Philippines: A year of mining dangerouslyPublished by MAC on 2016-01-04
Source: Philippine Star, Business World, Manila Times, PDI
As 2015 has drawn to a close in the Philippines, there may have been a Christmas ceasefire declared between the Communist New Peoples Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). But there has been precious little goodwill around ongoing conflicts - particularly those exacerbated by mining.
There were a number of armed attacks on mining companies before the ceasefire, leading the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to suspend Nickel Asia's operations in the Cagayan Valley region until the company "fixes its security measures and addresses environmental issues."
Following the Manilakbayan (Manila-based march for human rights - see Philippines: A climate of fear and destruction), thousands again marched from Davao del Sur to Koronadal City to protest the killings and rights abuses of indigenous peoples, linked to the increasing presence of extractive industries in Mindanao.
In the wake of last December's COP21 climate talks in Paris, one of the major ongoing violations relates to hurricane ‘Pablo’ survivors, facing military operations that allegedly are to clear the way for the entry of Agusan Petroleum onto their lands.
The country's major coal company Semirara (SMCP) has also been at the centre of more controversy after civil society groups questioned its position as a finalist in the “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)” category of the 2015 Platts Global Energy Awards.
At the national level the MGB conceded that metallic production during the first nine months of the year has dropped by 20%, primarily thanks to depressed commodity prices. The situation with regard to nickel is particularly of concern for the ministry and the miners, with a two year downward trend expected.
TVIRD have postponed their registering on the Philippine Stock Exchange, supposedly because of regulatory delays, although the above downturn cannot be helping their chances of a successful float.
Other individual companies having a tough time, include Red 5, which is accused by the local mayor of poisoning lake Mainit in Surigao del Norte; Lepanto Consolidated, which suffered sabotage to their power lines despite - or perhaps because of - an arbitration panel victory in their attempt to avoid seeking consent from local indigenous communities to renew their mining permit; and Baguio Gold- thanks to the death of two mine workers from gas poisoning inside a mining tunnel.
All in all as the new year comes in, the past one looks very like many previous ones. This will bring little cheer to many miners, nor those living close to their current or proposed operations.
Thousands March Against Killings of Indigenous Peoples in Philippine ‘Mining Capital’
by Hannibal Rhoades
19 December 2015
Last week, a 3,000 person-strong people’s caravan, or Lakbayan, formed on the island of Mindanao to protest the criminalization and murder of Indigenous Peoples and environmental defenders in the Philippines.
Uniting Indigenous Peoples, peasants, workers, faith groups, teachers and youth, the caravan marched for three days and over a hundred kilometers from Davao del Sur to Koronadal City under the banner ‘Resist imperialist plunder! Stop Lumad killings!’
Though the numbers reported vary, the organizers of the caravan say 144 indigenous people, environmental defenders and human rights activists have been the victims of extrajudicial killings during the reign of incumbent President Benigno Aquino.
In a statement released before the Lakbayan, the groups connected these killings and rights abuses to the increasing presence of the extractive industries in Mindanao and the Philippines.
“These human rights abuses glaringly persist in the ancestral domains where the big and foreign mining companies and agri-plantations operate,” they said.
These killings form part of a wider pattern. According to research by UK-based think tank Global Witness, two environmental defenders are killed every week as they work to protect their lands from being appropriated and exploited by mining companies and other industrial interests.
In recent years, the Philippines has become a hot spot for these killings. But, as is the case around the world, very few of those responsible for the murders of environmental defenders ever see a court of law. Around the world between 2002-2013, perpetrators of such killings were brought to justice in less than one percent of cases.
Stop Lumad Killings
On Sept. 1, 2015 educator Emerito Samarca and two Lumad leaders, Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo, who opposed large scale mining, were brutally murdered in Lianga, Mindanao. According to local reports, the men were killed in the heart of the community by members of the Maghat/Bagani paramilitary group, attached to the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Speaking at COP21 in Paris, Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator for Kalikasan PNE, described how the Armed Forces of the Philippines and affiliated paramilitaries are implicated in the terrorization of Indigenous and peasant peoples.
“The government is using militarization to protect corporate mining in the Philippines. They use the state military forces including paramilitaries to secure mining projects, quell the people’s resistance, and sow fear among the people, particularly those in mining-affected communities. Mining corporations, military and paramilitary groups employ violence such as harassment, illegal arrest and assassination, targeting anti-mining leaders”, he said.
The killings of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo are the latest in a spate of murders that has seen 56 Lumad leaders assassinated for protecting their lands and communities.
The ‘Lianga Massacre’, as it has become known, sparked international outrage and a day of solidarity and action that called on the Philippine Government to Stop Lumad killings. But the more diffuse consequences of the terror these kinds of killings are designed to produce have been underreported outside of the Philippines.
The relentless persecution of the Lumad People is creating a climate of terror in Mindanao that is profoundly impacting the freedom of the Lumads to live their lives freely.
In their statement before the three-day Lakbayan, organizing group Soscskargends Agenda revealed how the rising tide of violence in Mindanao has contributed to the internal displacement of up to 40,000 Lumads. The Lianga Massacre alone forced over 3,000 local Lumads to flee their isolated villages in Surigao del Sur to nearby towns, fearing for their lives.
The constant threat of violence in Mindanao and the panic migrations that result are having a particularly negative impact on Indigenous children. According to Soscskargends Agenda, at present 9 out of 10 Lumad children have no access to formal education and 87 Lumad schools are suffering from “various forms of military violence”.
“The 36th IB Philippine Army-Magahat/Bagani rampage at the ALCADEV School shows that the Aquino government has dropped all pretenses of adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments”, say the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
The Lakbayan gave the groups involved an opportunity to elevate these underrepresented issues and create a platform for several urgent demands.
The groups are calling upon the Philippine government, first and foremost, to stop the killing of Lumad people, protect indigenous and peasant schools in Mindanao, and pull the plug on the large scale multinational mining projects that they say are helping fuel poverty and violence in the Philippines.
