MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Global action around Glencore's Tampakan Mine

Published by MAC on 2014-05-29
Source: Statements, Mindanao Examiner, Asian Correspondent

This 20th May saw Glencore Xstrata's AGM in Switzerland. Those concerned with the Tampakan mine marked the event by holding a protest calling for the release of an imprisoned opponent of the project. The Communist New Peoples Army also launched another attack on company infrastructure (which has been mostly abandoned, as the company has once again reduced its budget for the project, held up by numerous bureaucratic - and popular - delays).

War on Want, with various partners, have produced a short video about the Tampakan mine, which is linked to an online action demanding that Glencore Xstrata withdraw from the project in line with the wishes of the affected B’laan indigenous communities. There is an accompanying online action here:

While the AGM was happening the company constructing the coal-fired power station for the project has been accused of damaging protected coral.

Elsewhere in the Philippines, no one has been charged in connection with the destruction of portions of Mt. Patag, in Surigao, as a result of mining activities, despite the efforts of the local communities and politicians. In Davao, a bill to outlaw mining in the city (a huge land area, including much rural land) continues through the local legislative process.

Sand mining is still a controversial subject, particularly as seen in the conflict between local communities and politicians, who are tending to promote - and profit from - it. Philex's Padcal mine has yet to get agreement to fully re-open after its 2012 tailings spill.

Illegal Chinese gold miners have been arrested in Zamboanga del Sur. Some of the small-scale miners in the 'gold rush' area of Mt Diwata have promised to stop using mercury in their processing operations.

Finally, a pro-business lobby group has been 'inspecting' mines, in order to reward mines it regards as compliant with regulations, and the Philippine EITI process rolls on. It seems  much needs to be done to restore real credibility on the issue.

Environmental advocates call for release of imprisoned opponent of Tampakan mining project, pull-out of ‘investment defense' troops

Joint press release

20 May 2014

Environmental, indigenous people and rights activists under the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), and the Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF-JED) picketed the Department of National Defense (DND) today condemning the continuing streak of human rights violations in communities affected by the 10,000-hectare Tampakan Gold-Copper Project in Mindanao, in highlighting the recent illegal detention of anti-mining activist Romeo Rivera Jr.

"The illegal detention of Romeo Rivera, a co-convener of the Tampakan Panalipdan alliance opposing Glencore-Xstrata-SMI's Tampakan mining project, is the latest human rights abuse perpetrated by the various military and paramilitary forces securing one of the largest open-pit mines in the world. The Aquino administration should cease from its streak of militarization in defense of the Tampakan Project as the destructive and plunderous mine is clearly unwelcome to the various indigenous and grassroots communities it affects," said Leon Dulce, spokesperson of TF-JED and campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Streak of rights abuses in Tampakan

The 52 year-old Rivera was wrongfully accused by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through its spokesperson Capt. Alberto Caber, as the ‘notorious NPA front secretary Felix Armodia who operated in Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, and Tulunan, North Cotabato.' For this, he was falsely charged with slight illegal detention, robbery with violence, murder and murder with frustrated murder.

"Despite the violent streak of rights violations in Tampakan, which involved at least 10 cases of extrajudicial killings, Pres. Noynoy Aquino and his attack dogs in the AFP continue to protect the mine with paramilitary forces. The Aquino government is even using the mining executive order E.O. 79 to override a standing local environmental code in South Cotabato," noted Dulce.

Global action against Tampakan mining

The picket coincided with the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Glencore-Xstrata in Switzerland. The action was coordinated with a local mass mobilization led by the groups Tampakan Panalipdan and SOCSKSARGENDS Agenda in the SOCSKSARGEN region, and a solidarity action organized by War on Want and the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines in London where the company is stock exchange-listed.

"People across the world join the indigenous B'laan, farmers, and citizens in calling for the immediate stoppage of rights violations in the mining-affected communities and to hold accountable their perpetrators. We also call for the pull-out of the mining projects and the military and paramilitary troops that serve as its security to address the roots of the exploitation and neglect of the people and environment in Mindanao and the rest of the country," Dulce declared.

The groups encouraged the world public to add their voice to the people's calls by taking action online at where supporters can send petition letters to top officials of Glencore-Xstrata, telling them to withdraw from the Tampakan mining project and to pull out of the Philippines.


Reference: Leon Dulce - 0917 562 6824
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099

Rebels attack 2 mining companies in southern Philippines

By Edwin Espejo


19 May 2014

GENERAL SANTOS CITY - Communist rebels raided the field facilities of Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) in the town of Kiblawan, Davao del Sur early Monday morning, burning some 48 container vans which served as makeshift offices for the besieged mining company.

Almost simultaneously, another group of New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas disarmed the security guards of an exploration company reportedly owned by Consunji's DMCI Holdings in Barangay Salnaong in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, carting away 14 shotguns and assorted ammunition, according to rebel spokesman Ka Efren.

Ka Efren said the attacks were spearheaded by the rebels' Front 72 Mt Alip Command, said to be headed Ka Jing.

Some 80 NPA rebels reportedly joined the simultaneous attacks.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

"These attacks are part of our punitive actions against mining operations throughout the country," Ka Efren said in a telephone interview.

Col. Norman Flores, commanding officer of the Philippine Army's 1002nd Brigade, said the rebels were led by one Joan Casamurin alias Ka Alvin of the Front 72 sentro de grabidad (SDG).

He also confirmed the raid on SODACO, a subsidiary of DMCI, where the rebels likewise confiscated the sidearms of the security guards.

Col. Flores said the ‘forward office' of SMI in Kimlawis had already been abandoned.

The Army officer nevertheless ordered his troops to go after the rebels.

