MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines - Mining has the potential for disaster, but uncertainly looms large

Published by MAC on 2014-03-02
Source: Statements, Inquirer, Philippine Star, Rappler (2014-03-04)

The Philippine organisation Kalikasan PNE has hosted a forum examining the role large-scale mining plays in exacerbating natural disasters in the country, referencing many of the issues the Mines & Communities site has covered over the years. (It has also reported on national 'Green Flag' protests against mining to mark the anniversary of the passing of the 1995 Mining Act). A video of the protests can be viewed here

Of those issues, a legal case has been filed against the lack of remediation at the Rapu Rapu mine (which suffered various typhoon-related spills), run by the Australian company Lafayette Mining and then the Korean KORES.

Uncertainty continues to increase over Glencore Xstrata's proposed Tampakan mine, after the junior partner Indophil confirmed the desire of Glencore to walk away from the project (which is vehemently denied by the local subsidiaries).

OceanaGold's Didipio mine is hitting its own problems as it has to lay off workers, and there is a reported threat of a wage strike. The company may have bigger problems though, as a bill is being debated to make the province in which the mine is situated, Nueva Vizcaya, mining-free. (How that affects active mines like Didipio will, however, be up for debate). A similar bill is being debated for Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in Mindanao.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, Red 5's Siana mine remains closed after a tailings spill in 2013, and Medusa Mining reported a fatality at its Co-O mine.

Magnetite sand mining is back in the news, both in Cagayan province, where operations are finally meant to have been shut down after an attack by the Communist New People's Army, but also in others areas such as Negros Oritental.

Finally, the Philippine Government is still negotiating how much tax revenue the mining companies should pay. As one pro-industry source notes there have been no new licenses granted while this is debated, and as such the industry continues to stagnate, no doubt much to the relief of many local communities.

People's forum warns of greater mining-driven destruction, pollution as climate change worsens

Kalikasan PNE Press Statement

27 February 2014

The role of irresponsible large-scale mining in the heightening risks of disaster was highlighted during a People's Forum on the Philippine Mining Situation held today at the Balay Internasyunal in the University of the Philippines - Diliman. Leaders from local and national movements from the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment opposed to destructive large-scale mining operations shared insights and updates on recent mining disasters and growing mining-induced hazards across the country.

"The current mode of large-scale mining is clearly one of the greatest factors that increase the risk of disasters in the Philippines. Not only does it intensify the impacts of hazards as we saw in Philex's 2012 mine spill in Benguet, but it also worsens the vulnerabilities of communities as it negatively impacts on our agriculture, water and other basic needs," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan PNE.

The group, which co-organized the forum with the Defend Patrimony! Alliance and the Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines, noted that the dam failure of Philex's Padcal Mine is just one of the outstanding mining hazards and disasters that have worsened in recent years.

"The strong winds of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged Central Philippines and amplified the denudation of the already sparse forests in Homonhon Island. Just months after Yolanda, the widespread forest slash-and-burn operations by big mining corporation in the island have already resumed, aggravating the risks of landslides, flash floods and typhoons, Bautista explained. "On the other hand, the island province of Marinduque was mercifully avoided by the super typhoon, but the abandoned tailings facilities of the Marcopper-Barrick Gold mining corporation would have likely overtopped if it was significantly affected by the disaster."

‘Cost-cutting' amidst declining prices

Kalikasan PNE noted that mining transnational corporations (TNCs) and the Aquino administration have been noticeably more aggressive in abandoning its responsibilities to environmental management and people's rights, as world market prices for metals and other minerals continue to decline over the past two years. The group cited the following observations:

· A national fact-finding mission in Nueva Vizcaya by Kalikasan PNE and other groups last year observed heavy siltation in rivers emanating from the mining operations and tailings facilities of the OceanaGold mining operations. 20% of its workers are currently on strike for measly wages and unfair labor practices;

· An environmental investigative mission from Southern Palawan in 2012 discovered sub-standard tailings ditches and clear signs of water contamination caused by Citinickel mines' various operations;

· More than a year after, Philex's Padcal mine has virtually returned to commercial operations despite not paying sufficient compensation for downstream communities and facilities affected by monsoon rains then;

· Glencore-Xstrata downsized its expenditures and operations in 2013 as it continued to be delayed by disputes to its environmental, socio-economic and human rights impacts, particularly by the local government's environmental code banning open-pit mining. But pressure on the community and the local government both by Glencore-Xstrata and the national government has increased - as well as the string of killings of anti-mining advocates in the region which now numbers to 10 since 2010.

"There is clearly a trend of cost-cutting by corporations amidst the continuing downturn of the global minerals industry, and this is resulting in the intensified exploitation of mine workers, human rights violations in mining-affected communities, and rampant environmental pollution and destruction. Aquino's disastrous policy of mining liberalization has clearly left the fate of the people and the environment to the hand of the foreign and private mining corporations. We cannot let this trend of irresponsibility and lack of accountability continue especially as we face projected increases in number and severity of extreme rainfall and weather events brought about by climate change that will surely amplify the risks of mining disasters," Bautista said.

The group called for the immediate repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and a moratorium on mining operations and applications until a new policy on mining is implemented. Earlier in 2013, the forum organizers joined the Makabayan bloc in Congress in refiling the People's Mining Bill (HB 171), a policy that will reorient the mining industry towards ensuring environmental protection, respect for human rights and welfare, needs-based utilization of mineral resources, and agricultural development and national industrialization.

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Reference: Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator - Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) - 0922 844 9787


‘Green Flag' national day of action marks anniversary of the Mining Act of 1995

Kalikasan PNE Press Release

3 March 2014

Protests across PH call for revocation of Aquino's mining liberalization policies, cancellation of destructive mining projects

On the 19th anniversary of the passage of RA 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995, nationally-coordinated actions across the Philippines were launched today to call for the revocation of Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III's current mining liberalization policies and projects.

Dubbed as a ‘Green Flag Day of Action against Large-scale Mining,' protest caravans, marches, ecumenical activities and forums in Metro Manila, Ilocos, Baguio, Cagayan Valley and Davao, among others, will brandish green flags bearing calls for the stoppage of big mining projects and mining liberalization policies that have caused massive land grabbing, environmental destruction and human rights violation.

"19 years after its passage and a decade after its unconstitutionality was subverted by corporate greed, the Mining Act of 1995 remains in place and continues to open up our lands and resources to the unfettered plunder of transnational mining corporations. Pres. BS Aquino's Executive Order 79 further reinforced the wholesale of our mineralized lands and has done nothing to arrest the growing incidents of environmental destruction, land-grabbing and human rights violations," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

EO 79 was criticized for its provision, among others, that ‘harmonized' all environmental and governance policies to be in line with existing mining policies. The provision is currently being used as basis for the Aquino government's dispute of a long-standing environmental code by the South Cotabato local government banning the use of the open-pit mining method, which is currently preventing the mine development of Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore-Xstrata.

The various investment guarantees and auxiliary rights granted by RA 7942, such as the provision of timber, water and easement rights, have been the constant basis for mining companies for the diversion of water sources, massive forest clearing and the demolition and displacement of peasant and small-scale communities.

