MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines - The People of Marinduque resist Barrick's unfair settlement

Published by MAC on 2013-12-29
Source: Statements, Inquirer, ABS-CBN, CBCP News (2013-12-28)

The key story this week focuses around the on-going pressure being applied on the Provincial Government of Marinduque to settle in their case against Barrick Gold for the historic pollution caused as a result of the hugely-polluting Marcopper mine. The ‘take it or leave it' US$20-million settlement looks particularly pathetic, considering the conditions (including full indemnity for Barrick and that none of the payment will be allowed to go to compensating the victims or the restoration of the polluted environment!).

Where this leaves other claimants is also a moot point, as some of the victims are directly suing for compensation. As such a rally was organised to protest against the proposed settlement. The Australian radio programme Earth Matters has interviewed some of those close to the case; listen here.

Philex Mining's Padcal mine - which also suffered a recent serious tailings failure (see: Philippines - Human Rights Day remembers environmental martyrs) - has lost a worker who died in an accidental discharge of mud three days before Christmas.

In Catanduanes, the Church has joined the Provincial Government in calling for cancellation of the Coal Operating Contract (COC) of Altura Mining Philippines, Inc. (AMPI).

The Agham party-list group has filed a petition for a writ of kalikasan [environment] against a  firm reportedly engaged in the mining of metallic ore in Zambales. Agham has urged the Supreme Court to halt the firm's operations for allegedly leveling a land formation in Santa Cruz.

Finally, Christian Aid has released a short film on the struggle of Maporac Aetas in Zambales against mining. It can be viewed here.

"Take it or Leave It" Settlement ending the Marcopper Case, 5,000 Marinduquenos expected to rally

MACEC Statement

18 December 2013

Today, the Provincial Board in Marinduque decide whether or not to accept a "Take it or Leave it" settlement ending their case against Placer Dome, and 5,000 Marinduqueños are expected to rally against it.

Members of affected communities, MACEC (Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns), representatives of clergy, LGUs, plaintiffs in various cases against Marcopper and Placer Dome, and civil society organizations. Placer Dome has been bought out by Barrick Gold, one of the five largest gold mining companies in the world. Marcopper Mining Corporation is the shell corporation that was operated by Placer Dome until DENR ordered it to stop operations in the late 1990s.

Those in opposition to the settlement being forced upon the province will participate in an action (wearing red) outside the Provincial Board meeting - there will be a rosary and featured speakers (see above).

Gathering at the provincial hospital at 8am on Wednesday, December 18th. Rosary and rally at the Boac capitol, beginning at 8am while the Provincial board meeting will start from 8-10am.

Marinduque deserves more! Instead of making reparations, the offer does nothing to address the environmental, economic, and human harms suffered because of reckless mining practices. Instead, the settlement releases Placer Dome (parent company of Marcopper Mining Corporation) from legal liability, requires the government to agree that Placer Dome never operated on the island, and that they will accept $13 million USD but cannot use the money to compensate those affected, remediate the environment, or rehabilitate any of the deteriorating mining structures. In their offer of $20 million USD, $7 million will go to attorney's fees. That leaves $13 million USD for the Provincial Government, and $0 for environmental concerns or compensation. Where will the $13 million USD go? How is this justice?

For more on the case, see thecomplaint and link giving a brief overview - http://www.miningwatch.ca/blog/philippines-marinduque-pushed-wall-barrick-gold.

Beth Manggol
Executive Director
MARINDUQUE COUNCIL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS (MaCEC)
2F, Sacred Heart Diocesan Pastoral Center
Diocese of Boac, Cathedral Compound
Boac, 4900 Marinduque, Philippines
Telephone: (06342) 3322713


The people's verdict on the continuing Marcopper case: we will settle for no less than justice!

Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) press release

18 December 2013

The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) expresses deep solidarity with the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns and the people of Marinduque in their steadfast stand to fight for justice in the landmark case of the Marcopper mining disaster. Today, 10,000 Marinduqueños are expected to gather at the Boac capitol to stop the impending case settlement by the provincial board with the company responsible for the environmental crime. The settlement will leave Placer Dome, the Canadian large-scale mining company which owned and operated Marcopper Mines, but has later been bought out by another Canadian mining firm Barrick Gold in 2006, legally scot-free.