"This could be retaliation for the capture of Felix Armodia, alias Ka Jing, and to force the mining companies to give in to their extortion try," the Army officer said.

On Saturday, May 3, the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced the capture of Armodia, identified as the secretary of the NPA's Front 72.

But human rights group Karapatan said it was Romeo Rivera, not Armodia, who was "illegally arrested" by military intelligence operatives.

In a March 4 interview, Ka Efren also denied Ka Jing was captured by the military.

Ka Efren, spokesman for the Far South Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the CPP, said Armodia was "safe with our comrades in the guerrilla front."

Armodia led a daring NPA attack at the police headquarters in Matanao, Davao del Sur in March in which three policemen were killed.

Nine soldiers were also slain when a rebel blocking force detonated a land mine hitting an Army truck sent to reinforce the beleaguered policemen.

The SMI facilities in Kiblawan have largely been abandoned with a few employees left to guard the offices.

Last year SMI was forced to lay off more than 930, or 85 percent, of its workforce, including consultants and contractors, following the decision of Glencore-Xstrata to ‘downscale' its operations in the Philippines.

Glencore-Xstrata, which owns 62.5 percent of SMI, cited market uncertainties and the inability of the mining company to obtain the necessary government permits to proceed with its planned commercial production.

SMI had announced a 2019 production target but the refusal of the provincial government of South Cotabato to lift the ban on open pit mining hindered the company from getting the necessary business permit.

Glencore-Xstrata has been reportedly looking for a buyer for its stake in SMI.

The remaining 32.5 percent share of SMI is owned by Australia-based Indophil Resources NL.

NPA rebels claim attacks on mining firms in Southern Philippines

Mindanao Examiner

20 May 2014

DAVAO CITY - The communist rebel group New People's Army has claimed responsibility Tuesday for the daring attacks on two mining firms in the southern Philippines.

Dencio Madrigal, a spokesman for the NPA-Valentin Palamine Command, said the simultaneous attacks on Monday on Glencore-Xtrata SMI mining company and the South Davao Development Company Inc. (SODACO), a mining firm owned by the D.M. Consunji Inc. were all part of a tactical offensive to protect national patrimony and fight the military operations in eastern Mindanao.

He said rebel forces torched 48 container vans which were used as offices at the SMI pioneering camp at Sitio Gumatikura in the village of Kimlawis in Davao del Norte's Kiblawan town.

He added that an hour later, another group of NPA fighters garbed in "enemy uniforms" took control without firing a single shot of the SDDCI mining camp at Sitio Salnaong in Datal Blau village in Sultan Kudarat's Columbio town and seized 13 shotguns, four communication radios, one global navigation tool and a laptop.

"The latest NPA tactical offensive is part of the intensification of revolutionary armed struggle and counter-offensives to defeat the 10th Infantry Division-Eastern Mindanao Command's sustained military operations in Davao Del Sur, North Cotabato, South Cotabato and other areas."

"The punitive action is also a continuing enforcement of the policy of the People's Democratic Government to defend national patrimony by opposing operations of foreign large-scale mining companies like Glencore Xstrata-SMI (Sagittarius Mines, Inc.)," Madrigal said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said rebel forces will continue to attack large-scale mining firms that are responsible for open pit mining and other environmentally destructive operations.

The NPA has previously attacked TVI Resource Development Inc. in Zamboanga del Norte, whose operations is being opposed by indigenous tribesmen in the province [sic].

"Failure by the US-Aquino regime to guarantee the safety of the masses against floods, landslides and other disasters as a result of big mining operations has made the NPA's punitive actions more effective in truly protecting the environment."

"The regime's sweet policy towards environmental plunderers like Glencore and SDDCI and the acceleration of mining extraction in the country's remaining natural resources invigorate the NPA and the revolutionary movement to further intensify the people's war," he said.

The NPA has been waging a separatist war for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

Power plant under fire for destroying corals

By Edwin Espejo

Asian Correspondent

GENERAL SANTOS CITY - Scuba divers here said a wide patch of natural and artificially-grown corals have been destroyed due to the ongoing construction of an unloading jetty in Maasim, Sarangani where a coal-fired power plant will soon rise.

Tuna exporter and diver John Heitz said coral formations as big as sedans were dragged and uprooted by cables that are now anchoring four barges in Kamanga in Maasim, site of 100-megawatt coal fired power plant owned by the Alcantara's Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC).

Heitz said he already wrote Equipment Engineers Inc (EEI) one of the sub-contractors of the Korean-owned Dailem Philippines Inc, which won over the construction of the US$250-million project.

"(T)hat area is (home to) one of the best coral reefs I have seen in this part of Mindanao. In many ways it is better than the coral reef of the marine protected area in the Tinoto-Kamanga area," Heitz said in his letter.

The Tinoto Wall is one of the best and pristine dive spots in Mindanao, dropping to more than 1,500 meters on the floor of Sarangani Bay.

It is just a kilometer away from the construction site.

Heitz also claimed the contractors altered the design of the jetty.

"Instead of constructing the jetty at a depth that runs 14-meters parallel to the shore, they are now moving it 7 meters deep," the former US Peace Corps volunteer Heitz alleged.

Heitz said he and other dive enthusiasts have already deployed more than 130 concrete domes in the area.

SEC has likewise deployed several hundreds of similar artificial reef domes that were designed by Heitz and British diving buddy Chris Dearne.

These artificial reef domes are already teeming with coral and sponges and other marine lives.

SEC project manager Nicandro Fucoy told a local TV station here that they are not aware of the damage but promised to look into the allegations.

"I have instructed our people in the site to look into this matter," Fucoy told ABS-CBN's Jay Dayupay.