"You can witness the destruction caused by Aquino's mining regime throughout the entire life of mine process in the province of Nueva Vizcaya alone. Mine exploration activities of the Royalco company have spurred human rights violations, including militarization and harassment law suits. FCF Minerals' mine development has diverted water away from communities and demolished the homes of indigenous small-scale miners. Oceana Gold's commercial operations have caused the massive siltation in its adjacent rivers, reduced the productivity of surrounding agricultural lands, and exploited its workers with low wages and lack of benefits," noted Bautista.

Data recorded by the Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders have noted that the militarization of mining-affected communities under Aquino's mine investment defense policies have resulted in at least 30 victims of politically-motivated killings, 4 cases of frustrated murder, and 27 victims of strategic lawsuits against public participation or SLAPPs.

Bautista said the current policies not only caused destruction and rights violations during the operations of mines, but also encouraged the abandonment of unrehabilitated mines. The decade-long case of the Marinduque people filed against Marcopper mining corporation, now owned by Canadian-owned Barrick Gold, for causing one of the country's most severe mine spill disasters, was almost settled with a P20-million ‘take it or leave it' deal that would have exonerated the company from causality. South Korean-owned Rapu-Rapu Minerals, which concluded its eight-year mining contract in the island of Rapu-Rapu in Albay, attempted to leave without implementing the rehabilitation provision of its contract.

"The attempts of Rapu-Rapu Minerals and Marcopper-Barrick Gold to skirt their responsibilities in rehabilitating their mine sites upon closure belie the claims of the mining industry lobby and national government that the mine operations in the country are socially and environmentally responsible. Let us also not forget how Philex Mining Corporation has weaseled its way out of its 20-million metric-ton tailings disaster last 2012 but has not fully rehabilitated Balog and Agno River and has not fully compensated all downstream communities they affected," added Bautista.

Bautista said the various Green Flag Day actions across the country united in their calls for the repeal of both the Mining Act of 1995 and EO 79. He said that a new people's mining policy should be ratified in order to reorient the mining industry towards ensuring needs-based utilization, environmental safety and people's welfare in the objective of ensuring genuine land reform, agricultural modernization and national industrialization.

Reference: Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator - Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) - 0922 844 9787


Statement on the 19th Anniversary of the Mining Act of 1995

KAMP Press Statement

3 March 2014

This day nearly rounds out the two-decade anniversary of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The enactment of this law is a mile post in our country's adherence to neoliberal policies, which espoused the deregulation, privatization, and liberalization of key industries. For the past nineteen years, the Mining Act of 1995 had opened the floodgates to local and transnational mining corporations to amass the largest profits over our country's vast mineral resources. Since its promulgation, the Mining Act has resulted into the unprecedented plunder of our national patrimony, irreversible environmental degradation, land-grabbing, and human rights violations.

On this day that the Mining Act was spawned, we also recall the many activists and indigenous peoples who were martyred in the defense of our national patrimony against mining plunder and for the integrity of the environment, amid the blows of legalized plunder of our mineral lands and the pillage of communities. We remember Juvy Capion and her sons, who, due to the relentless fight against the mining operation of Xstrata-SMI in their ancestral lands in Tampakan, South Cotabato, were massacred mercilessly by the 26th Infantry Battalion of the AFP on October 2012. We remember the killings of many Lumad leaders in Mindanao who had led their people to resist mining in their ancestral lands, such as Datu Jimmy Liguyon, who was killed in front of his children by members of a paramilitary group held in sway by a mining company.

The past nineteen years have uncovered the rottenness of a liberalized mining industry, and today the Mining Act has garnered the broad opposition from many sections of society. Peasants, indigenous peoples and other communities directly affected by mining are joined by legislators, churches, media practitioners, academics, students, and environment groups in the call for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995. Armed revolutionary groups in the countryside also condemned the destruction and human rights violations caused by the liberalized mining industry, and have performed punitive actions against mining enterprises nationwide. The clamor grows in many provinces and regions to stop large-scale and destructive mining, with some local government units even declaring mining bans on large-scale or open pit mines in their areas.

For its part, the Aquino government has promoted mining in its effort to draw in more foreign investments in the country. It has employed deceitful means to make people believe that it is treading the 'tuwid na daan' on the pretext of correcting the ills of the extractive industry. His populist maneuverings to appease anti-mining advocates and mining firms brought about the enactment of Executive Order 79. This mining directive is a far cry from the people's demands of a mining industry that will lead to national development and industrialization, but an accession to the demands of big foreign mining firms. One of the main attributes of the EO 79 is to undercut the local government's powers to hinder large-scale mining in their localities.

Meanwhile, mining has made no significant contributions to develop the economy. The general practice of foreign mining corporations to export our mineral ores garnered a mere 0.7% contribution to the GDP and 0.6% to employment according to the Mines and Geoscience Bureau. The trickling benefit of mining to the local economy is dwarfed by its adverse effects to the people and environment. Human rights violations and environmental degradation adds to the rape of our national patrimony.

The Philex Mine Disaster rocked the Philippine mining industry in August 2012, when the government's poster child for ‘responsible' and ‘green' mining dumped 20 million metric tons of mine wastes in tributaries in Benguet. The effects of the massive spill affected fishing and farm communities in Benguet, and then drained to the San Roque Dam and up to communities in Pangasinan. The tussle between Philex and indigenous people's organizations, environment activists, and affected downstream communities was waged in the media, in Congress, and other public occasions, and within affected communities with Philex denying liability over what environment activists describe as the ‘biggest mining disaster in Philippine history.'

Other mine-affected indigenous communities also suffer from the environmental destruction caused by liberalized mining such as the OceanaGold operations in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya and Citinickel Mining Corporation's nickel mines in Sofronio Espanola, Palawan. These mining corporations are wreaking havoc on the livelihood and health of residents as mining erodes environmental integrity in these areas. Vast agricultural and forest lands are rapidly being converted to serve the foreign dominated and controlled mining industry at the expense of the human settlement and sustainable livelihood of the peasants and indigenous communities, and our food security. Thousands of communities have been displaced and denied of their rights over the lands which they have developed for hundreds of years, as in the experiences of the Blaan, Subanen, Manobo and other lumad communities due to the operations of SMI-Xstrata, Toronto Ventures Inc. and Russell Mining and Minerals Inc. Five of the six financial and technical assistance agreements (FTAA), which covers almost 100,000 hectares, are encroaching ancestral territories.

Indigenous peoples' right to self-determination is undermined and our national patrimony is being handed over to transnational corporations. The lone participation of indigenous peoples in projects affecting them is the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) provision of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). The FPIC is usually acquired through manipulation, deceit, and coercion, and had given the entry of big businesses an air of legitimacy and adds to the illusion of democracy and ‘inclusive growth' of the Aquino reign. Throughout the years, the IPRA and the process of FPIC have been utilized to serve the interest of the big businesses and have even been instrumental in the violation of indigenous peoples' rights to land and self-determination.