The Marcopper disaster, a series of dam failures which deluged various bodies of water in the island province with over 1.6 million cubic meters of toxic mine tailings, killed all agricultural lands and fisheries in its wake and has transformed the island's richly endowed environment a virtual wasteland. The graver legacy of the Marcopper mines, however, was its continual dumping of more than 200 million metric tons of mine tailings in Calancan Bay between 1975 and 1991.

We are one with the people in its rejection of the proposed ‘take it or leave it' $20-million settlement. The decade-long case filed against Placer Dome-Barrick Gold in Nevada deserves to be junked as it only seeks to collect crumbs in exchange for the exoneration of this environmental criminal. Marcopper-Placer Dome-Barrick Gold and all local officials who allowed such travesty in the island of Marinduque must be held to fully account for their crimes against the people and the environment. The victims and their families deserve just compensation. Boac River, Mogpog River and Calancan Bay must be cleaned up of its toxic pollution.

Marcopper-Placer Dome-Barrick Gold should pay back the people of Marinduque for the decades of copper and gold mining and the lost opportunity to develop of the island province.

Not a single cent of the settlement payment will be allowed to go to the restoration of the polluted environment: $7 million will go to litigation expenses and the rest would go to the provincial board. Corrupt officials in Marinduque see this as an opportunity to enrich themselves even as it means the abandonment of the people's demands for environmental justice.

Together with the Mining Act of 1995 and Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III's Executive Order 79, the Marcopper case should be relegated to the dustbins of history. Any settlement with these mining companies will only fuel the impunity suffered by the people from the large-scale mining in this country.

We reiterate our calls to uphold the pursuit of justice against Marcopper-Placer Dome-Barrick Gold and its unscrupulous local partner, Teodoro Bernardino. We also condemn the clear abandonment of the plight of the victims of Marcopper's mining operations by the Aquino administration. Marcopper-Placer Dome-Barrick Gold and the Aquino government should finally address the long-standing problems that the company has wrought upon the people of Marinduque.

As Marinduqueños march bearing these calls, the people's verdict is clear: we will settle for no less than justice!

Reference: Mr. Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE - 0922 844 9787


The Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council)of Boac, in solidarity with the people of Marinduque, joined the mobilization in front of the provincial capitol to request the sangguniang panlalawigan to re-negotiate the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement offered by Barrick Gold to ensure the welfare of the environment and the people of Marinduque. Below is the Resolution expressing the position of the Sangguniang Bayan of Boac which was read during the rally and later on personally delivered by the Boac Councilors at the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the Office of the Governor:

18 December 2013

RESOLUTION NO. 2013-100

RESOLUTION EARNESTLY REQUESTING THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF MARINDUQUE TO RE-NEGOTIATE THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE PROPOSED NEVADA CASE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT OFFERED BY BARRICK GOLD IN RELATION TO CASE NO. CV-S-05-1299-BES-RJJ PER THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT LODGED AT THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF NEVADA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND ENSURE THAT SAID TERMS AND CONDITIONS ARE ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE PROVINCE AND THE PRESENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS OF MARINDUQUEÑOS

WHEREAS, the devastation of the coastal, rivers, forests and other major ecosystems of Marinduque wrought by almost thirty years of mining operations by Marcopper Mining Corporation, a corporate partner or subsidiary of Placer Dome, Inc. (which later on amalgamated by Barrick Gold Corporation), and the continuing threats to livelihoods, health and safety of the people because of the highly silted river systems and the abandoned mine pits and dams are primary concerns of the local government units of the province and the people of Marinduque as they jeopardize, endanger and make vulnerable the women, children, families and communities of the present and future generations of Marinduqueños;