The Resource Curse
Mindanao has become known as the ‘mining capital’ of the Philippines. The island is peppered with 500,000 hectares of mining concessions, an area almost eight times larger than Metro Manila, the National Capital Region of the Philippines. These concessions have overwhelmingly been granted to multinational corporations, many of which are registered in Global North nations such as Canada.
Other islands in the Philippines, estimated to be the sixth richest nation in the world in terms of mineral and metals, have experienced a similar expansion of large scale mining since the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942). The Act liberalized the country’s mining sector, promising economic growth and development through the exploitation of the country’s natural resources with the help of multinational corporations.
However, many Filipino civil society and indigenous groups argue that the liberalization of the mining sector has led to rising poverty, not prosperity, for Filipinos.
In a recent report*, Philippine people’s network Kalikasan PNE write that, based on data from the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue, between 1997 to 2013 less than 10% of mining revenues generated in the Philippines stayed in the country’s economy. According to their research, mining contributes only 0.7percent to Philippine GDP and provides just 0.7% of employment.
The significance of these figures is emphasized when the costs mining corporations inflict on ecosystems and local communities are considered. The presence of multinational mining corporations in the Philippines has unleashed a tidal wave of environmental destruction on local indigenous and rural communities, costing thousands of livelihoods, devastating ecosystems and sustainable local economies.
The Marcopper disaster at a mine the owned by Canadian multinational Placer Dome on the island of Marinduque provides a good example.
On March 24, 1996 a sealed mine tunnel connected to a pit containing 23 million metric tons of mine waste fractured, leaking between 2-3 million tons of the waste into the Boac River. Residents of twenty local villages were forced to leave their homes, some of which were totally inundated by the flash flood of mine waste.
Agricultural fields were also flooded and the rapid destruction of all aquatic life in the Boac, a key source of livelihoods for local fishing communities, led the Philippine government to declare the river dead. Local peoples had already suffered decades of chronic environmental pollution, loss of livelihoods and ill health as the result of mining.
Dozens of other mining disasters have occurred in the period since the Mining Act of 1995 was passed. “Simply put”, write the authors of Kalikasan’s report, “we have experienced two decades of mining plunder.”
Resistance and Militarization
The two decades since Mining Act of 1995 was signed into existence have also been characterized by escalating resistance efforts from Indigenous Peoples, peasants and their supporters at the local, national and international levels.
Indigenous Peoples in particular have taken a stand to defend their territories, even taking up arms to protect their lands. In some cases this sustained resistance has been successful in preventing mining projects going ahead.
In June 2015, the Indigenous B’laan people and Philippine environmental groups celebrated mining giant Glencore Xstrata’s decision to pull out of the highly contested Tampakan copper-gold mining project. The company had been attempting to get mining under way since taking ownership of the project in 2001, but met powerful resistance from the B’laan.
The Philippine government’s response to such strong, sustained and well organized resistance has been to increasingly militarize areas where multinationals are operating, as seen in the case of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo.
The organizers of the recent Lakbayan say the current Aquino government’s ‘vicious internal security doctrine’, Oplan Bayanihan, is being used as a cover to to attack the schools, communities and leaders of those who actively resist mining.
The stated aim of Oplan Bayanihan, a government counter insurgency program, is to squash the New People’s Army (NPA), a communist guerrilla group that has been warring with the Philippine government for over two decades. However, the powers contained in the plan are also used to criminalize anti-mining activists who threaten the interests of multinationals in regions like Mindanao.
These activists are frequently accused, by the government, military and paramilitaries, of being connected with the NPA. Branded as anti-government rebels their intimidation, incarceration and/or murder is effectively excused.
But even this systematic state repression is not stopping people standing up for their rights, says Bautista.
“We say more oppression breeds stronger resistance. Surely the government and corporations will continue to trample the rights of the indigenous people and other sectors. This will make Indigenous Peoples and ordinary people more united and their collective struggle stronger.”
Holding cultural events, forums and symbolic actions along the way, the recent Lakbayan paid testimony to this theory, as people voted with their feet and raised their voices for justice.
*The report, Kalibutan: Stories and lessons from the Filipino people’s struggle for the environment, is not yet available online. Visit Kalikasan PNE’s website to make enquiries and find out more.
AFP: Eastern Mindanao suffers P246-M losses from NPA atrocities
By Alexis Romero
30 December 2015
MANILA, Philippines - Businesses in Eastern Mindanao lost P246.12 million this year because of the atrocities of the communist group New People’s Army (NPA), a military official said Wednesday.
Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Cpt. Albert Caber said among the businesses affected were construction companies, logging concessions, mining firms and plantations in Surigao del Sur, Compostela Valley and Sarangani.
He said the violent incidents involving the communist rebels include the seven raids against Dole plantations and the attack on the Apex mining site. Military officials said the attacks are related to the NPA’s extortion activities.
The cost of damage for this year was slightly lower than the P300-million recorded in 2014 but way higher than the P30-million posted in 2013. The figures for 2013 and 2014 were based on the information relayed to the media last year by then Eastern Mindanao Command chief Aurelio Baladad
The amount of damage was higher in the second half of 2015. From P34.71 million in the first quarter, the figure went down slightly to P34.58 million in the second quarter but jumped to P92.72 million in the third quarter. The cost of damage totaled P84.11 million in the fourth quarter.
Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero said the NPA attacks have hampered development and have brought hardships to workers of affected companies.
“If the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front) is sincere about peace and promoting the people’s interest, then they should immediately desist from attacking development projects and legitimate business that serve the interests of and provide gainful employment to our people,” Guerrero said.
Caber said the Eastern Mindanao Command has directed its units to enhance the security of vital industries, projects and businesses in their respective areas.
Troops were also instructed to coordinate with the local police, local governments and the security officers of businesses to prevent untoward incidents.