Mining corporations, given the power to control not only the minerals but the water, timber, and land by the Mining Act, possess little regard to ensure the people's welfare. To end the chaotic environmental degradation, mining should be geared towards meeting people's domestic needs rather than private profit margins and global market demands. The scrapping of the Mining Act and the reorientation of the mining industry from being profit-driven, import-oriented and export-oriented to one that will ensure that the extractive industry will not trample on people's rights and utilize our mineral resources for national development is a must.

Mining can only contribute to national development if it is part of a program for national industrialization. The Philippine government must invest in the necessary industries to process our mineral wealth and make these serve further industrialization of our country especially in manufacturing and agricultural modernization. The current mining law is merely a reflection of a bankrupt economic policy that places our hopes on the benevolence of foreign investors. It is time that we assert our national interest and sovereignty. It is time we put domestic needs and environmental protection at the forefront of corporate profits. It is time we junk the Mining Act of 1995 and pursue a nationalist, pro-indigenous peoples, pro-environment and responsible mining and economic policy.

* Scrap the Mining Act of 1995! End the liberalization of mining!
* Advance the Peoples Mining Bill!
* Stop destructive and large-scale mining in indigenous peoples' ancestral territories!
* Uphold indigenous peoples' rights to land and self-determination!
* Defend our national patrimony!

Kalipunan ng Mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP)
National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in the Philippines
Room 304 NCCP Building, near Quezon Avenue corner EDSA, West Triangle,
Quezon City
(02) 412-5340
www.katutubongmamamayan.org


Mining is doomed

The mining industry appears to be doomed under the Aquino government.

Malaya

30 January 2014

New mining ventures cannot be started. The government has not issued one new permit since it took power in 2010 although President Aquino issued Executive Order No. 79 two years ago. It cannot be implemented because Malacañang has not proposed to the House of Representatives a new revenue sharing agreement.

The meat of the agreement is left to the hands of Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, member of the Mining Industry Development Council. He was reported last Monday to have said he -- presumably meaning the council -- has approved a 50-50 revenue sharing agreement as is the current practice in large scale mines.

Strangely, Domingo failed to define which mining operation is large enough to give 50 percent of its revenues to the government under a financial-technical assistance agreement with foreign investors.

What is large-scale mining? Is it an operation that produces specified number of tons of ore? Or is it the revenue produced from the ore? Or is it the price of the ore? These questions must be answered.

Different ores cannot be lumped under one category.

Gold commands the highest price in the world metals market. It is measured in ounces. Copper is sold in pounds. Raw ore like nickel is priced in tons. One ton of it shipped to say, China, hardly gets one percent nickel content. It cannot be classified as large.

Philex earns as much if not more from gold but it is basically a copper operation.

Therefore, gold is a by-product. Production of gold in the process of extracting copper ore hardly incurs costs. Is gold to be considered separate from copper in computing a tax although it is, in a manner of speaking, a
serendipity?

Domingo does not have a word about this.

Maybe the better strategy is to allow the opening of new mines and tax them according to the present laws that exact fees and taxes. The goal should be to raise more revenues. The government robs investors blind if new mines are not issued a permit to operate.

We will say again that stockholders of Sagittarius Mines are ready with a giant investment of $5.9 billion, said to be the biggest in Southeast Asia. Nestex, another foreign company, is committed to set up nickel smelter in either or both Mindoros.

Neither of the two companies have been issued permits to operate although they have spent hundreds of millions in pre-operating expenses and community development for indigenous tribes.

The two foreign firms have practically lost huge amounts of money spent in exploration. There are many exploration projects that did not find commercial ore. The money spent on exploration is written off as a loss. When commercial deposits are confirmed why should the government deny them a permit to operate?

President Aquino does not want to hear the question. He does not have an answer except denial of permits to operate.

Why should there be a government that refuses to issue permits to new mines because it has not come up with a new revenue sharing agreement that appears excessive at 50-50 for large-scale mines?

Worst of all is Domingo's idea for the government to get a share from mining operations that do not make a profit. The profit and loss possibilities come from two factors: the size of commercial reserves and the price of the metal in the world market.

Mines make money hand over fist when prices are high. But some may hardly cover production costs when prices sink. Yet, they continue operation and wait for better times. They keep their workers at work. Keeping employment is itself a benefit in a country that claims accelerate growth but can hardly dent the unemployment problem.

Domingo's idea of removing perks on mines that he says pay 2 per cent on gross and get tax holidays sounds stupid because the same is denied mines that operate in partnership with the state under a "financial, technical assistance agreement."

Domingo calls a "small kicker" the revenues made from non-mining operations.

There is no business operation that sits on a mountain of temporary idle cash. The money is variously invested in other safe, though low-yield instruments. This is not a reason to soak the mines with a heavy tax. Domingo himself admits none-mine incomes are made when metal prices are low.

What would be in his mind when prices sink below production cost? Brilliant, he wants to tax the gross although the company may be losing its shirt. In this sense, mines are delivered hard fatal blows.

Incomes from other investments are taxed when metal prices are high. They will also be taxed on the gross even if they do not make a profit due to the "collapse" of metal prices in the world market.

Like many products, prices of metals move in cycles. Boom days bring investors big wealth. They pay a tax. Who helps them when prices go below production? Not the government, which, in the Wharton mind of Domingo should be similarly taxed because they record gross revenues.

By the functions of the office he occupies, Domingo is not presumed to be the most competent in mining matters. The key decision maker should be the secretary of environment and natural resources who should be ably assisted by the director of the bureau of mines and geo-sciences.

I find it strange that the Bureau of Internal Revenue has not been asked about the historical pattern of tax payments by the mining industry.

The figures the BIR sees should be a good guide in crafting tax measures on mining..

The Aquino government cannot get its act together. The refusal to issue permits appears to be a result of unfounded fears about pollution claimed without proof by a few non-government organizations funded by foreign donors.

Domingo now seems to be at the helm. He appears to be the decision maker. His recommendations are not fair. He effectively blunts the Supreme Court ruling that skirted the Constitution by allowing foreign investor to be sole owners of mining operations in partnership with the government. The Constitution limits foreign equity in mining. That limit has been lifted by the Supreme Court. However, the Aquino government practically bans new mines.

What a way to attract investments!


DENR execs, mining firm charged for ecological damage

Written by Manly M. Ugalde, Correspondent

Business Mirror

16 February 2014

LEGAZPI CITY-The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and former members of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Rapu-Rapu in the province of Albay have filed in court an environmental case for violation of the Environmental Protection Order against Environment Secretary Ramon JP Paje, three officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and four South Korean mining firms and their seven officials.

Filed at the Regional Trial Court here on January 16, the four-page complaint said after raking P65 billion in income during their eight years in copper, gold, silver and zinc mining operation, the accused in apparent neglect and collaboration simply abandoned the mining area and failed to rehabilitate the damaged environment involving 180 hectares of mined sites in the island Rapu-Rapu town.

In its prefatory statement, complainants said that "while Filipinos too often tolerate abuse by visitors who leave their hosts to clean up any mess that is left behind, there are limits in welcoming foreigners to exploit every bit of our country's natural resources whenever they put our host communities' environment, as well as their present and future generations at serious risk to incalculable peril and total alienation from their own homeland as our guests way of reciprocating our hospitality and bidding us a cruel good-bye."