WHEREAS, in the hope of obtaining justice for the people and environment of Marinduque, the people and civil society organizations supported the provincial government's filing of a case in the United States of America which, based on the Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint filed on June 29, 2006, was docketed as Provincial Government of Marinduque versus Placer Dome Inc, and Barick Gold Corporation in Case No. CV-S-05-1299-BES-RJJ (removed from District Court, Clark County, Nevada Case No. A511078);

WHEREAS, the case prayed for various reliefs which the Third Amended Complaint articulated as follows:

"a. An order of the Court awarding damages for injuries to the natural, ecological, and wildlife resources within the Province and to compensate for the restoration and/or replacement of the natural, ecological, and wildlife resources within the Province, including, without limitations, the rivers, streams, soils, fish, marine life, biota, and related environs within the Province;

"b. An order of the Court awarding damages for the economic and public health injuries sustained by the Province;

"c. An order of the Court directing Placer and Barrick Gold to undertake and complete (and/or pay for the undertaking and completion of) the remediation, environmental cleanup, and balancing of the ecology of the affected areas, including but not limited to, the Tapian Pit, the San Antonio Pit, Calancan Bay, the Mogpog River system, the Boac River System, downstream coastal areas, and the surrounding areas. This environmental cleanup must include, among other things, ensuring potable water in the region and healthy hunting and fishing grounds, the repair of deteriorating mine structures and the Maguila-Guila Dam, and the renovation and rehabilitation of the Tapian Pit, the San Antonio Pit, and other structures;

"d. An order of the Court directing Placer Dome and Barrick Gold to fund all costs needed to adequately conduct environmental monitoring within the Province;

"e. An order of the Court directing Placer Dome and Barrick to fund all costs needed to adequately conduct medical monitoring within the Province;

"f. An award against Placer Dome and Barrick of pre-judgment and post-judgment interest at the maximum rate permitted by contract, law or equity;

"g. An award against Placer Dome and Barrick of the Province's costs and reasonable attorney fees; and

"h. Such Other and further relief, either equitable or legal, that the Court deems appropriate."

"PLAINTIFF DEMANDS A TRIAL BY JURY ON ALL CLAIMS TRIABLE."

WHEREAS, in the course of litigation, Barrick Gold Corporation consented to enter into a settlement with the Province in relation to the "Nevada Case" above mentioned. However, when the settlement process has reached its penultimate processes, this august Body was informed that there are terms and conditions in the proposed final settlement agreement that are unacceptable and disadvantageous to the Province, its local government units and the people of Marinduque, both the present and future generations;

WHEREAS, the "Nevada Case" anchored on the doctrine of ‘parens patriae' where the Province, acting as a good Mother to its daughters and sons in Marinduque, sought the intervention of the Court to ensure the welfare, well-being and justice due them;

WHEREFORE, on motion of Hon. Miguel R. Magalang, Chairperson of the Committee on Good Government, Public Ethics and Accountability, unanimously seconded and duly approved, the 8th Sangguniang Bayan in session assembled,

RESOLVED as it is hereby resolved, to earnestly request the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Marinduque, as the same is hereby earnestly requested, to re-negotiate the terms and conditions of the proposed Nevada Case Settlement agreement offered by Barrick Gold in relation to Case No. CV-S-05-1299-BES-RJJ per Third Amended Complaint lodged at the United States District Court, District of Nevada, United States of America and ensure that said terms and conditions are advantageous to the province and the present and future generations of Marinduqueños.

RESOLVED FURTHER that reliefs prayed for in the Third Amended Complaint should be the basis of the settlement agreement and the same prayers should be treated as non-negotiable terms and conditions on the part of the Province on behalf of the people of Marinduque; and, any amount to be negotiated in relation to the settlement of the Nevada Case and such other cases related to Barrick Gold in various courts in the Philippines, should be commensurate to the reliefs prayed for in the Nevada Case.

RESOLVED FINALLY that duly certified copies of this Resolution be furnished to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Marinduque, all Sangguniang Bayan in Marinduque and other concerned organizations, institutions and entities for their information, reference and/or appropriate action.

ADOPTED on December 18, 2013.