“The Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) anticipates a rise in extortion activities especially with the numerous development projects being implemented in the region and with the approaching election campaign season,” Caber said.
“The EastMinCom is therefore appealing to the general public to work closely with security and law enforcement agencies to put a stop to the extortion by the NPA,” he added.
‘Pablo’ survivors that Aquino shared at COP 21 now displaced by militarization in Compostela Valley
Kalikasan PNE press release
4 December 2015
As President Benigno Simeon Aquino III related the devastation brought about by the 2012 typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) before world leaders during his speech at the United Nations 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) climate talks, around 200 survivors of the deadly storm were evacuating from the intensifying militarization of their rural communities and ancestral lands.
“How cruel of Pres. Aquino that while he was pitching to COP 21 delegates the tale of his government’s so-called ‘innovations’ in response to Typhoon Pablo, ‘Pablo’ survivors were being militarized by state forces and forced to evacuate from their lands. ‘Pablo’ survivors who have yet to recover from the deadly typhoon now face military operations aiming to clear the way for the entry of large-scale miner Agusan Petroleum,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
In his COP 21 speech, Pres. Aquino said, “After typhoon Bopha in 2012, I had the opportunity to conduct aerial assessments of provinces where coconuts are the main source of livelihood. As far as the eye could see, not a tree was left standing. I note that it takes 5 to 7 years for a coconut tree to grow to maturity. What will the people do to survive in the meantime? We had to innovate by promoting intercropping, to ensure that communities will have other sources of livelihood to sustain our farmers until the new coconut trees reach maturity.”
Reports indicate that around 200 Lumads and other peasants, all ‘Pablo’ survivors, were now evacuees (bakwit) from the municipality of Compostela. They are now spending the anniversary of Typhoon Pablo in a makeshift refugee camp at Davao City to flee the occupation of homes by military troops last November 23.
This was the culmination of a series of human rights violations since Lumad and other peasants under the Compostela Farmers Association staged a people’s barricade against the entry of the Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation (Agpet).
“The Lumad of Compostela have long opposed the attempts of Agpet to explore their ancestral lands for gold, knowing full well destructive mining operations would worsen their vulnerabilities and amplify the natural hazards they face. For rejecting the threats of environmental disaster, the Aquino government gave Comvaleños the disaster of militarization,” said Dulce.
Agusan Petroleum and Mieneral Corporation is a subsidiary of the Cojuangco-owned San Miguel Corporation, which covers 12,444 hectares in Compostela Town, are within the ancestral domains of the Mandaya and Mangwanon Lumad tribes.
Organizers of the Manilakbayan (Manila journey) of some 700 Lumads last month estimated that more than 40,000 indigenous people in Mindanao have been displaced to date by the interlinked problems of policies on plunder and militarization.
“We call on the world leaders in COP 21 to bear witness and condemn the Aquino government’s militarization of climate-impacted communities like Compostela. It is proof that the global climate protocol under negotiation should hear the voice of climate refugees such as Filipino disaster survivors. The new climate agreement should also take decisive action against imperialist plunder and pollution as the root of the global climate, environmental, and social crises,” ended Dulce.
Kalikasan also called for immediate support to the Compostela bakwits such as food, water, temporary shelter materials, and other basic necessities while they are refuged in Davao, as well as an immediate independent investigation into the militarization of the Pablo survivors’ communities.#
Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: +63 (2) 433 0184 | E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net
Philippine rebels declare truce
15 December 2015
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The communist rebel group New People’s Army have declared a 12-day unilateral truce in the Philippines to allow its fighters to be with their family during the Christmas holiday.
Rebels have orders to halt attacks on military and police targets, including construction and mining sites, but they still maintain a high level of alertness as government forces continue its patrol in areas where the NPA is actively operating.
“The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines hereby declares to all commands and units of the New People’s Army and the people’s militias a ceasefire order that will take effect from 23 December 2015 to 03 January 2016.”
“This ceasefire order is being issued in solidarity with the Filipino people’s traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year holidays. This will also enable the revolutionary forces to carry out mass assemblies and public demonstrations to mark the 47th anniversary of the CPP and celebrate revolutionary victories of the past year,” the rebel’s political wing, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, said.
The rebels have been fighting for a separate Maoist state for many decades now.
Just this year, communist rebels accused presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles of muddling efforts to restart stalled peace negotiations with the Aquino government.
Daniel Ibarra, a spokesman for the NPA, said Deles is trying to scuttle the resumption of the talks by peddling lies and black propaganda against the rebel group. He said Deles has strongly accused the NPA of murdering First Lieutenant Ronald Bautista, Private First Class Albert Amor and militiaman Renel Baluca during an ambush in December last year in Compostela Valley’s Mabini town and breaking a yuletide cease-fire.
“She peddled such a falsehood to discredit the revolutionary movement in an attempt to scuttle the resumption of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations and further muddle the substantive issues that should be resolved in the peace talks,” he said.
He said the ambush was a legitimate military action in retaliation to the long list of human rights violations by the military. “It is a legitimate politico-military operation by the masses that have long suffered and bore the brunt of fascism and economic dislocation as a result of foreign large-scale mining,” he said.
Ibarra warned that NPA rebels would launch more attacks against government troops who are acting as private armies of foreign and large-scale mining operators in the region.
Government peace talks with the NPA collapsed in 2004 after rebels accused then President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners in the country and the removal of the terrorist tag on the Communist Party of the Philippines and its political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the NPA.
Manila also suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees after the peace talks failed. (Mindanao Examiner)
‘C. Valley mining firms lack security’
By Victor Martin
The Philippine Star
22 December 2015
TUGUEGARAO CITY – Officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) have expressed alarm over the apparent lack of security personnel in mining companies in the Cagayan Valley region.
MGB regional director Mario Ancheta made the statement over the weekend following a recent attack on one of the companies, which resulted in the burning of millions of pesos worth of property.