Complainants, led by Marino E Baranda and Giovani B. Guapo were former Rapu-Rapu SB members among those who endorsed the mining firms' operations to the DENR. They petitioned the DENR to issue the environment certificate compliance (ECC) for the Rapu-Rapu mining operation of the then-Lafayette Mining Inc. operated by Australian nationals.

Included as complainant is also a former vice president for public affairs of the accused mining firms named Cecilia Calleja.

The complaint also said barely a year into the Rapu-Rapu mining operations in 2006, a mine tailing spill occurred that killed fishes in the Albay gulf reaching as far as the sea of nearby Sorsogon province to the grave prejudice of small fishermen.

Prompted by demand for the closure of the mining operation from the Church and environmentalists as a result of the mines disaster, then-President Arroyo created the Bastes Commission to investigate. Headed by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, the probe recommended the closure of the Rapu-Rapu mines operation. The recommendation, however, was ignored by the Arroyo administration. Two years later, Lafayette Mining Corp. sold its Rapu-Rapu Mines to the South Korean firm.

Among those charged in the government side were Paje, his Mines and Geoscience Bureau Director Leo Jasareno, Bicol MGB Regional Director Theodore Rommel Pestano and Bicol DENR Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales.

At least five South Korean-owned firms and seven of its officials were among those initially charged. These are the Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc. (RRMI), Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project (RRPP), Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI), Rapu-Rapu Holdings Inc. (RRHI) and Korea Malaysia Philippines Resources Inc. (KMPRI).

Among the mining firm officials charged were Jason Lim (a South Korean), Soon Bang-ko, Levin Alonso, Rogelio E. Corpuz, Marcial Campos, Ben Dayao and Young Bong-ha.

The complaint sought for a temporary environmental protection order, writ of preliminary attachment and writ of continuing mandamus and damages.

The complaint said after the eight-year contract to operate the mining operation in Rapu-Rapu town, the South Korean-owned firms started implementing the closure of their Rapu-Rapu mining starting on August 30, 2013.

The companies, however, said that on September 9, September 11, and October 29 last year, the South Korean firm still managed to make three ore shipments out of the country valued at $12.5 million in blatant disregard of an MGB directive to stop any further shipment pending implementation and completion of the rehabilitation contract for the mined sites.

Cecilia Calleja, one of the signatories in the complaint and former vice president for public affairs of the South Korean-owned RRMI, said the mining operators would simply abandon Rapu-Rapu without the rehabilitation plan implemented adding that even separated employees have not been paid of the separation pay.

Calleja said an amended complaint would be filed to include Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay in his capacity as member of the Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committee (MRFC) which handles the rehabilitation fund estimated in 2007 at P158 million.

The South Korean nationals estimated in 2007 an actual rehabilitation to reach P400 million, Calleja said.

She said despite glaring efforts to simply abandon the mined sites without complying the rehabilitation plan, government officials concerned have not shown evident actions to compel the South Korean firms comply with the rehabilitation program.

The complaint said the South Korean firm is even exerting too much pressure to the DENR to allow its one last shipment of ore mineral and that if allowed would render Rapu-Rapu claim for the restoration of its damaged site.


Glencore-Xstrata selling Tampakan stake

By Edwin Espejo

Rappler

30 January 2014

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines - World mining giant Glencore-Xstrata is confirmed to be preparing to sell its stake in the controversial Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato, according to a report to the Australian Stock Exchange by its minority partner Indophil Resources NL.

"Glencore-Xstrata has informed Indophil of its preference to divest its stakes in Tampakan. This is consistent with Glencore's preference not to develop greenfield projects," Indophil chief operating officer and managing director Richard Lauffman said in his 4th quarter 2013 report.

This development is still being discussed by the parties and Lauffman said "no formal divestment process has commenced."

At 62.5%, Glencore-Xstrata controls Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), operator of the Tampakan project. Indophil owns the balance of 37.5%.

Indophil holds the right of first refusal should Glencore sell its SMI stake.

Lauffman said Indophil is committed to "maximizing the value" of its own shares in SMI by either developing the Tampakan project or also divesting from it. "In line with this, and conscious of the value of Indophil's preemptive right, the company is sole-funding work programs at Tampakan."

In 2012, Glencore International acquired Xstrata Plc in a mammoth US$75-billion takeover deal and, in the process, created the world's 4th-largest diversified mining company.

The deal hit a brief snag when the Chinese government required Glencore to sell some of its copper mines for fear that it was getting monopoly of the world copper market.

Glencore agreed to sell its Las Bambas project in Peru and listed Tampakan as among other possible assets it would sell.

The Tampakan project, which could be the biggest single foreign direct investment in the Philippines, has faced delays due to regulatory issues.

A ban on open-pit mining, the method to be used in Tampakan, has been in place in South Cotabato since 2010.

SMI earlier announced it would commence commercial operations in 2019, but this is likely to be pushed back again.

Last year, SMI cut down its operations, retrenching over 920 workers and employees, including senior managers and superintendents. SMI also auctioned off more than 30 vehicles and office equipment, and moved to a smaller office.

Indophil said SMI retained only 60 employees and another 60 contractors and will work on a US$10-million budget in 2014, down from US$40 million in 2012.

An Indophil source said it will now solely fund the offsite new environmental impact study, "which has crossed in a work program from late 2013 into 2014. The study reportedly costs US$500,000.

Aside from the Tampakan project, Indophil has two other exploration projects in the Philippines. These are the Itogon Gold Project in northern Luzon and the Manat Gold Project in eastern Mindanao. - Rappler.com


Tampakan mine to start soon despite Glencore pullout - Alsons

By Iris C. Gonzales

The Philippine Star

5 February 2014

MANILA, Philippines - Alsons Energy Development Corp. (AEDC) of the Alcantara Group said it expects the Tampakan mine project to commence operations despite the pullout of Glencore-Xtrata from the project.

Sought for comment on the decision of Swiss mining firm Glencore to pull out from the project in Mindanao, Alsons executive vice president Tirso Santillan said the decision may have delayed the project but is unlikely to hamper its operations.

"While recent development may have resulted in the delay of the commencement of the Tampakan project, we anticipate that the Tampakan mine will eventually commence operating in the future," Santillan said.

AEDC, a subsidiary of publicly-listed Alsons Consolidated Resources, earlier said it would put up a 400-megawatt facility in Sarangani to supply power to the $5.9-billion copper-gold mining project.

Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), the operator of the mining project, selected AEDC as its preferred power generation supplier for the mine.

He said the further development of the prospective 400-MW power station to service the Tampakan mine project is contingent on the mining project pushing through.

Glencore-Xstrata plans to divest its majority interest in the Tampakan copper-gold project in Mindanao, according to its joint venture partner Indophil Resources NL.

"The restructure of SMI (Sagittarius Mines Inc.) is complete, with a new plan and significantly reduced expenditure. All indications point to Glencore-Xstrata seeking to divest its majority interest in the Tampakan copper-gold project," Indophil said in its quarterly report to the Australian stock exchange.

