signature campaign expressing opposition to any possible resumption of mining operation in any part of the island-province, an initiative which was supported by various sectors of society in the province: 1,980 signatures from the town of Sta. Cruz; 5,523 from the municipality of Boac; 3,708 from the municipality of Torrijos; 1,807 from the town of Gasan; and 2,173 signatures from the municipality of Mogpog;

WHEREAS, the present circumstances after the filing of the class suit by the Provincial Government on behalf of all Marinduqueños provide golden opportu-nities for every Marinduqueño to consolidate and unite in protecting what is left of the province’s ecosystems for the benefit of the future generation by unanimously opposing the reopening of any large-scale mining operation in the province and for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to enact appropriate legislation thereof;

NOW, THEREFORE,

on a motion unanimously seconded and approved,

it was,

RESOLVED as it is hereby resolved to reiterate the earnest request of the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Marinduque to enact an appropriate legislation declaring a 25-year mining moratorium in the entire Province of Marinduque;

RESOLVED FURTHER, that in order to strengthen such legislation, it is also proposed and suggested that certain portions of the Central Marinduque Area be declared as provincial special agricultural zone, special biodiversity protected area, special eco-tourism zone and other special areas as may be determined in an appropriate provincial land use policy;

RESOLVED FURTHERMORE, that in order to successfully implement the spirit and intent of a 25-year mining-free policy, it is also recommended that the abandoned mining area be declared as a provincial special economic zone where medium-scale environment-friendly enterprises may be established to spur the economic and industrial activities in the province;

RESOLVED STILL FURTHERMORE, that in order for “Marinduque’s mining experience” to be fully documented and studied, it is recommended for the consideration of the august Body that the former mine site infrastructure be transformed into an academic center to house experts from universities and governments in Asia (Asia-Pacific) who would come to Marinduque for hands on and theoretical training on tropical mine rehabilitation in complex tropical ecosystems (rivers, marine, etc.) as this would generate funds while at the same time assuring expertise to carry out the work, in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations Mission Report;

RESOLVED FINALLY, that duly approved copy of this Resolution be furnished the august Body and corresponding copies of the following documents be submitted, as they are hereby respectfully submitted: signature sheets containing 15,191 signatures opposing the reopening of mines in Marinduque; Resolution No. 2004-09 dated August 23, 2004 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Boac; Resolution No. 39-2005 dated March 21, 2005 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Buenavista; Resolution No. 15-2005 dated January 28, 2005 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Mogpog; Resolution No. 2005-07 dated January 17, 2005 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Gasan; Minutes of the 37th Regular Session of the Sangguniang Bayan of Torrijos dated March 21, 2005; Resolution No. 03-05 of the Board of the Councilors’ League of the Philippines – Marinduque Chapter; and a Pastoral Letter of the Most Rev. Reynaldo G. Evangelista, D.D., Third Bishop of Boac, for the information, reference and most valuable consideration hereof.

APPROVED, October 26, 2005.

CERTIFIED AS TO CORRECTNESS:

MIGUEL R. MAGALANG Executive Secretary

ATTESTED AND CERTIFIED TO BE TRULY ADOPTED:

MSGR. SENEN M. MALAPAD Provincial Executive Chairman

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