Ancheta said heavy equipment and facilities owned by Nickel Asia Co. in Dinapigue, Isabela were torched by alleged members of the New People’s Army.
Maj. Gen. Lysander Suerte, chief of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division (5ID), said more than 30 NPA rebels raided the mining compound.
Suerte said the rebels took away the security guards’ firearms.
“Rebels have been burning equipment whenever companies do not give in to their demands,” Suerte said.
Ancheta said he has asked the 5ID based in Gamu, Isabela to help secure the region’s mining industry, particularly in Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya.
“We have seen the need for the military to augment the security personnel of these mining companies,” he said.
There are three major companies engaged in gold, copper and nickel mining in the region. These are the OceanaGold Corp. in Didipio village at the boundary of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya, the FCF Minerals Corp. in Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya and the Nickel Asia Co.
Ancheta said he suspended Nickel Asia’s operations until after the company fixes its security measures and addresses environmental issues.
Rewarding secrecy and ineptitude
6 December 2015
There is some disturbing news in the world of mining. The Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) is a finalist in the “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)” category of the 2015 Platts Global Energy Awards.
According to Platts Global Energy Awards’ Web site, the Corporate Social Responsibility Award will recognize the organization that best demonstrates leadership, commitment to action and real-world impacts from across its business. It goes on to say that the judges will seek a high-performing organization that has evidenced its positive influence on surrounding communities, promotes teamwork toward sustainable, long-term impacts and encourages active employee participation beyond financial contributions.
With these high standards, it is difficult to imagine how a company like SMPC be considered for the award. The core idea of corporate social responsibility is the commitment to go beyond the company bottom line and consider the positive impacts that a company can contribute to social change. Socially responsible companies exemplify genuine commitment to have positive real world impact.
SMPC prides itself in promoting Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Principles of Corporate Governance globally accepted by policy makers, investors, and other stakeholders. On its Web site, it says that “Our corporate governance framework aims to nurture a culture of ethical conduct, optimum performance, transparency and accountability across our organization and subsidiaries.” It goes on to say that “Our Company commits to a regime of open disclosure and transparency of material information regarding financial performance, ownership and business updates.”
On the ground, however, SMPC operates differently.
SMPC is responsible for more than 90% of coal production in the Philippines yet it has not demonstrated any commitment to transparency and accountability. SMPC is a significant industry player in coal production but it refused to participate in the Philippines’ implementation of Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). EITI is the global standard on transparency and accountability in the extractive sector advocated by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Petroleum Association of the Philippines and Bantay Kita-Publish What You Pay Philippines. The Philippines is applying to be a compliant country. The implementation of EITI is an official policy of the government under Executive Order Nos. 79 and 147 of President Benigno Aquino III. Its refusal to participate has a significant effect on transparency and accountability of the sector and leaves a huge hole in the Philippines’ report that most certainly will doom the application of the Philippines as an EITI compliant country.
SMPC gave the following reasons for not participating in EITI:
1. SMPC formerly Semirara Mining Corp., is a listed company in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and as such, all financial reports are readily available and accessible through the PSE, SEC and our Company Web site.
2. Should SMPC participate as the only company in the coal mining sector, the publication and dissemination of all its payments to the Philippine government will put the company at the forefront, posing a risk in terms of maintaining its cost and price competitiveness among its peers in the region, especially with the impending Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration in 2015;
3. The incentives granted to coal operators under its Coal Operating Contract, by virtue of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 972, might be construed as a “subsidy” per definition of the World Trade Organization. A countervailing measure on subsidized imports by a country might be applied by a member country if they found that coal exported by Semirara Mining Corp. earned benefit from the “subsidy”;
4. The cost behavior of coal mining operations is highly dependent on stripping ratio, which we expect to be variable all throughout the life of the mine. Since tax payments to the government is a factor of revenue and cost, disclosure of tax payments from period to period may vary significantly, primarily because of the stripping ratio which may be high or low and yet generate the same quantity of coal produced;
5. Given coal price index to be constant, selling the same quantity of coal may and/or not give us the same level of revenue from period to period because coal price is also dictated by quality of the coal extracted from period to period;
6. Any discrepancy between the figures reported by the concerned government agency and the that reported by the participating entity entails, reconciliation, any unexplained variance published may draw negative connotations from the public at large which may lead to reputational risk;
7. The tax information and other payments to the government that maybe disseminated through the publication of country EITI report may draw different interpretation by different stakeholder groups which is already beyond our control and may have an impact on the share prices of the company.
To summarize, disclosing EITI data including taxes paid and incentives received from the government will hurt the company’s profitability and competitiveness. The incentives they are getting from the government might be construed as a subsidy. This is what SMPC does not want to tell us.
Under PD 972, coal companies can claim as much as 90% of their gross revenue as recoverable cost. Of the remaining 10%, 7% goes to the company as “basic fees” and “special allowance” for being a government contractor. The remaining 3% goes to the government as its share from the extraction of its national wealth. However, SMPC also includes the 3% government share as part of its operating expense. This is horrendous! If we are talking about unfair government share from the extraction of national wealth, this is it. All these benefits despite dirty coal and its contribution to climate change.
In its letter, the company is already anticipating some discrepancies in their payment to government that may not be explained despite reconciliation. What can be in SMPC’s financial books that even a top accounting firm like PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is doing the EITI reconciliation, will not be able to explain. This should already make us, especially the Department of Energy, suspicious.
However, despite the threat to the Philippines’ compliance to EITI, the Department of Energy has not lifted a finger to make SMPC comply with EITI. And this is what’s puzzling. EITI is a national policy. And SMPC is a contractor of the government.
How difficult is it to require a contractor of the government to publicly disclose its payments and fees to the public? How difficult can it be to disclose the amount of coal it extracted? Are transparency and accountability not a minimum requirement for government contractors? If not, then I am not surprised why there is so much corruption in this country.