Glencore has a 62.5-percent stake in SMI, the operator of the Tampakan copper-gold project. The remaining 37.5 percent belongs to its partner Indophil.

AEDC's power plant, which is targeted for completion in 2016, will be constructed at the Kamanga Agro-Industrial Ecozone in Brgy. Kamanga, Maasim town.

Based on the timetable, the facility is expected to become fully operational by mid-2019.


OceanaGold lays off Didipio mine workers

Manila Standard

1 February 2014

OceanaGold Corp., the Australian operator of the Didipio mine in Nueva Vizcaya province, said Friday it reduced its workforce in the Philippines as a part of cost-cutting measures in a bid to remain healthy and profitable in the face of gold price depression in the world market.

The miner said in a statement it was forced to adopt the cost-cutting measures, after the price of gold declined by 27 percent in 2013.

It said among the measures adopted by the company were to let go of 40 percent of its exploration department staff in the Philippines, salary cut of executive leadership in Melbourne, shutdown of open-pit mining operations of its contractor over the Christmas period at Didipio and the protocol of its agreement with New Zealand workforce which accepted pay reductions.

"Retrenching people is always a painful decision but business dynamics and market realities simply tell us that it is a decision that has to be made, disagreeable or unpleasant as it may seem-to de-hire the few that we may save the jobs of the many," OceanaGold senior vice president for public affairs and communications Chito Gozar said.

OceanaGold is currently in talks with the labor union to thresh out differences over the cost-cutting measures. It said there were other issues on the negotiation table talk on which both sides wish there would be an agreement.

The company offered a package which Didipio operations general manager Brennan Lang described as "both fair and generous in light of the current conditions in the gold mining industry and in comparison workers in the rest of the Philippines mining industry."

The package included P350 per month across-the-board pay increase for all employees in each of the three years of the agreement, free breakfast in the camp for employees who are residents of Didipio, annual leave increase to 13 days from 10 days, improvements to rice incentive program (equivalent to cash or gift certificate for up to 6 bags of rice per year) calamity leave amounting to two days of leave for declared calamities that have impacted on employees' residence and office space for the union.


Mining strike looms

By Melvin Gascon

Inquirer Northern Luzon

28 January 2014

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya-An Australian company operating a gold-copper project in upland Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya province has alerted employees about an impending strike by members of a workers' union over wages.

Brennan Lang, general manager of the Didipio project of OceanaGold Philippines Inc., said employees who are not members of the union would be asked to change their schedule or perform functions in anticipation of the vacuum that would be created by those who would join the picket line.

"All department heads have been tasked with developing contingency plans to maintain operations in the event of a strike," he said in a memorandum circulated among workers last week.

The work stoppage at OceanaGold Didipio mine loomed after members of Pun-oh-ohaan Hi Kiphodan (Kiphodan) labor union, the only recognized workers' group of the Didipio project, voted last week to proceed with the strike.

Failed negotiations

The Jan. 20 balloting came more than a month after the union filed on Dec. 10 a notice of strike in the Department of Labor and Employment, following failed negotiations.

Lang said workers who do not report for work, regardless of whether they joined the strike, would not receive their wages.

The union has at least 80 members, mostly Didipio residents, out of the 350 workers of OceanaGold.

The impending strike is the latest problem to hit the Didipio mining project, which began commercial production in 2013 amid continuing opposition from the antimining community led by the Catholic Church in Nueva Vizcaya.

The dispute stemmed from disagreements between Kiphodan and OceanaGold over terms of the three-year collective bargaining agreement, mainly provisions on the workers' compensation and other economic benefits.

P12 vs P32

In previous talks, union members demanded a P32 per day across-the-board wage increase, or about P1,000 a month, but OceanaGold offered an increase of only P12 a day, to go along with other forms of remuneration.

The offers, however, may no longer hold up for the remainder of prolonged negotiations, Lang said in a memo.

"In declaring a bargaining deadlock, the union has effectively rejected this offer and the company cannot guarantee that all or any of the above benefits will be part of any final agreement," he said.

In a phone interview, Wendy Nicano, Kiphodan union president, said they rejected the company's offer because it was too meager for today's living standards.

"We studied [our numbers] carefully and concluded that we really cannot go below P1,000. If the company has reasons for the offer, we too have our own reasons [to reject it]," she said.

Cheaper gold

In his memo, Lang cited the financial distress that the company has been going through as the reason it cannot grant the union's P1,000 demand in wage increase.

"The company has suffered from a 27-percent decrease in the price of gold over the past year. In order to reduce costs and remain profitable, the company has laid off 40 percent of our exploration department staff in the Philippines, and our New Zealand staff has accepted pay reductions," he said.


House okays bill making Nueva Vizcaya mining-free

By Jess Diaz

The Philippine Star

15 February 2014

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill declaring Nueva Vizcaya a mining-free province.

House Bill 3667, authored principally by Rep. Carlos Padilla of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya, now goes to the Senate.

Padilla said there are some companies presently engaged in mining in his province.

There are also individuals doing illegal mining, he said.

Both would have to respect the mandate of the bill, if it becomes a law, he said.

He added that he has no doubt that the Senate would approve the measure, which he said would protect the beauty of the mountains and environment of Nueva Vizcaya.

The bill defines mining as extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials, including large-scale and small-scale mining activities involving exploration, feasibility, development, and processing.

It does not include gathering of sand and gravel.

It provides for penalties for violators. An individual offender would face imprisonment of six to 12 years and a fine of P100,000 to P500,000.

If the violator were a corporation, partnership or association, the officer or officers responsible for the violation would suffer the penalties.

If the offender were an alien, he or she would be deported after imprisonment and payment of fine.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would be mandated to issue implementing rules and regulations.

The provincial government, in coordination with the DENR, would review all mining licenses or agreements and determine those to be terminated and those that may be allowed to continue until such time that the permits may allow.

Last week, the House approved two bills declaring Cagayan de Oro City and Catanduanes mining-free areas.

Another bill, making Eastern Samar another mining-free province, is awaiting third-reading approval.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said there are both legal and illegal miners in his province.

However, the proposed law would not automatically stop the two existing multibillion-peso mining projects in Nueva Vizcaya - the Didipio gold-copper project and the Runruno gold-molybdenum project - as they would still be subjected for review.

Nestled along the remote mountain border of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, the Didipio project is one of the first two large-scale mining projects approved during the Ramos administration under the 1995 Mining Act.

The Didipio venture commenced commercial operation in April last year following nearly two decades of exploration and construction activities.

The Runruno project in Quezon town is expected to start its commercial operation this year.

Their contractors - the Australian firm OceanGold Philippines Inc. for the Didipio project and the British-owned FCF Minerals for the Runruno project - are both holders of financial and technical assistance agreements with the government. - With Charlie Lagasca


Lawmaker's bill to make Oro 'mining-free zone'

By Anjo Bacarisas

Sun Star

8 February 2014

CAGAYAN de Oro will soon be a mining-free zone after Congress passed the bill filed by this city's Second District representative Rufus Rodriguez in its final reading without objection.

Rodriguez said last week the proposed legislation he filed, House Bill No. 45, went through the plenary unopposed.