He said they are just waiting for the results of the assessment of divers they have sent to assess the area.

Fucoy also said they are willing to repair and compensate for whatever damage EEI may have caused in the course of the construction.

Heitz, a long-time resident here, also said they have scheduled another dive to assess the extent of the damage.

But he said it could be larger than the damage done by a US Navy mine sweeper that ran aground Tubbataha Reef in January last year.

Pictures provided by Heitz likewise showed trashes, reportedly coming from the barges, were dumped into the bottom of the area.

Retired fireman and former British soldier Chris Dearne described the corals to have been "pretty well smashed up by the company."

The Kamanga power plant is scheduled to go on commercial stream in the last quarter of 2015.

The power plant is designed to deliver 200 megawatts of electricity but only the first 100-MW plant id undergoing construction.

SEC and local power distributor South Cotabato II Elective Cooperative (Socoteco 2), have entered into a power sales agreement for the supply of 75 megawatts for the franchise.

The supply deal will help ease power supply shortage in the franchise area of Socoteco 2 which covers Sarangani, General Santos City and the towns of Polomolok and Tupi in South Cotabato.

Socoteco 2 has perennially experienced reduced power supply due to decreasing capacities in the Mindanao grid.

Tampakan project budget for 2014 down to $9M

By Mindanews

8 May 2014

KORONADAL CITY - Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) has cut its expenditure this year for the controversial Tampakan copper-gold project to around a third of its budget in 2013.

Australian firm Indophil Resources NL revealed in its first quarter report that funding for the Tampakan project's work plan for 2014 is less than $9 million or at least P396 million at the current exchange rate.

"The work plan continued to reduce expenditure, initiated last August, from a planned US$54 million 2013 budget down to an actual 2013 spend of US$33 million," Indophil said in a disclosure to the Australian bourse.

The work plan will focus on getting the approvals of the Philippine government for the Tampakan project to proceed to commercial stage, the report said.

Indophil owns 37.5 percent of the 40-percent controlling equity at SMI, with the 62.5 percent held by Glencore Xstrata plc.

The Tampakan project, touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold minefield in Southeast Asia, has been hampered by the open-pit mining ban imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato since 2010.

South Cotabato hosts the bulk of the minerals SMI plans to extract using open pit mining. The mines development site also straddles the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.

SMI has been granted a conditional environmental compliance certificate (ECC) in February 2013 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, after the agency twice rejected the application the previous year.

The Tampakan project was initially set for commercial operation in 2016 but in late 2012, SMI announced it was moving the target to 2019, a year before the project's Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) ends.

The national government granted the FTAA for the Tampakan project in 1995. It has a lifespan of 25 years and can be renewed for another 25 years.

In August 2013, SMI announced an operational downsizing that led to the phased retrenchment of close to 1,000 workers, retaining only at least 100 employees.

The company eventually sold a number of vehicles and office equipment as a result of the downsizing.

The feasibility study for the Tampakan project, which is staunchly opposed by the local Catholic Church and environmental groups primarily on concerns over the environment and food security, has been completed in April 2010.

Based on a company study, the Tampakan project has a 17 year-life-of mine that can annually produce 375,000 metric tons and 360,000 ounces of copper and gold, respectively.

It requires an estimated $5.9 billion, including a provision for a $900-million dedicated power station, to fully develop the Tampakan project, the company said.

Glencore may keep stake at Philippines' biggest copper-gold project -- Indophil


22 May 2014

MANILA - Glencore is likely to stay on as the majority holder of the Philippines' biggest copper-gold mining project to date.

In his report to shareholders, Indophil Resources NL chairman Brian Philips said the company's Swiss partner has announced the sale of the Las Bambas copper project in Peru to MMG Ltd, a Chinese-controlled but Australia-based company.

If completed, the sale of the Las Bambas project would mean that Glencore need not divest from the Tampakan copper-gold project in the Philippines.

The divestment is the primary condition set by China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) for clearing the merger between Glencore and Xstrata. Under the terms of Glencore's April 2013 agreement with MOFCOM, the mining company should pull out of the Tampakan project should divestment from the Las Bambas project not push through.

"In principle, we understand that on closure this divestment frees Glencore and therefore its interest in Tampakan from the MOFCOM conditions," Philips said.

He said the sale of Glencore's Las Bambas stake is scheduled for completion no later than the third quarter of this year. The planned divestment from Las Bambas comes after Glencore late last year announced the sale of its Frieda River Copper-Gold Project in Papua New Guineau to Australia-based PanAust Ltd.

The MOFCOM condition calls for the divestment by Glencore from "greenfield" projects, of which the Tampakan is the company's biggest.

Fact-finding mission of large mines

By Daxim L. Lucas

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5 May 2014

A pro-business lobby group will conduct a series of fact finding missions to study the environmental and social development commitments of large-scale mining operations.

In a statement, the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (Pbest) said it recently visited the biggest mining operations in the country as part of ongoing studies to develop a mining scorecard.

According to Pbest secretary general Lysander Castillo, the goal is to evaluate the compliance of legitimate mining companies to environmental regulations and their performance in terms of delivering on social development and rehabilitation commitments.

PBest's advocacy partners from the Asian Institute of Management-Ramon V. del Rosario, Sr. Center for Corporate Social Responsibility (AIM-RVR CCSR), Foundation for Economic Freedom and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Center for Environmental Studies (PUP-CES) joined the fact-finding mission that went to the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. and the nickel processing plant of Coral Bay Nickel Corp. in Palawan. Both are subsidiaries of Nickel Asia Corp.

The group toured mining facilities and interviewed officers and personnel on the nickel mining and processing operations, corporate social responsibility projects and safety and environmental protection practices.