VOTED IN FAVOR: Hon. Sonny L. Paglinawan, Hon. Benjamin M. Solomon I, Hon. Luisito S. Laylay, Hon. Aurelio J. Leva III, Hon. Benildo L. Largado, Hon. Rolando M. Larracas Hon. Miguel R. Magalang, Hon. Carlos M. Palomares
VOTED AGAINST: None
ABSTENTION/ABSENT: Hon. Allan H. Nepomuceno (Ex-Officio)

I hereby certify to the correctness of the foregoing Resolution adopted by the Eight Sangguniang Bayan of Boac, Marinduque during its 20th Regular Session held on December 18, 2013 at the Sangguniang Bayan Session Hall, 2F New Municipal Government Building, Boac, Marinduque.

(original signed)
ARNEL S. MACAVINTA
Sangguniang Bayan Secretary


Miner killed in Benguet mine mishap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

28 December 2013

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines-A miner of Philex Mining Corp. died in an accidental discharge of mud beneath the Padcal mine in Tuba town, Benguet, three days before Christmas, prompting company officials to review safety protocols.

Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president for operations and Padcal mine resident manager, said Load-Haul-Dump (LHD) operator Rogelio Guleng Sr., 55, was drawing ore at the 782-meter level tunnel of the mine when the mud discharge buried him at 3:50 a.m. on Dec. 22.

The accident was discovered by another LHD operator, Julius Balonglong, who was assigned to the lower 773 level.

It took over two hours for other miners to dig Guleng out, but he died while being taken to the Sto. Niño Hospital in the mine compound.

Guleng worked at Philex for 32 years.

The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (Saimm), in its website, said very few studies had been made regarding mud rushes, which are sometimes formed when underground water is mixed with soluble materials like the clay wrapped around minerals being extracted from a mine.

"The rapidity of the mud inflow is such that the escape of personnel in its path is most unlikely, with terrible consequences for safety," according to Saimm.

Ricafort said the miners were hauling ore from a dry area, where underground water had not previously been detected.

Fay Apil, acting regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in the Cordillera, sent a team to investigate the accident.

Philex has been operating through a temporary permit handed out by the MGB, following a mine tailings accident in August that polluted a Benguet waterway, for which the mine was penalized up to P1.2 billion in fines.

Felizardo Gacad, chief of the MGB Cordillera's mine environment and safety division, confirmed Ricafort's findings.

"The mud rush happened at in area that was supposed to be very dry. The water accumulation in the ore column was unexpected," he said on Friday. Kimberlie Quitasol and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon


Agham party-list seeks protective order vs Zambales mining firm

by Ina Reformina

ABS-CBN News

19 December 2013

MANILA, Philippines - The Agham party-list group on Thursday filed before the Supreme Court a petition for writ of kalikasan against a mining firm reportedly engaged in the mining of metallic ore in Zambales.

In a 10-page petition against DMCIHI Holdings, Inc., filed through its president Angelo Palmones, Agham urged the high court to also issue a temporary protection order (TEPO) to halt the firm's operations for allegedly leveling a land formation in Barangay Bolitoc, Sta. Cruz, Zambales.

Agham claimed that DMCIHI dumps the soil from the scrapped land formation into the seas off Sta. Cruz to form part of the latter's port.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region III has confirmed the above-mentioned claims, Agham pointed out.

"[T]he subject land formation being destroyed by respondent DMCIHI serves as natural protective barrier of the residents of Zambales and that of the nearby towns of Pangasinan from typhoons and sea surges caused by it like what happened in Tacloban City, Leyte and some parts of Samar.

"Once these natural resources are damaged, the residents of these two provinces will be virtually defenseless and their life, health and properties will be at the constant risk of being lost," the petition read.


Church supports local govt's stand against mining in Catanduanes

CBCP News

19 December 2013

VIRAC, Catanduanes - The Church strongly backs the call of Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) on President Benigno Aquino to immediately forfeit the Coal Operating Contract (COC) of Altura Mining Philippines, Inc. (AMPI), which was issued by the Department of Energy (DOE), to probe about 7, 000 hectares of land in the province for coal deposits, Assistant to the Chancellor Rev. Fr. Eric John T. Rojas said in an e-mail letter.