"And last Monday, it (the bill) was approved on the third reading with the support of 293 lawmakers," said Rodriguez.

It was first passed on the committee on the natural resources and still no one objected to the bill.

He furthered that he had conversations with some of the senators like Teofisto Guingona III and he is optimistic that it will be approved at the Senate level and eventually gets signed by the president into law.

"There are no further obstacles and I see this will be approved in the Senate," Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, Lorelyn Dumaug, the 1st district chairman of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP), said the group is hopeful that the bill will be approved in the Senate.

She furthered that the approval of the Lower House is already a big thing.

Dumaug said CDP believes that the group stands for responsible mining, "but in areas where declaring a mining-free zone is a necessity, then we are in full support of it."

"I can see that declaring (Cagayan de Oro) and Iligan as mining-free zones is a necessity," said Dumaug.

Objective

The main reason why the bill was created is to prevent another Sendong-like calamity in the city.

"The objective was to protect the environment, and through that we can prevent the occurrence of another Sendong," Rodriguez said.

He added that the bill was also created to stop illegal small-mining operations in the city's hinterland areas.

Rodriguez cited the recent discoveries of mining operations in Cagayan de Oro's upland communities.

He added that mining in the city was abused resulting to the destruction of the ecology and one of its dangerous effects was Sendong.

Dumaug said the city needs this bill to become a law because the environment urgently needs rehabilitation as a proactive measure against calamities.

She said in the city's upstream rivers, the water is murky and it is not anymore normal.

Rodriguez and his brother Maximo Jr., the representative of Abante Mindanao (Abamin) party-list, authored House Bill 45 (HB 45).

HB 45 declares that: "It is the policy of the State to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology."

It added that it is the role of the State to "protect the people and the environment in Cagayan de Oro City from the adverse effects of mining."

Section 3 states that any person who violates any provisions of the Act shall be penalized with imprisonment of at least six years but not more than 12 years.

The violators will also be fined of at least P100,000 but not more than P500,000.

In cases where the mining firm is foreign, their local representatives like the manager, president, or its agent in the Philippines shall be held liable.

Livelihood

Dumaug said the CDP is aware that this bill will surely affect the livelihood of the people in the hinterland communities, especially those who are engaged in mining.

She said: "But if the government is really serious in rehabilitating the environment then they must find a way."

Prior to the proposal of the bill declaring the city as a mining-free zone, Rodriguez said a law has already been created to help the people in the hinterlands with their livelihood and reforestation.

Republic Act No. 10452 seeks to reforest some 3,000 hectares in the hinterlands of the city.

"When there's no mining, there's a way to take care of the livelihood of the people in the area," said Rodriguez.

He said the budget for reforestation is around P35 million that is now in the hands of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Rodriguez said the reforestation project would provide the people an option to get a livelihood than depend on mining work.

"So, while stopping mining this (reforestation) will help, people will have livelihood," said Rodriguez.

He added the administration of City Mayor Oscar Moreno is also planning to implement programs like livestock raising, handicraft and food production among others to aid people's livelihood.


Surigao gold mine still shuttered

By Anna Leah G. Estrada

Manila Standard

13 January 2014

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau denied the request of Greenstone Resources Corp., a unit of Red 5 Ltd. of Australia, to lift an order suspending the company's milling operation in Surigao del Norte province.

MGB director Leo Jasareno said the agency rejected the request of Greenstone after it failed to install remedial measures in its compromised tailings storage facility.

"The MGB ruled that the suspension order can be lifted only if a new tailings storage facility is constructed. With the milling operation suspended, the mining operation of Greenstone is effectively suspended as well," Jasareno said.

MGB earlier issued a cease-and-desist order against Greenstone due to a tension crack in its tailings storage facility no. 4 in Tubod, Surigao del Norte.

The MGB issued the CDO on the Siana gold mine in a letter sent to Greenstone president Gregory Charles Edwards on June 6 last year.

"Due to the imminent danger posed by the situation, Greenstone Resources Corp. is hereby ordered to cease and desist from undertaking gold ore mineral processing in the contract area under Mineral Production Sharing Agreement No. 184-2002-XIII until such time that remedial or corrective measures to restore the stability and integrity of TSF No.4 have been instituted," said Jasareno.

Jasareno added the corrective measures should be certified by a third-party expert and validated by the Environmental Management Bureau.

The MGB director also ordered the company to submit a report on the remedial measures within three days of the order and every week after until the stability of the TSF No. 4 was restored.

"The Siana Gold project covers both the Mainit and Tubod town but the TSF No. 4 is located in Tubod. At present, we still do not know the cause of the tension crack but the suspension of mineral processing operations serves as precautionary measure," said Jasareno.

"We issued the order to stop the impounding but so far there is still no penalty," he said.

The Siana Gold project includes an open pit operation and an underground mine, with ore treated through a conventional modern gravity and carbon-in-leach plant to produce gold dore.

Red 5, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, owns a majority interest in the project.

Data from Red 5's Web site showed the Siana gold project can produce a minimum of 849,000 ounces of gold at a cash cost of $400 per ounce over a 10-year life.


Medusa Mining reports fatality at Co-O underground mine

By Julie Crust

Proactive Investors

13 February 2014

Medusa Mining said a fatal accident happened yesterday at its Co-O underground mine in the Philippines.

A contract miner and two assistants were cleaning up around an ore pass on level 5 when a dislodged large rock hit one of the assistants, the company said, citing initial investigations.

The gold producer said it had notified all relevant government departments and was providing support services to the deceased's family.

It did not say whether operations at the mine had been suspended.


MICC approves modified mining revenue sharing scheme

by Bernie Magkilat

Manila Bulletin

20 January 2014

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), the inter-agency forum created under Executive Order 79, has approved a modified revenue sharing scheme that would ensure higher government tax take even during a period of revenue loss by a mining firm.

Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo, who is also a member of the Council, said that under the approved new revenue sharing scheme a mining firm's tax payments would be assessed based on a certain percentage of gross or a percentage of net income, whichever is higher. The government will also get its share on the mining company's extraordinary income, like during periods of high metal prices.

Under this proposal, even if the company incurs a loss the government is still assured of a predictable and equitable revenue collection.

"This revenue sharing scheme will ensure higher income for the government," Domingo told reporters in an interview.

In coming up with the revenue sharing scheme, Domingo said that mining firms have a clear understanding of the government position.

"The government owns the mineral resources so it must be compensated over and above the regular corporate income tax payments," Domingo explained.

Domingo further said that the agreed revenue sharing scheme would be closer to the current revenue sharing scheme between government and mining firms approved under the Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) than the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) scheme.

FTAA allows a 50-50 gross revenue sharing between the government and the mining firm. Under the FTAA a mining firm is not entitled to income tax holiday.

Mining firms approved under the MPSA currently pays two percent of gross plus payment of income tax on their net income, but they are registrable with the Board of Investments and are granted income tax incentives. The BOI, however, had decided since last year not to grant ITH anymore to mining firms.

This time, the new revenue sharing scheme is deemed applicable for both FTAA and MPSA mining contracts thereby level November when the surplus reached $4.66 billion.