There are other issues that should be examined with regard to SMPC’s performance as a corporation.
SMPC is under investigation by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights for possible human rights abuses related to displacement of residents.
SMPC has been involved in issues of displacement without consultation and explanation to residents. Several homes were bulldozed using the company’s heavy equipment despite protests. The current dairy farm project that is the basis for the nomination of SMPC to the Platts Global Energy Awards is currently a source of conflict in the community and is currently being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights. Semirara Mining and Power Corp. is a subject of a resolution in the House of Representatives for possible workplace health and safety violations. The company’s operation resulted in the death of 14 mine workers and disappearance of five more in a little over two years.
Filipinos stand by their own especially if there is international recognition for deserving enterprises.
Unfortunately, Semirara Mining and Power Corp.’s continued refusal to participate in the global initiatives of transparency and accountability, and its poor record of protecting human rights does not make worthy of the accolades it bestows upon itself, and by any reputable award giving body.
Giving the company the CSR award will be a mockery of what the Platts Global Energy Awards stand for. The judges of the Platts Global Energy Awards should be more critical in its assessment of the company and its CSR project. It should be able to look beyond promotional materials and company statements and see what kind of company Semirara Mining and Power Corp. really is.
Cielo Magno is the national coordinator of Bantay Kita-Publish What You Pay Philippines. She is a member of the multistakeholder group of Philippine EITI and the global council of Publish What You Pay. She is also a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms.
Case against Semirara dismissed
22 December 2015
In a disclosure to the stock exchange, SMPC said it received the court order granting the company’s motion to dismiss a case filed by Power and Synergy, Inc. (PSI) for fraudulent acts involving a consultancy agreement.
SMPC said the ruling was issued in view of PSI’s non-compliance with a directive to pay the correct docket fees, or the sum of money charged by a court for placing a case on its calendar.
SMPC quoted the court order as saying that it found the company’s motion to dismiss as “meritorious” and was thus granted.
In a case filed with the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 97, PSI had alleged fraud against the company, its directors and officers and asked the court that they “jointly and severally perform and comply with the terms and conditions” in the consultancy agreement.
SMPC said PSI was claiming a success fee of P1.3 billion due to the increase in coal volume sold to the National Power Corp. (NPC) by the end of 2010.
The bulk of the SMPC’s revenue streams was historically from then NPC Calaca Plants. It has since diversified its market base.
“On June 2, 2010, SMPC moved for the dismissal for lack of jurisdiction and improper venue in so far as other individual defendants are concerned, and the complaint states no cause of action,” the company said in the disclosure.
The court then required PSI to pay the correct docket fees, but PSI moved for reconsideration, which was later denied.
On Aug. 22, 2014, the company moved for the dismissal of the case for PSI’s failure to comply with the order to pay the docket fees. No action has been taken by the court on the motion -- until the order dated Oct. 1, 2015, which was in SMPC’s favor.
Shares of SMPC closed 0.90% or P1.20 lower at P132.40 apiece on Tuesday trading. -- Victor V. Saulon
Philippine bishops take stand against use of fossil fuels
Prelates oppose proposed opening and expansion of coal plants
18 December 2015
Manila, Philippines - Catholic church leaders in the Philippines have made clear their stand against the use of dirty fuel in a statement issued in the wake of the Paris Conference on Climate Change.
"The church will oppose the opening of new coal-fired power plants and advocates the denial of government permits and licenses to coal mines," read a statement released by the bishops Dec. 18.
There are 14 coal-fired power plants operating in the Philippines, accounting for 37 percent of the country's total power generation mix. At least 18 coal plant-constructions and expansions are in the pipeline.
The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said President Benigno Aquino has approved the building of 59 coal power plants and has issued 118 coal-mining permits in the past five years.
Environmental activists said coal plants could produce an estimated 60 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Philippine bishops' conference, reiterated an earlier pledge made by the bishops that the church "will do its share" in protecting the environment.
The church leader called on all Filipinos "to make local threats” to global warming and climate change “a matter of community discernment."
Archbishop Villegas said actions in response to threats to the environment should also be "a matter of community resolve."
In their statement, the bishops urged priests and church workers to limit the number of vehicles, use of electricity, water, and even "laudable livelihood efforts that nevertheless pose a threat to the environment."
Philippine environmental activists called for a global coal moratorium during the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, held in parallel with the U.N. climate change conference in Paris early this month.
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, said a moratorium on coal mining in Southeast Asia will keep 19 billion tons of coal under the ground and preserve millions of hectares of forests.
In their statement, the bishops said "the right to a healthful ecology is a human right and must both be advocated and defended with the determination by which we stand by other human rights."
"The fact cannot be overstressed: It is often the case that the poor pay the price of the prosperity of the rich," said the bishops.
Metallic Production Value Suffers Deficit in Q3 2015
28 December 2015
Total metallic production value suffered a 20% deficit during the first three quarters of this year, compared to the same period last year, from PhP107.24 billion in 2014 to PhP85.78 billion this year, a PhP21.46 billion shortfall. The soft metal prices led to the sluggish performance of the metallic minerals industry.
The world metal prices of gold, silver, copper and nickel remained lackluster during the period. The nine-month averages for gold and silver stood at $1,180.13 per troy oz and $16.03 per troy oz, respectively. The average price of gold fell by 8.43%, from $1,288.73 per troy oz to $1,180.13 per troy oz, a difference of $108.6 per troy oz. Similarly, silver slipped by 19.64%, from $19.95 per troy oz to $16.03 per troy oz. Precious metals analysts believe that gold will fall back below the $1,100 per ounce mark before the end of 2015.
Nickel and copper prices, likewise, went down by 26.64% and 17.89%, respectively. Nickel price tumbled from $7.77 per lb to only $5.70 per lb, while copper from $3.13 per lb to $2.57 per lb. The poor base metal price during the year was brought about by the listless world economic growth and slowdown in the Chinese economy.