Necylene Gacilo of AIM-RVR CCSR said the economic potential of mining had not been maximized due to the environmental damage caused by unacceptable mining practices.

According to officials of both Rio Tuba and Coral Bay, they have found ways to balance the benefits among the different stakeholders by planning operation and analyzing their environmental footprints. Through this, they are able to implement environmental solutions and social innovations in high risk areas.

"From an economic point of view, my argument has always been for prudent conservation rather than preservation at all costs, because that would imply no economic activity at all, and we all know that the mining industry is an important source of revenue for the Philippine government," FEF program officer Ranna Maih Pintor said. "The strongest impression I got from the trip was the scale of the mine rehabilitation project. Responsible mining is possible when there is a commitment from the management to really invest in it-technology, people and processes."

For her part, PUP-CES representative Chantal Sadaba said she saw large-scale mining as an activity that supports the concept of "environmental mining."

Pbest's Castillo said its partners were scheduled to visit Padcal Mine in Benguet and Carmen Copper mine in Toledo City, Cebu to understand the complex issues of mining and to validate policy reforms that they will actively push to government leaders.

"The mining scorecard we are developing will hopefully become the benchmark for responsible environmental stewardship that promotes the proper management of the country's mineral resources considered to be among the richest in the world," he said.

"We encourage large-scale mines to participate in this mission that we hope will enlighten the public and the government to adopt a developmental attitude when it comes to our natural resources and unleash economic benefits that have remained a potential for too long," Castillo said.

Pbest lead convenor Dindo Manhit said that since they started their advocacy sorties, they have been expanding their network of partners who believe that the private sector should play a leading role in addressing environmental issues native to their respective industries.

"We shall continue to expand our multi-sectoral approach in alliance building which we envision to be a credible, intelligent and formidable voice to help our government leaders in policy reforms that will integrate strict compliance to environmental regulations without stifling economic development," he said.

Miners behind mountain's destruction in Surigao Norte yet to be sued

By Roel Catoto


17 May 2014

SURIGAO CITY - No one has been charged in court in connection with the destruction of portions of Mt. Patag in Barangay Jubgan, San Francisco town as a result of mining activities there, residents said.

Romeo Gordonas, one of the residents, said the mining operation allegedly destroyed the watershed and polluted water bodies downstream.

Earlier, officials recommended the filing of criminal charges against those behind the mining operation for failure to seek a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached agencies.

They should be charged with violation of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, particularly theft of minerals, for extracting deposits without a valid permit, the document stated.

It was signed by Victor N. Cruje of the Provincial Environment and Management Office; Hernando S. Sulla of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office; and Francis Glenn N. Suante of the DENR's Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Region13.

Their recommendations came as a result of a fact-finding mission last April 25.

Gordonas identified the person supposedly taking charge of the mining operation, which started in Mt. Patag last March, as Engr. Alan Castillo, who could not be reached for comment.

Owing to the mining operation, 200 households in five puroks (sub-village) in Barangay Jubgan reportedly lost their access to potable water due to the alleged destruction of the watershed.

"The run-off water goes down to the streams and polluting the Bioborjan River and eventually goes down to the sea," Gordonas claimed.

Fisherfolk in the village and neighboring coastal barangays have been protesting the mining operation as it allegedly causes the river to become murky every time it rains.

Residents identified the alleged financier of the mining operation as Rosemarie Velez, who could not also be reached for comment.

Engr. Rudy De Juan, a representative of Velez, said they have already spent at least P10 million for the mining operation.

De Juan, who appeared last May 6 at a technical conference of the MGB-13, said they have compensated landowners whose agricultural crops were cut down or uprooted as a result of their operations.

Felixberto Sual, Barangay Jubgan chairperson, told MindaNews that Surimin Mining Corp. was also allegedly behind the mining activities in the area.

He claimed that James Matugas, younger brother of Surigao del Norte 1st District Rep. Francisco Matugas, allegedly helped convince landowners to sign a document for the firm to operate in the area.

Last May 5, the Sangguniang Bayan of San Francisco town passed a resolution demanding Surimin Mining to stop its mining operations in the area.

Vice Mayor Edgar Plaza said that Surimin Mining, based on "verified reports," has allegedly been extracting copper ore and has been cutting trees without the prior consent of local authorities and landowners.

But MGB-13 acting director Noli Arreza said the firm is still applying for an exploration permit.

He identified Elizabeth Matugas Abejo, a sister of Rep. Matugas and also a sister-in-law of Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Matugas, as the owner of Surimin Mining.

This reporter tried but failed to get the side of James Matugas and Elizabeth Matugas Abejo. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)

Bill seeks to declare Davao mining-free zone

Manila Bulletin

24 May 2014

Progressive and administrative solons are seeking the passage of a bill declaring Davao City as a mining free zone, believing that it would not only preserve the ecosystem, but would also address growing militarization in the region.

Gabriela Women's Party Representatives Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab filed House Bill 4348 seeking to ban all mining operations in Davao City.

They expressed hope that their measure would be acted upon "with reasonable dispatch" since during the 15th Congress, a similar bill was approved by the House of Representatives and was transmitted to the Senate.

HB 4348 slaps a penalty of imprisonment of six to twelve years and a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 at the court's discretion against the violators.

Erring corporation shall face a cancellation and permanent revocation of their license to operate, according to the bill.

The measure also provides that existing mining operations will be given two years to wind down and close operations upon the approval of the proposed Act.

"Making Davao City a mining free zone will help preserve our ecosystems and spare our people from the destructive effects of mining," Ilagan said.

She also noted that their measure would address the militarization in Davao, which recorded several cases of harassment, threats and intimidation, particularly in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Paquibato.