The BSP will announce the full-year 2013 BOP figures today. BSP sources said that based on preliminary figures submitted to the Monetary Board, BOP surplus last year amounted to $5.1 billion.

Tetangco said the BOP surplus is higher than what they have originally conceptualized. "That bolsters our external liquidity position and what is nice about the surplus in the BOP is that it is emanating from the current account," he explained.

The Philippine's current account position is one of the country's strengths. The current account is part of the BOP tally, along with the capital account and the financial account.


Gov't to fasttrack measure on mining revenues sharing

By Louella D. Desiderio

The Philippine Star

24 February 2014

MANILA, Philippines - The government is looking to fasttrack the draft bill for the revenue sharing scheme of the mining industry, a cabinet official said.

"As soon as possible, we'd like to come up (with the draft bill) so we can lessen the anxiety of the industry. We don't want the industry to be anxious about it," Trade secretary Gregory Domingo told reporters.

He said the draft bill being crafted by the Environment, Finance and Trade departments, is close to completion with just one administrative matter left to be decided by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).

The MICC, a joint committee of the Economic Development Cluster and the Climate Change Cluster created by Executive Order 79 or the mining policy released in 2012, has approved in principle the revenue-sharing scheme which will provide the government a higher tax take from mining activities.

Domingo said under the approved scheme, mining firms will have to pay taxes based on a certain percentage of gross or net revenues, whichever is higher.

He said the government will also get a share when a mining firm gets extraordinary profit from its operations, like in times of high metal prices.

"It starts when their profit exceeds a certain level," he said.

At present, mining firms pay taxes depending on their contract with the government.

A Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement for mining requires 50-50 sharing of revenues between the firm and the government.

A Mineral Production Sharing Agreement meanwhile, specifies a two percent excise tax of gross sales of production, as well as regular corporate income tax, business tax and payments for indigenous people affected by the mining operations.

As for those operating in mineral reservation areas, an additional five percent royalty will have to be remitted to the government.

The mining industry has been waiting for the government's new mining revenue sharing scheme citing that such is necessary to decide on new investments here.

Without a new revenue sharing scheme for mining, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said earlier it would be difficult to get new investments in the country.


23 Chinese face charges for black sand mining

By Charlie Lagasca

The Philippine Star

26 January 2014

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines - The Department of Justice has recommended the filing of criminal charges against 23 Chinese nationals for alleged illegal extraction of black sand along the coastline of Aparri in Cagayan.

Rommel Baligod, regional state prosecutor, said they found probable cause to charge the foreign nationals, along with their three Filipino companions, for alleged theft of about 150 metric tons of black sand from the villages of Paddaya and Dodan in Aparri in August last year.

The resolution dated Jan. 6 reversed an earlier ruling of the Cagayan prosecutor's office, which dismissed the illegal mining charges filed against the respondents.

The provincial prosecutor's decision prompted the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in the region, which apprehended the suspects to elevate the case to the regional prosecutor's office in November last year.

The respondents were identified as Wang Wendong, Yang Yonglian, MaPeihua, Zhu Liren, Hou Linlin, Fu Yujun, Xiao Peibao, Li Wenyong, Li Liming, Jin Dejun, Li Laijie, Wang Chengqiang, Jiang Bin, Lin Quiang, Xu Jianjun, Jiang Bin, Lin Quing, Xi Jianjun, Jiang Nan, Zheng Feng, Wang Gongliang, Gao Dejun and Zhang Deliang, and their Filipino companions as Rebecca Gregorio, Atanacio Hipolito and Alejandro Fernandez.

They were charged with violation of Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995, particularly illegal extraction and disposition of minerals.

The three Filipinos were said to be among the officers of the Hua Xia Mining and Trading Corp. where the Chinese were working when they were arrested by joint operatives from the NBI and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

The respondents were allegedly caught constructing mineral processing plants and extracting magnetite sands near the seashore in the two Aparri villages.

Extraction of black sand has allegedly been going on for years in northern Cagayan coast amid opposition from the Church and anti-mining advocates, who claimed that such activities would expose the residents and the ecosystem to massive floods and erosions.

Black sand or magnetite is used as an additive in the manufacturing of concrete and steel products, magnets, paint, ink, paper, jewelry and cosmetics, making it a very lucrative commodity in foreign markets such as in China and Taiwan.

Besides Cagayan, magnetite extractions are also reportedly being undertaken in other parts of the country such as in the Ilocos region and Zambales as well as in the Visayas.

Recently, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) recommended to Malacanãng the suspension of all black sand mining operation in the country, citing adverse effects to the lives of coastal communities and marine resources.

Engineer Mario Ancheta, MGB director for Cagayan Valley, said that they would abide by President Aquino's decision on the matter.


14 Chinese nabbed in CamSur illegal mining site

By Dennis Carcamo

Philippine Star

7 February 2014

MANILA, Philippines - Authorities busted an operation of illegal black sand mining in Camarines Norte, arresting 14 Chinese and seizing around P12 million worth of minerals, heavy equipment, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said on Friday.

Based on a report to the PAOCC, last Thursday's raid followed two similar operations in Aparri, Cagayan where authorities dismantled three Chinese-operated illegal black sand mining companies and recovered around P25 million worth of minerals and heavy equipment.

Arrested during the Camarines Sur raid were Huan Hu Yu, Ji Zhi Shang, Li Zhi Cheng, Feng Nan, Wang Jin Gwei, Liu Yu Xi, Jia de Chen, Zhu Yu Bao, Wang You Wei, Zhang Xian Jun, Yuan De, Xu Zhi, Zhu Young Rui and Xu Xian Ming.

They were turned over to the custody of the Bureau of Immigration for processing shortly after the raid at the processing facility in Barangay Napaod, Labo, Camarines Norte, the report said.

Authorities swooped down on the black sand mining site around 6 p.m. on Thursday amid reports that illegal open-pit mining continues to exist in Labo, Camarines Norte despite a government ban.

Reports said that the National Bureau of Investigation is now looking into the involvement of some local government officials in the illegal mining operations in Luzon where residents have aired concern about flood, landslides and reduced fish catch as a result of the illegal mining.

Officials said that they have discovered that while the mining operations in the regions are covered by permits, the authorization is for ‘small-scale mining' only.

The raid at the processing facility owned by the Bohai Top International Mining Corporation resulted in the seizure of an estimated 500 metric tons of processed concentrates such as black sand, iron copper, silver and gold, seven backhoes; several bulldozers and three sports utility vehicles composed of a Toyota Fortuner (BHT 66); a Mitsubishi Montero Sport (UIL-618) and another SUV with plate no. CIDG-CIS.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has taken custody of the confiscated minerals and equipment pending the filing of criminal charges against the arrested suspects who are now at the Bureau of Immigration headquarters in Manila.

The NBI and the MGB said that some top local government officials have issued temporary permits to a certain Noni Besa of Bohai Top authorizing the company to mine in the area.

To date, the unauthorized miners have dug up an area about eight hectares in width and 300-feet in depth.


Black sand mining continues at night

Convoys of trucks transport magnetite to port under cover of darkness

By Melvin Gascon

Inquirer Northern Luzon

19 February 2014

GONZAGA, Philippines- At first glance, the processing plants that dot coastal communities in Cagayan province show no sign of activity, backing local officials' claim that black sand mining has stopped.