In terms of percentage contribution to the total production value, nickel direct shipping ore and mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide outpaced the others, accounting for 52.43% or PhP44.97 billion, followed by gold with 30.17%, or PhP25.88 billion. Copper, on the other hand, shared 16.63%, or PhP14.26 billion, while the remaining 0.77%, or PhP0.66 billion, came from the aggregate values of silver, chromite and iron ore.
Due to the continued decrease in nickel price and lower demand for nickel ore by China, most of the country's nickel producers curtailed their respective mine production thereby resulting to the 38% fall in the overall production value from PhP51.58 billion to PhP32.13 billion, a difference of PhP19.44 billion. Notwithstanding the present situation, four new nickel producers entered the production scene, namely:
The said new entrants accounted for 2,345,855 dry metric tons of nickel ore during the nine-month period, with estimated value of PhP2.52 billion.
The red metal, likewise, was under the rafters with both production volume and value suffering setbacks of 6% and 12%, respectively; from 263,359 dry metric tons worth PhP16.17 billion to 248,593 dry metrics tons worth PhP14.26 billion. The absence of mining operation at the Lutopan Mining Area of Carmen Copper Corporation in Toledo, Cebu starting March 2015 was the major factor for this anemic performance. Momentarily, mining activities of Carmen Copper Corporation was only at the Carmen Mining Area.
On a positive note, the precious metals gold and silver both exhibited growth during the nine-month period. The yellow metal enjoyed a 19% increase in volume, from 12,996 kilograms to 15,485 kilograms, an improvement of 2,489 kilograms. Correspondingly, the white metal displayed a 34% increase from 16,433 kilograms to 21,974 kilograms, or a 5,541 kilograms upsurge. The major players for the growth were the Didipio Copper-Gold Project, Masbate Gold Project, and Apex Maco Operation. Even as economic slowdown continues to persevere around the globe, gold and silver will remain the preferred investment haven in times of economic uncertainty.
LEO L. JASARENO
January to September metals output down by 20%
by Jonathan L. Mayuga
25 December 2015
TOTAL metallic production during the first nine months of the year dropped by 20 percent, as depressed price of gold, silver, copper and nickel prompted mining companies to slow down operation.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) reported that total metallic production from January to September went down from P107.24 billion in 2014 to P85.78 billion this year, recording a P21.46-billion decrease.
MGB Director Leo Jasareno said the nine-month averages of gold stood at P$1,180.13 per troy ounce and $16.03 per troy ounce for silver.
Average price of gold fell by $108.6, or 8.43 percent, from $1,288.73 per toy ounce to $1,180.13 per troy ounce. The price of gold is expected to fall below $1,100 per ounce before the end of 2015.
Price of silver, on the other hand, slipped by 19.64 percent, or from $19.95 per troy ounce to $16.03 per troy ounce.
Price of nickel went down by 26.64 percent from $7.77 per pound to only $5.70 per pound. Copper price dropped by 17.89 percent, from $3.13 per lb to $2.57 per pound.
Jasareno said the depressed value of nickel, plus the lower demand for nickel ore by China, prompted the country’s nickel producers to slow down operation—targeting lower-than-usual production output—resulting in the 38-percent deficit in the overall production value from P51.58 billion to P32.13 billion, a difference of P19.44 billion.
Jasareno said for nickel, the market situation in China is a major factor. Nickel miners in the Philippines, he said, are bracing for a two-year downtrend. The price of nickel is predicted to pick up in the last quarter of 2017. With its economy slowing down, nickel smelters in China, the country’s biggest importer of nickel, decided to reduce production by 20 percent next year.
Nickel miners believe that China had overproduced stainless steel and still had enough stocks of nickel—the main raw material for the production of metals because of previous year’s huge import volume—mainly from the Philippines, after its supply from Indonesia was cut in 2014 owing to that country’s metals-export ban.
But the MGB said direct shipping nickel ore and mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide maintains its lead in terms percentage contribution to metal’s total production value.
Nickel accounted for 52.43 percent, or P44.97 billion; followed by gold with 30.17 percent, or P25.88 billion. Copper, on the other hand, shared 16.63 percent, or P14.26 billion; while the remaining 0.77 percent, or P0.66 billion, came from the aggregate values of silver, chromite and iron ore.
Jasareno said the depressed value of nickel, which triggered a lower demand for nickel ore by China, prompted the Philippines’s nickel producers to slow down operation, targeting lower-than-usual production output, resulting in the 38-percent decrease in the overall production value from P51.58 billion to P32.13 billion, a difference of P19.44 billion. This, even as four nickel producers joined the production scene during the period.
Agata Mining Ventures/Minimax Mineral Exploration Corp. in Agusan del Norte, Wellex Mining Corp.-Vista Buena Mining Corp. on Dinagat Island, Libjo Mining Corp. and Westernshore Nickel Corp.-East Coast Mineral Resources Inc. also on Dinagat had started commercial production during the period.
The operation of the four nickel miners account for a projected increase of 2,345,855 dry metric tons (DMT) of nickel ore during the nine-month period, with estimated value of P2.52 billion.
Copper experienced deficit in both production volume and value. In terms of production, a setback of 6 percent from 263,359 DMT worth P16.17 billion to P248,593 DMT worth P14.26 billion.
This was attributed to, among others, the stoppage of mining operation at the Lutopan mining area of Carmen Copper Corp. in Toledo City, Cebu, starting in March 2015.
Gold and silver, according to Jasareno, grew during the nine-month period with the so-called yellow metal enjoying a 19-percent increase in volume from 12,996 kilograms to 15,485 kilograms, up by 2,489 kilograms.
On the other hand, the white metal grew by 34 percent, from 16,433 kilograms to 21,974 kilograms, up by 5,541 kilograms.
Jasareno said Didipio Copper-Gold Project of Oceanagold Philippines Inc., the Masbate Gold Project of Filminera Resources Inc., and the Maco Gold Operation of Apex Mining Co. Inc.’s good performance factored in together can be credited for the growth.