"The recent fact-finding missions held in several areas along Pantaron Range including Paquibato District in Davao City and Talaingod in Davao del Norte indicate that mining interests are behind military efforts to drive indigenous and Lumad communities away from their ancestral lands," the militant lawmaker said.

Ilocos Norte gives sand mining a chance

Philippine Daily Inquirer

14 May 2014

LAOAG CITY, Philippines-The official who led the provincial board of Ilocos Norte into banning black sand mining six months ago has softened his position.

On Monday, Board Member Joel Garcia sponsored a new resolution "rationalizing the position of the Ilocos Norte government on black sand mining."

Garcia's resolution also urged the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) "to rigorously enforce the provisions, policies and guidelines" of Executive Order No. 79 and Republic Act No. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995).

In October last year, the provincial board unanimously approved a resolution that banned black sand-mining operations in 21 towns and two cities of Ilocos Norte. Garcia authored the resolution.

When asked about his sudden change of mind, Garcia said: "Our laws, particularly RA 7942 and EO 79 (President Aquino's mining policy), provide clear-cut definitions of where not to mine, such as [areas] that may affect our critical watersheds and several protected areas."

He also acknowledged that the ban may result in "undue prejudice" to investors who have acquired valid mining permits, contracts or agreements with the government.

"It is not the intention of the Ilocos Norte government to injure the rights of persons or entities who are engaged in legitimate black sand-mining operations here," Garcia said.

"It is possible that there are [businessmen] who were granted contracts to engage in black sand mining and it would be unfair to them if we impose a total ban," he said.

Garcia's draft resolution was referred to the board's committee on environment.

The MGB website said two of the 104 approved mineral processing permits in the country are in Ilocos Norte and these involve magnetite, or black sand.

Skymark International Mining and Mineral Corp. was allowed to operate in Currimao town on July 21, 2010, and its permit will expire on July 7, 2015.

Fortune Allied Northern Philippines Inc. was granted a permit to mine magnetite sand in San Nicolas town from

Oct. 25, 2012, to Oct. 24, 2017.

The MGB has granted a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) for the extraction of feldspar and other associated deposits in Burgos town.

The project has been operated by Ferlind Dancel, a resident of Pasuquin town, since Dec. 14, 2005. The permit will expire in December 2030.

The MGB website said Altamina Exploration and Resources Inc. has been granted a financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA) covering 9,588.24 hectares in the towns of Currimao, Pinili and Badoc in Ilocos Norte; the towns of Magsingal, Sto. Domingo, San Vicente, Santa Catalina, Caoayan, Santa, Narvacan, Santa Maria, Sinait, Esteban, Santiago, Candon, San Juan and Cabugao, and Vigan City in Ilocos Sur province; and the towns of San Fabian, Mangaldan, Binmaley and Lingayen, and the cities of Alaminos and Dagupan in Pangasinan province. The project started on June 29, 2010.

MGB records said industrial sand and gravel permits had been issued to global sand exporter, Omnico Natural Resources Inc. (ONRI), from Oct. 5, 2011, to Oct. 4, 2016, which covered lands in the villages of San Antonio, San Lorenzo, San Miguel, San Marcos, Santo Tomas, San Felipe and San Antonio in Sarrat town near the Padsan River.

ONRI operates a sand-processing plant near the Padsan River in Sarrat, with a capacity of 3,500 metric tons of magnetite sand per day and an international conveyor port in Barangay (village) Gabut Norte in Badoc town. ONRI began exporting construction sand to Japan and Singapore in April 2009.

Colossal Mining Corp., represented by businessman Cedric Lee, was granted a permit on Aug. 7, 2007, to extract magnetite sand from 3,089.698 ha of offshore properties in Laoag City, and the Ilocos Norte towns of Bacarra and Paoay.

The MGB has approved Colossal's second renewal application for the permit, which will expire on April 18, 2015.

The MGB website said 86 of 158 applications for onshore and offshore magnetite mining in Ilocos region were in Ilocos Norte. Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon

Leyte townsfolk seek end to black sand mining but environment exec downplays gripes

By Lottie Salarda

6 May 2014

MCARTHUR, Leyte -- Residents of three villages in McArthur town, Leyte are demanding a stop to black sand mining in their community, citing the ill effects on their health and livelihoods, and saying their consent was never sought by the local government and other agencies.

But the officer-in-charge of the government agency overseeing mining in the region defended the extraction operations, saying people have no reason to complain about the operations that scoop up truckload upon truckload of magnetite sand to be laden onto barges and then shipped to China.

On April 22, Earth Day, the local organization "Unahin Lagi Natin ang Diyos" or UNLAD, staged a protest against the operations of RT Mining Corp. in Barangays Maya, Pongon and San Pedro.

An anti-mining banner strung at the entrance of Barangay San Pedro

The group also went on local radio to air their complaints, leading the firm to suspend its operations in Barangay Maya.There are fears the mining operations will expand to Barangays Liwayway and Romualdez. In Barangay Maya, more than 70 hectares of former rice fields have already been excavated. Many more have been simply abandoned.

UNLAD, with the Alyansa Tigil Mina, a broad coalition of nongovernmental organizations, people's organizations, church groups and academic institutions that challenge the government's aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the country, has also submitted a petition calling for an end to the black sand mining in McArthur.

UNLAD secretary Bernardita Morcilla, 67, told super typhoon Yolanda, which devastated Leyte last November, was literally the last straw for them."Binagyo na kami, tapos ganito pa ang mangyayari! Nawalan na nga kami ng isda, tinumba pa ni Yolanda yung mga nyog namin, tapos ito na naman kinukuha ang mga bigas namin! Saan nalang kami nito pupunta (We were lashed by the storm, and now this happens! We lost our fish, Yolanda toppled all our coconusts, and now this is taking away our rice! Where do we go from here)?" Morcilla said.