But as night falls, residents are roused from their sleep as heavy machinery starts running, and Dugo-San Vicente Road becomes busy with dump trucks bringing processed magnetite to Port Irene inside the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Sta. Ana town.

"Many people here, especially those living on the roadsides, have been deprived of sleep because the dump trucks, about 200 of them, run at night," said antimining advocate Esperlita Garcia.

Mining companies were using this new tack to evade detection by law enforcement agencies, mainly the National Bureau of Investigation, she said.

Since last year, the NBI has been raiding companies that operate illegally, seizing heavy equipment and arresting Chinese workers without valid working permits.

"The operators perhaps believe that they will not get the attention of residents if their operations are done at night. But that is impossible because people get awakened by the roar of the engines and the shaking of the ground," said Garcia, adviser of Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation (Gaepp).

A Malacañang-formed task force last year found that black sand extraction activities in Cagayan were being conducted by foreign companies, mainly Chinese, that hold permits issued either by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) or the provincial government.

Other firms operate through special agreements with local governments, like in the towns of Lal-lo, Camalaniugan and Aparri.

Mario Ancheta, acting MGB director for Cagayan Valley, said the government collected 2-percent excise tax, extraction fees of $6 per metric ton and other fees from black sand mining.

Last month, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council recommended to President Aquino a ban on black sand mining in the country and the prosecution of government officials conniving with Chinese companies. Malacañang has yet to act on the recommendations.

The Inquirer visited the areas last week and saw black sand processing start at dusk.

Residents said Chinese mining companies, with suspended or revoked permits, had resumed operations by forming new firms.

By 9 p.m., convoys of dump trucks take the highway for the 40-kilometer travel to Port Irene, where the black sand is unloaded for shipment overseas. The trips will go on until the following morning.

Local officials gave different explanations.

In Aparri town, Julius Catral, executive assistant to Mayor Shalimar Tumaru, said the black sand extraction activities were for the construction of a retaining wall to protect coastal communities from storm surges.

Catral said foreign companies had committed to build the wall at no cost to the government but in exchange for the processed magnetite.

Mayor Lloyd Antiporda, of Buguey town, said the black sand operations in his town had stopped and those with ongoing activities were only collecting their remaining stockpile.


The Philippines: Officials Keep Eye on Tanjay Black Sand Mining

Dredging Today

24 January 2014

The Social Action Center of the Diocese of Dumaguete is closely coordinating with authorities, government offices, the private sector and other stakeholders to stop the reported black sand mining in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

The move is in accordance with the common stand of the four dioceses of Negros Island, including Siquijor province, opposing all forms of mining, according to Fr. Burton Villarmente, director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Dumaguete.

Villarmente said that while it is being widely publicized by the local government of Tanjay City as a dredging project, he believes that this is just a cover-up of a more complex operation of mining for black sand or magnetite.

Fr. Villarmente on Thursday disclosed that he visited the area in Poblacion Barangay 4 recently to verify reports of operations by the contractor despite a cease-and-desist order issued by Governor Roel Degamo in the absence of a dredging permit.

The contractor, Sino-Italy Construction Philippines, Inc., had earlier claimed of having obtained the necessary requirements from government agencies such as the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) but it has yet to acquire a dredging permit from Capitol through the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB).

According to Fr. Villarmente, during his visit there, he spoke to some residents in the coastal barangay, particularly in the Tambacan area, the site where the contractor has erected its staging area, during which they raised their observations and concerns with him.


MGB-NBI team dismantles illegal black sand mining operation

By Czeriza Valencia

The Philippine Star

26 February 2014

MANILA, Philippines - A composite team of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has dismantled the remaining structure used by Huaxia Mining and Trading Corporation in its illegal magnetite operations in Cagayan province.

This was announced by the MGB yesterday on its website.

In December, the MGB Region II issued dismantling orders against four firms in the province for failing to remove all equipment, conveyances and structure in their plant site despite the issuance of stoppage orders to them.

The notices were served after the composite team discovered during joint operations from December 9 to 12 the continued illicit black sand mining operations of the four companies in the province.

The firms were given until Dec. 31, 2013 to voluntarily dismantle and clean their plants of the structures.

The three other companies: Well Resources Corporation, Lutra Incorporated, and Global Express have complied with the notice.

Magnetite sand is a component in making steel.

Many black sand miners in the Philippines export to smelters in China.

Late in 2013, the MGB deputized eight agents of the environmental protection division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to apprehend illegal miners that continue to operate despite the issuance of stoppage orders against them.

The agents were deputized to stop the illegal transport of minerals from illegal mining operations and file the appropriate charges against the operators.

The MGB earlier said that some companies continue to undertake clandestine operations despite the issuance of CDOs against them by courts in response to the complaints filed by MGB regional directors.

The MGB has said that the prevalence of illegal mining has become "an urgent concern" in many parts of the country.


Rebels attack Cagayan black sand mines

By Melvin Gascon

Inquirer Northern Luzon

16 February 2014

LAL-LO, Cagayan-The New People's Army (NPA) has taken responsibility for the Jan. 13 burning of vessels, heavy equipment and machinery belonging to a Chinese company that is conducting black sand mining operations along the Cagayan River.

In its Feb. 7 issue of Ang Bayan, the communist movement's official publication, the NPA said the attack was meant to punish mining firm San You Philippines Mining Trade Ltd. for activities that have "been detrimental to the people and the environment."

San You and other black sand mining companies operating in Cagayan province have committed a "long and filthy list of crimes" that, the statement said, has been "etched in the people's collective memory."

"[They] have been slowly killing entire [farming and fishing] communities because of the destruction wrought by the mining activities on the uplands, farms and fishing grounds from which the masses derive their livelihood," it said.

Police said about 50 armed men swooped down on the compound occupied by San You in Catayauan village, along the banks of the Cagayan River here.

They burned two barges, a backhoe, a payloader, a bulldozer, two dump trucks and the conveyors and separators used in the processing of black sand from the riverbed.

The NPA said its Henry Abraham Command carried out the attack as a form of revenge against foreign companies, which, it said, "have been stealing the province's natural wealth."

"They (foreign companies) have raked in gigantic profits from their plunder but have been paying their workers measly wages. Tons of ore are shipped directly to Taiwan, China and other countries for foreign profit, leaving in their wake pitted grounds and ruined rivers and riverbanks," the NPA said.

Records from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) showed that Mario Ancheta, acting MGB director for Cagayan Valley, approved a total of 24 mineral processing permits for sand and gravel and black sand extraction in the towns of Lal-lo, Peñablanca, Aparri, Abulug, Buguey, Gonzaga and Santa Ana, all in Cagayan.

The NPA also accused Cagayan officials, including mayors in towns where black sand is extracted, of "turning a blind eye" on these activities.

The Inquirer tried to seek former Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio and MGB's Ancheta for comment but they did not respond to text messages sent to their mobile phones.

Lal-lo Mayor Florante Pascual declined to issue a response, saying he has yet to read the group's statement.

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