“This only means that gold and silver remain as the preferred investment haven in times of economic uncertainty,” Jasareno said.
MGB’s Jasareno sees ‘tough’ days ahead for nickel mining, production
by Jonathan L. Mayuga
24 December 2015
LOCAL nickel-mining companies are expected to face “tough” days ahead—perhaps until late 2017—as the drop in the price of commodity in the global market and China’s “economic flu” are expected to affect the in the next two years.
Nickel mining have been the country’s top performers in the last three years, raising the annual metals output to better performance in the same period.
There are two major factors affecting nickel production—the speculative price in the market and China’s economy. With price of nickel going down and China still experiencing an economic flu, nickel mines have started to slow down operation, with some nickel mine sites in Mindanao already stopping their operations earlier than expected.
Director Leo Jasareno of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said nickel companies will endure China’s economic flu but will survive the crisis given the mining companies’ flexibility to adjust to the fluctuating price of nickel.
“Our mining companies, nickel- mining operations have been so planned to survive the downtrend. So that they will survive until the price of nickel starts to pick-up again,” he said.
Nickel-mining operators, Jasareno added, predicted a two-year downtrend in 2016 and 2017 because of the current market situation in China.
These companies, he said, are expected to have reviewed and carefully planned their operations to survive the period until such time that the price of nickel starts to improve, adding that the price of nickel is expected to improve by late 2017.
“During the two-year downtrend, we expect them to continue operation and provide employment to miners until late 2017,” Jasareno said.
“So far, mining companies are able to adjust to the situation,” he added.
Jasareno said that nickel-mining companies have no production quota “as long as they continue to operate, produce nickel and pay the corresponding taxes. But if they shut down for good, then they will have a problem with us,” Jasareno said.
Nickel price started to drop last year by as much as 50 percent. Low-grade nickel ore, which used to be $12,000 to $15,000 per ton, dropped to as low as $7,000 to $8,000 per ton.
In case China recovers from the flu earlier than expected, Jasareno said mining companies should be prepared for another increase in demand.
“Immediately, China’s economy will reflect in the production value. That is why mining companies should be able to sustain their operations to be ready for this,” he said.
Gobal Ferronickel Holdings Inc., (GFI), a leading nickel miner in the Philippines, however said because of the current low prices of nickel ore, nickel miners have started to feel the brunt of the depressed value of nickel and China’s economic slowdown.
Ramon Adviento, senior vice president for investor relations of global GFI, said such is expected from nickel mines to avoid unnecessary losses. FNI said the scenario will likely to continue next year.
In Mindanao some companies have ceased producing nickel “earlier than expected,” he said, but Jasareno added that the MGB has not received any notice from mining companies regarding such plan to cease operation.
“So far, wala naman kaming natatanggap na notice from our mining companies regarding shutting down operation,” he said.
Since the Indonesian export ban in January 2014, the Philippines has become China’s top supplier of nickel.
Because of the Indonesian export ban, the country has supplied more than 90 percent of the nickel-ore imports in China. But more than 50 percent of said imports are low- grade ores, Joseph C. Sy, chairman of FNI and a director of Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc. said in a news statement.
Nickel miner TVI defers PSE listing to early 2016
By Krista A. M. Montealegre, Senior Reporter
22 December 2015
THE Philippine affiliate of Canadian miner TVI Pacific, Inc. has pushed back the timetable of its proposed P1.51-billion initial public offering (IPO) to February due to delays in securing regulatory approvals.
TVI Resource Development Phils., Inc. (TVIRD) has filed an updated prospectus retaining the offer size of its maiden share sale, its parent said on a statement uploaded on its Web site.
The miner is sticking to the original plan of offering 408.032 million shares -- comprising up to 272.02 million primary shares and up to 136.01 million shares owned by existing shareholders -- at a ceiling price of P3.71 apiece.
Instead of a Dec. 18 listing, TVIRD is now eyeing to join the Main Board of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) on Feb. 29, subject to securing all pre-requisite approvals.
TVIRD is aiming to set the final offer price on Feb. 15, setting the stage for the share sale on Feb. 16-22.
“Partly due to the fact that government offices and businesses were closed for a week in mid-November in connection with the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit meetings, and we are now well into the holiday season, TVIRD’s listing process has been deferred to early 2016 to provide the PSE, SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) and TVIRD’s underwriter with the necessary time to carry out their review and book building activities,” Clifford James, chairman of TVI and TVIRD, was quoted in the statement as saying.
BDO Capital & Investment Corp. was mandated as the issue manager and lead underwriter of the IPO.
Despite the delay, TVI remains optimistic about the prospects for the IPO in early 2016 given the Philippine miner’s diverse pipeline of projects and the support of its majority shareholder, Prime Resource Holdings Inc., Mr. James said.
“We believe the establishment of a public market for TVIRD shares will allow North American investors to better evaluate the value of TVI’s 30.66% indirect interest and provide us with a potential source of non-dilutive funding,” he added.
Proceeds from the primary offer will fund capital expenditures for the construction, development and operation of the Balabag Gold-Silver Project in Zamboanga del Sur, which is in the final stages of the permitting process.
Straddling the municipalities of Guinoman and Diplahan in Zamboanga del Sur, the Balabag mine has measured indicated resources of 2.5 million tonnes, averaging 1.8 grams per tonne gold and 47.8 gram per tonne silver for 213,000 ounces of gold equivalent, according to a Philippine Mineral Reporting Code (PMRC)-compliant report.
The deposit is situated within a 4,779-hectare area, approximately 75 kilometers from the Canatuan mines previously operated by the company.
Upon approval, TVIRD will commence on-site construction work with a plan to build a gold-silver processing plant, open pit and a tailings dam over the near term.