The extraction of black sand began in Barangay Pongon in 2009 and expanded into Barangay Maya last year despite the lack of any public consultation by the local government, residents said.

"Nasisira yung mga pananim namin dahil sa ‘yung tubig na dumadaloy galing sa minahan ay merong oil, namamatay ‘yung mga tanim namin. Maitim ‘yung tubig na lumalabas galing doon. Hindi na rin kami makapagtanim ng palay dahil namina na nila ‘yung mga palayan namin. Nawalan na kami ng hanapbuhay (Our farms have been damaged because the water from the mine contains oil, which kills our crops. The water flowing from there is black. We cannot plant rice anymore because they have mined our ricelands. We have lost our livelihoods)," farmer Thelma Palania of Barangay Maya told during a recent visit to the village.

"Sabi nila walang permit ‘yan sa barangay pero merong resolution ang munisipyo na pumapayag sa operasyon nilang ‘yan (They say there is no permit to mine from the barangay but there is a municipal resolution allowing their operations)," Palania said.

Unfortunately, this is not entirely accurate.

Barangay Maya councilman Nilo Cordero said the truth is, he is the only official of their village who opposes the mining.

"May pinapapirmahan sa akin ang kapitan, isang resolusyon na pinapayagan ang mga yan na magmina sa amin dito, pero hindi ko pinirmahan ‘yan dahil lahat ng mga ka-barangay ko ayaw nila dahil nasisira ‘yung pananim namin. Tapos, ‘yung resolusyon na ‘yun ay ‘yung dati pa, parang kinopya lang (Our barangay captain asked me to sign a resolution allowing mining here, but I refused to sign because all my constituents don't want it because it is destroying our farms. Besides, the resolution appeared to be recycled from an earlier one)," Cordero told

What is obvious is that the extraction in Barangay Maya is too close to the villagers' homes for comfort, literally at their doorsteps in fact.

Alfredo Cordero, 63, whose home is just a few steps away from where black sand is scooped up, said: "Simula ng araruhin ko ‘yung palayan ko, nagkasakit ako sa balat. Tingnan mo ‘yung paa ko, kakagaling lang n'yan. Ang tubig kasi na dumadaloy sa palayan ko ay parang may halong chemical at langis. Hindi na kami makapagtanim dahil namamatay ang mga ito. ‘Pag magpatuloy pa ito, maraming pamilya ang magugutom dahil wala na kaming sasakahin dahil sa salot na minang iyan (Since I began plowing my rice filed, I developed a skin disease. Look at my legs, they have just healed. It's because the water flowing through my rice farm seems mixed with chemicals and oil. We can no longer plant because our crops die. If this continues, many families will go hungry because we are unable to farm because of that plague of a mine)."

UNLAD traces its roots to a fish kill in Lake Bito, in Barangay Imelda, that coast hundreds of fishermen and fish pen owners their livelihoods.

"Nabuo ang grupo namin simula ng magkaroon ng malawakang fish kill sa Lake Bito sa Barangay Imelda kung saan 22 tons ng isda ang namatay. Mga sinungaling ‘yang taga MGB (Mines and Geosciences Board) na sabi walang kinalaman ang mining sa pagkamatay ng mga isda namin. Ay sus! eh bakit ‘yung medical abstract ng BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) ay may findings na merong oil and grease ‘yung tubig sa lake (Our group was formed after the major fish kill in Lake Bito in Barangay Imelda in which 22 tons of fish died. The MGB people are lying when they say mining had nothing to do with the deaths of our fish. Why did the medical abstract of BFAR say that there were findings of oil and grease in the lakewater)?" Morcilla said.

UNLAD scored an early, if hard-won victory in Barangay Pongon.

After submitting their complaints against mining to the DENR, Environment Management Bureau and the MGB, they finally found a sympathetic hearing with the Office of the Ombudsman, which ordered the indefinite suspension of operations in Pongon by Nicua Mining Corp.

But the black sand extraction simply transferred to San Pedro.

"‘Yung may ari ng RT Mining Corp. ay si Mr. Ching at Carmela Wang na may-ari ng Leyte Iron Sand Corporation, na naka-merge sa Strong Built Mining Corp. na nagmimina ngayon sa San Pedro (The owners of RT Mining Corp. are Mr. China and Carmela Wang who also own Leyte Iron Sand Corpoeration, which marged with StrongBuilt Mining Corp., which is now mining in San Pedro)," Morcilla pointed out.

This, say villagers in McArthur, is the extent of the mining firms' corporate social responsibility, a few iron sheets for a waiting shed.

The UNLAD leader has nothing but disdain for the regional office of the MGB, whose personnel, she says, has never visited them to check their situation since mining started in McArthur in 2009.

"Eh, hindi man lang sumilip ang mga ‘yan sa sitwasyon namin eh. Nu'ng nangyari ang fish kill, oo, pero mga tao ‘yun ng MGB sa national office, pero hindi dito (They haven't even taken a look at our situation. When the fish kill happened, yes, but those were people from the MGB national office, not here)," she said.

But Nonita Caguioa, officer-in-charge of the regional MGB's Mine Environment and Safety Division dismissed the McArthur residents' complaints as baseless and said there is no reason to stop the mining.

"Bakit naman hindi ongoing? Bakit naman hindi puwede? Wala namang problema ang StrongBuilt, compliant naman sila (Why shouldn't it be ongoing? Why shouldn't it be allowed? StrongBuilt has no problem, they are compliant)," she said.She claimed her office has not received any formal complaint from anti-mining groups and hinted that any complaint would face rough sailing.