Since 2009, the SP has consistently rejected any attempt to explore - much more extract - the islandprovince for coal reserves, when it passed SP Resolution 085-2009, otherwise known as "Resolution Strongly Opposing Mining Operations in the Entire Province of Catanduanes," he said.

The resolution was SP's response to the coal prospect pushed by AMPI and Monte Oro Mining in the province in 2009, Fr. Rojas said. In 2011, the SP also threw its consensus opposing Asianmines, Inc. application formineral exploration filed before Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Regional Office V, and pressed on the same agency to deny the application.

On September 23, 2013, SP Resolution 183-201, otherwise known as "Resolution Enacting an OrdinanceDeclaring the Province of Catanduanes a Mining-Free Zone," was passed, which underpins previous resolves of the SP to foil any coal prospect in the island.

The Church, for its part, has a consistent stand parallel to the strong position of the SP on any attempt to probe Catanduanes for mineral deposits, and eventually to drill coal.

"The Catholic Church, through the initiative and guidance of our dear Bishop, Most Rev. Manolo A. de los Santos, DD, has been opposing mining operation in the Island Diocese," Fr. Rojas said. "The clergy of the diocese fully support the Bishop, and they are doing their best to campaign in their respective parishes against mining."

In October this year, through the diocese's Social Action Commission, thousands of locals from different parishes and non-governmental organizations backed and joined "Walk for A Cause" (Mina-Batlay, Mina-Kontra), he said. Religious organizations formed by the Katandungan Kontra Mina group also took part in the walk.

The Social Action Commission and the Katandungan Kontra Mina, an anti-mining group that binds NGO representatives and diocesan clergy, found in their study that mining operations will trigger ground surface and vegetation disturbances that will entail the construction of mining plant and its support facilities, Fr. Rojas said.

The two anti-mining groups also concluded that mining operations will prompt the soil to erode, causing waterbuildup in downstream rivers and creeks, he said. The siltation of the bodies of water in the area will eventually result in the overflow and flooding of the towns of Viga, Payo, Bagamanoc, San Andres, and Caramoan.

The study also found that "mine tailings from coal washing operation-chemical pollutants and coal residues will endanger the ecological balance in waterways and sea in any designated plant site and delivery points of the mining firm," Fr. Rojas said.

According to the two anti-mining groups, Sunwest Water and Electric Company's (SUWECO) 3.075 MW mini-hydro power plant energy generations may also suffer from mining operations in the watershed of Hitoma River, he said.

If SUWECO mini-hydro plant stops operation, the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (FICELCO) consumers will be stripped of an estimated P20 million savings per annum, he said.

The study also concluded that the economic promises of coal mining to the province will not match the damages that will arise from floods, soil erosions, landslides, deforestation, and destructions to agriculture by coal mining operations, Fr. Rojas said.

With the SP, the entire Church hierarchy, and thousands of locals consistently opposed to any mining prospect in the island, one is extremely motivated to contradict this collective and overwhelming stance, and dig. (Oliver Samson)


Philippine biodiversity faces dire threats

Roxana Isabel Duerr

Deutsche-Welle - Global Ideas

17 December 2013

The incessant exploitation of natural resources in the Philippines is crippling the country's rainforest and biodiversity as well as robbing indigenous people of their livelihoods.

The Philippines are part of the so-called "megadiversity regions," a group of 17 countries home to a significant proportion of the world's biodiversity

Considered to be protectors of nature and the environment, the dryad or tree nymph "Diwata" is worshipped as a God-like creature in some regions of the Philippines. In northeast Mindanao, the country's second-largest island, a mountain range has been named after the Diwata. But the region seems to have lost the protection afforded by its divine patron.

Once covered by an intact rainforest and home to a rich tree- and animal paradise, today the mountains are under threat. Illegal logging, slash and burn practices and mining are eroding the region's rich biodiversity.

The Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor is home to one of the last remaining lowland rainforests in the Philippines

The Diwata mountain range is part of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor or EMBC. It's home to an especially large number of unique animal and plant species. For instance, the EMBC is a refuge for the Philippine eagle and at least 70 other species that are at high risk of extinction.

The region is also home to the Lumad who have lived here for centuries. The group of indigenous tribes is grappling with the loss of their traditional way of life as the region, which is rich in natural resources, is increasingly plundered. It's dealt a body blow to the rainforest, a source of livelihood for the indigenous people and one of the few remaining forests of its kind in the Philippine plains.

Biodiversity hotspot in mining region

But preserving its biodiversity isn't the only challenge facing the Philippines. Man-made climate change is posing huge hurdles too. In 2013, the island of Mindanao may have been spared the damage wrecked by super storm "Haiyan." But it's still suffering the aftereffects of cyclone "Bopha" which last year flattened entire villages and forests.

Estimates suggest that the Philippines only has between two to seven percent of virgin rainforest left. Less than a century ago, that figure was 70 percent. The Southeast Asian archipelago is what is known as a biodiversity hotspot - a region with notable biodiversity but threatened due to human actions.

Allan Delideli heads the non-governmental organization "SILDAP" in Mindanao that champions the rights of native tribes. "Without the forest, the indigenous people can't carry out their traditional agricultural activities anymore," Delideli said. "A few Lumad people now use artificially produced pesticides on their farms; monoculture from bananas or oil palms are increasingly replacing traditional crops.

He added that pollution is on the rise too. "Industrial waste is polluting the rivers and the ground is often contaminated through toxic mining residues such as cyanide and mercury," he said.

Caught between protests and conformity

"Lumad" which means "indigenous" is an umbrella term for the various indigenous people in the southern Philippines. Here, a member of the Manobo tribe

Though some Lumad people have begun organizing themselves and setting up barricades in front of mining companies, many residents are left with no choice but to migrate to other regions.

Biologist Jayson Ibañez has researched the problem for years. „Mining doesn't just destroy the base of indigenous culture," he said. „It also adversely affects the social norms and the entire value system within the community," he added.

Mining activity ends up splitting a stable civil society into conflicting parties, Ibañez said. "The one strictly rejects the ecological and economic side effects, the other side endorses the exploitation of natural resources only because of the financial profits to be made."

The Lumad people are entitled to financial compensation if their land is affected by mining activity. But that doesn't solve the problem. The indigenous tribe is still forced to move away from traditional farming and look for jobs in the mining or lumber industry.

Biologist Ibañez, however, stressed that not all indigenous people are automatically inclined to protect the environment. "They aren't a homogenous unit. Many indigenous people are very poor and still lead a traditional life," he said. "On the other end of the spectrum, there are indigenous elites who have lost their cultural roots and follow the 'mainstream.' "

Those are the ones who become politically active and then represent the majority of the destitute tribe. "These powerful indigenous elites are often in cahoots with the lumber and mining companies," he explained.

Tapping indigenous knowledge

In theory, indigenous people can resist giving up their land for economic projects. That's according to Philippine law under the "free prior and informed consent" principle of the United Nations.

But in practice, the law has several loopholes, according to human rights group Amnesty International, and is not always correctly implemented by the government in Manila.

The Philippine eagle is at risk of extinction, according to the IUCN. Much of the last remaining birds are found on the island of Mindanao

Jayson Ibañez works closely with the United Nations and the Philippine environment ministry to better protect the tribal areas and their unique biodiversity from external threats.

"Within those territories, indigenous natural reserves should be clearly defined and have legal recognition," Mundita Lim, director of the "Biodiversity Management Bureau" in the Philippine environment ministry said. "A part of the process is the development of a community protection program that promotes the environment knowledge passed down among the indigenous population and turns it into practical action."

Jayson Ibanez is convinced that it's possible to do that. As long as the knowledge and wishes of the indigenous population are acknowledged and made a part of the projects, there are good chances of protecting the rich biodiversity in the region, he said.

 

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