"If ever meron kayong (complaint) ano ba talaga ang specific issue? Sabihin mo environment, ang environment kasi very broad. (If ever there is a complaint, what esactly si the specific issue? You say the environment, but the environment is very broad)," she said.

"Iilan ang mining operations sa Region 8, dalawa sa Eastern Samar, medium-scale sa Leyte, isa ‘yung StrongBuilt. Hindi naman siya large-scale, medium-scale lang ‘yan ang category. Malaki ‘yung area na approved, ‘yung may ECC (Environmental Compliance Certificate) is 1,000 (There are only a few mining operations in Region 8, two in Eastern Samar, medium-scale in Leyte, one of these is StrongBuilt. It is no large-scale, its category is only medium scale. The area approved is huge, 1,000 hectares are covered by an ECC is 1,000 hectares) but what they can mine in a year is less than 10 hectares," she noted.

StrongBuilt's contract with government is for 25 years.

In fact, according to Caguioa, the complaining villagers actually owe the mining firms a huge debt in the wake of Yolanda."Bakit, sino ba ang nag-clearing operations matapos ang bagyo (Why, who undertook clearing operations after the storm? It's the mining industry, not the government. Eh, hindi naman naniningil ang mining industry ‘diba (But they didn't charge anyone for their help did they)?" she pointed out.

She also brushed aside the Earth Day protest.

"Ay, natanong ko din ‘yan (I asked about that), they were not staging a protest. Actually, hindi naman sa San Pedro ‘yun eh, magkakaroon sana ng dialogue ‘yung kapitan pero sabi na i-reset muna (it wasn't even in San Pedro, there was supposed to be a dialogue with the barangaty captain but it was reset). It's not a rally, dialogue lang with the barangay officials ng Maya. ‘Yun lang ‘yun (it was just a dialogue with the barangay officials of Maya. That's that)," Caguioa said.

She also stressed that the mining operations in the three McArthur barangays have permits or that the reason for Nicua's suspension had anything to do with the villagers' complaints.

"Ang Nicua na-suspend ‘yan dahil sa intra-corporate problems aside from suspension dahil na rin sa ilang mga issues (Nicua was suspended because of intra-corporate problems as well as some other issues)," she said.

Caguioa also mocked UNLAD and Alyansa Tigil Mina's call for a moratorium on the back sand extraction and questioned the legitimacy of the latter.

"Anong moratorium? Anong basis ng moratorium? Alyansa Tigil Mina? Taga sa'n ‘yan? Registered ba ‘yan? Ano grounds nila (What moratorium? What is the basis of the moratorium? Alyansa Tigil Mina? Where is that from? Is is registered)?" she asked.

A banner erected among rice paddies by Alyansa Tigil Muna calls for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995

As for the fish kill, Caguioa said it was farfetched to blame mining, saying the mining area is one meter lower than the lake.

She said their office continues to accept mining applications, calling this normal because of the currently high price of metals.

But as they watch their rice crops die and their lands turn fallow, the farmers of McArthur are convinced that mining will be their death unless it is stopped.

"Wala daw violation at walang environment issues? Eh kung ganu'n, bakit sila nagka-multa ng P50,000 at bakit sila na-suspend ng Ombudsman? Hindi nakakatulong ang mga kumpanyang ‘yan, perhuwisyo lang ang dala nila sa kapaligiran at sa pangkabuhayan namin. Nagtataka din ako, ‘diba kasi ‘yung EO (Executive Order) 79 na pinirmahan ni Pangulong Aquino ay hindi pinapayagan na minahin ‘yung mga palayan? Pero bakit ito ‘yung ginagawa nila (No violations and no environmental issues? If that is so, why were they fined P50,000 and why were they suspended by the Ombudsman? Those companies cannot help us, all they bring to the environment and our livelihood is pestilence. I also wonder because, doesn't EO 79 that President Aquino sign not allow mining in rice lands? But why are they doing it here)?" said Morcilla.

Philex's Padcal operations still hanging

By May Anne Cacdac

Sun Star Baguio

11 May 2014

PHILEX Mining Corporation president and chief executive officer Eulalio Austin on Saturday said they continue to await the permanent lifting order of government, which will allow the mines company to resume full operations.

"We are going back to government right now and saying that we have completed the remediation program we have lined up," Austin told members of media, referring to works implemented after the August 1, 2012 incident when the tailings dam of Philex's Padcal operations leaked.

This as the exec stressed remediation programs implemented do not only ensure the short-term stability of its facilities but more importantly, long-term.

"Right now we can already say that the dam is already stable. But we want to put a rest to all doubts that the same incident will happen again," Austin said.

"[However], we heard the technical working group of the Minerals Industry Coordinating Council, which was created by President Benigno Aquino III to look into the performance of the mining industry, has already submitted a favorable report to the Bureau of Mines," he added.

The mines company is also awaiting the decision of the Pollution Adjudication Board on fines to be imposed on Philex.

"When the August 1, 2012 incident happened, we violated provisions of the Clean Water Act. According to law, a range of fines starting from P10,000 to P200,000 may be imposed on the company. Right now, we are at the upper range and we are negotiating for a lower fine," Austin said.

So far, Philex Mining Corporation has already spent P323 million on its remediation measures. But Austin estimates a total cost of P800 million to satisfy its long-term works.

Meanwhile, Philex Mining Corporation extended its aid to Baguio City adopting portions of the Burnham Park Fence initiated by Bishop Carlito Cenzon, including the arch fronting the Baguio Patriotic School.

In unveiling ceremonies Saturday morning, Austin stressed it is not only its host communities which Philex is willing to help but the Summer Capital as well.

8 Chinese miners arrested in Southern Philippines

Mindanao Examiner

21 May 2014

PAGADIAN CITY - Philippine authorities are holding 8 Chinese nationals who were arrested for illegal gold mining in the outskirts of Pagadian City in the southern province of Zamboanga del Sur.

Officials said a Filipino, who works as a cook for the foreigners, was also arrested by the police in the village of Lower Sibatang where authorities also seized the group's two backhoe excavators.

The foreigners were identified only by their aliases Xiaomin, 36; Dongdong, 39; Tangzihan, 25; Liu Gi Yi, 29; Chung Yong de, 27; Zhang Shu Kei, 24; Duan Guang Zong, 55; Lui Chang Yin, 50; and Filipina Jennilyn Ramirez, 25, a resident of Igang village in Masbate City.

Officials said the arrest of the foreigners came following a report by locals to authorities on the illegal activities of the Chinese men.

Police forces led by Superintendents Glenn Dulawan and Michael Palermo, and representatives from the Bureau of Immigration and provincial and local governments headed by Richard Ligan swooped down on the village and arrested the foreigners, who were all on tourist visa.

It was unknown if the Chinese Embassy was informed about the arrest.

Just recently, police also arrested 11 Chinese poachers who were intercepted off Hasa-Hasa Shoal also known as Half Moon Shoal near Palawan province. The Chinese fishermen, who were arrested May 6, are facing charges for violating the Philippine Fisheries Law. Filipino authorities recovered more than 500 live and dried turtles from the Chinese boat when it was intercepted.

Beijing has protested the arrest of the poachers and insisted the fishermen were well within the Chinese territory - Banyue Reef - its local name for the Hasa-Hasa Shoal. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine miners agree to stop mercury use

Eco-friendly gold mining techniques to be brought in

Jefrey Tupas -

23 May 2014

Davao City - Some 200 small-scale miners in the gold rush village of Mount Diwata in the Southern Philippines entered into an agreement with an environmental justice group on Thursday to end the use of mercury in mining.

Part of the deal calls for the group Ban Toxics!, in partnership with the UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, to open a mercury-free gold processing facility.

Eve Cubelo, artisanal and small-scale gold mining program manager of Ban Toxics!, said her group will introduce local miners to the 'Benguet Method', a gold mining approach used by inhabitants of the northern province of Benguet where borax, or sodium borate, are used to extract gold from ore instead of mercury.

"The method is so far the best alternative to the mining practice that involves mercury," said Cubelo, adding that they are still exploring other methods.

"Ultimately, we hope to totally eliminate the use of mercury in the small-scale mining industry," she told

Pedro Samillano, village chief of Mount Diwata, said the offer from Ban Toxics! is worth a try. "We want to take part in this change," he said.

Mount Diwata is known to have one of the largest gold deposits in the country. Government estimates that some $46 million worth of gold is produced in the area annually.

Mount Diwata, however, has gained global notoriety for the use of mercury.

"We believe the small-scale miners of Mount Diwata are willing to change if they were given the chance and the choice," said Richard Gutierrez, executive director of Ban Toxics!

"The facility we are putting up will give them the alternative they need to let go of mercury," he said.

The use of mercury in small-scale mining activities has been banned by the government since 2012, but miners continue to use it.

Some 70 metric tons of mercury is estimated to be discharged annually in the Philippines, according to data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Philippine EITI conducts 2nd national conference

Mines and Geosciences Bureau -

26 May 2014

The Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) conducted a two-day national conference designed to inform relevant government agencies, business sector and civil society organizations about the current efforts being undertaken by the PH-EITI Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) in EITI implementation.

The conference served as an opportunity for the PH-EITI MSG to present the milestones it has achieved for the past year, with particular focus on the finalization of the PH-EITI Reporting Template which is crucial to the first EITI report that the country is expected to publish by December 2014.

The event with the theme "Moving Forward with Transparency through the EITI" is the second national conference organized by the PH-EITI and first after the Philippines had been admitted as an EITI candidate country in May 2013.

The event had been conducted in collaboration with the World Bank, Open Government Partnership Philippines, Department of Interior and Local Government, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, and Bureau of Local Government and Finance.

The conference covered the topics on:

1) Global EITI Implementation;
2) Creating Impact in the Government;
3) Communicating the EITI;
4) Annual Activity Report;
5) Open Data Philippines;
6) Challenges in the Governance of EI in the Philippines;
7) Status of Implementation of Executive Order No. 79 (EO 79);
8) What makes a good EITI report;
9) Scope of the first EITI report;
10) Workshop Reporting Templates; and
11) Next Steps

Among the resource persons during the conference were: Mr. Woulter Biesterbos, Regional Director, EITI International; Hon. Alfredo Pires, Minister of Petroleum & Mineral Resources, Timor-Leste; Asst. Sec. Ma. Teresa S. Habitan, Department of Finance; Ms. Elisea "Bebet" G. Gozun; Mr. Elmer B. Billedo, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Mines and Geoscinces Bureau; Mr. Andrew Schloeffel, Senior Mining Specialist, Sustainable Energy, Oil Gas and Mining Unit, World Bank; Atty. Marie Gay Alessandra V. Ordenes, National Coordinator, PH-EITI; Pricewaterhouse Coopers; and Ms. Maria Meliza T. Tuba, Program Offices, PH-EITI Secretariat.

The conference was held on May 15-16, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria Hotel, Ortigas, Pasig City. Technical staff from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Mineral Economics and Publications Division attended the event.

The participation of the country in the EITI is an effort by the current administration under the EO 79 to improve transparency, accountability and governance in the mining sector.

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