Aside from Balabag, TVIRD owns the Agata nickel laterite project within the Surigao mining area -- a major nickel producing region that provides ore to processing plants in Australia, China, Korea and Japan.
Mayor threatens to close mining firm if found responsible for fish kill in Lake Mainit
By Roel Catoto
15 December 2015
MAINIT, Surigao del Norte – If there would be concrete evidence to show that mining activities upstream have caused the fish kill in lake Mainit, the mayor of the municipality of Mainit in Surigao del Norte is determined to close the mining firm responsible for it.
Mayor Ramon Mondano said he would consider not to renew the firm’s business permit.
Tilapias and carps have been dying starting three weeks ago in the country’s fourth largest lake.
The fish kill has affected the livelihood of hundreds of fisherfolk who depend on the lake.
“If we have concrete evidence to prove that this mining activity has caused the fish kill, I will not hesitate to make an order to stop their operations,” he told MindaNews.
The mayor and the people around the lake have been suspecting that the operation of the mining firm, Greenstone Resources Corporation, have caused the fish kill.
A subsidiary of Red5 Limited, an Australian-based gold exploration and mining company, Greenstone is currently mining gold and silver at the abandoned mine site of the Surigao Consolidated Mining Company, Inc. (Suricon) in Barangay Siana in Mainit.
Fisherfolk said Greenstone’s operations have polluted Magpayang River, the runoff from which settles in the lake.
MindaNews sent queries to Simon Leech, mine manager of Greenstone, but he has yet to reply.
Fisherfolk recalled that the worst fish kill in the lake occurred during the operations of Suricon in the 1970s to the early 1990s.
Mondano has asked nongovernment organizations to investigate what caused the massive fish kill in Lake Mainit.
Citing the town’s lacks of technical capability, he is hoping that institutions would help them make an independent analysis on the lake.
Mondano said he could not rely anymore on the contradicting statements of officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Caraga.
Judith Rojas, BFAR assistant regional director, said that the agency has not acted on the incident as there was no request from the local government units.
But Anne Melisa Talavera, officer-in-charge of BFAR’s Regional Fish Health Laboratory, told MindaNews in a text message Sunday that they got samples of the fish two weeks ago and these are being studied for analysis in Manila.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), on June 6, 2013, issued a cease-and-desist order on the gold processing operations of Greenstone in Barangay Siana after a tension crack was found on the embankment of its tailings storage facility no. 4.
In January 2015, the MGB allowed Greenstone to resume its gold processing operations after constructing a new tailings storage facility and implementing other remedial measures.
But Mondano said tailings would still spill during heavy rains.
He said that the mining company has no social development projects in the areas affected by its operations.
Another town mayor in Surigao del Norte, Cristina Hemady Romarate-Arcillas of Tubod, has likewise accused the mining firm of wanton destruction of the environment. She has repeatedly said in public that operations of Greenstone have endangered the lives of her constituents.
Greenstone’s mine wastes are reportedly being dumped in Barangay Cawilan in Tubod, and below it are the dwellings of residents.
Cawilan hosts Greenstone’s milling facilities and tailings storage.
Arcillas said the company has created a “mountain” out of the wastes in Cawilan from the mine pit.
She fears that this rainy season, the dumpsite might collapse and endanger the lives of her constituents.
Arcillas said mining operations have aggravated all flooding incidents in the town during heavy rains.
Arbitration panel grants Lepanto claim
by James Konstantin Galvez
3 December 2015
Listed firm Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. has won an arbitration case against the Philippine government over a dispute involving an application to renew its mining contract in Mankayan, Benguet.
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Lepanto noted that in a ruling dated November 27, 2015, an Ad Hoc Arbitration Panel upheld the company’s rights to develop mineral resources under Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) 001-90- CAR.
An MPSA is an agreement wherein the government shares in the production of the contractor as owner of the minerals, while the contractor gets the rest. In return, the contractor must provide financing, technology, management and personnel for the mining project.
Lepanto sought arbitration after it was required to seek the consent of indigenous peoples in Mankayan, as mandated by the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), before its application for a renewal to operate could be acted upon.
Under the IPRA, a company must acquire free and prior informed consent (FPIC) from indigenous peoples that will be affected by the mining operations as well as other matters involving their ancestral domain—including the renewal of contracts.
The company, however, claimed it was exempted from that provision because it obtained its contract seven years before the law was enacted in 1997.
Lepanto’s 25-year contract expired in March 2015. It filed for a renewal and in June last year.
The arbitration panel, in its decision, said requiring another FPIC may not be validly imposed as the MPSA should be renewed under the same terms and conditions, without prejudice to changes mutually agreed upon by the parties.
In a text message, Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno said his office, which is under the DENR, has yet to receive formal notice of the arbitration ruling.
Jasareno also did not elaborate further whether the decision would compel the agency to act favorably on the company’s application for renewal.
Earlier, the MGB chief said the agency was still processing Lepanto’s application for renewal of its contract.
“If they comply with all the regulatory requirements, then we will renew their contract. It not, then we will not given them the contract,” Jasareno previously said
The MPSA is for the Far Southeast Project, which is being developed by Lepanto and its South African partner Gold Fields Ltd.
Lepanto is also planning to convert portions of the subject MPSA into a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), allowing Gold Fields to acquire a majority stake in the copper-gold project.
At present, Lepanto holds 60 percent of the FSP and the remaining 40 percent is owned by Gold Fields.
MPSAs are granted to mining firms that have at least 60-percent local ownership, while FTAAs allow 100-percent foreign ownership.
Blast cripples Benguet mine, stops operations
Inquirer Northern Luzon
17 December 2015
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — A mine in Mankayan, Benguet province, has stopped operations following an explosion on Monday that crippled its power transmission lines, police said.
Police are investigating the blast at the mine operated by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. (LCMC) that disrupted work at its power plant and mill, and affected some houses in Sitio Nayak in Barangay Sapid in Mankayan, said Supt. Cherry Fajardo, spokesperson of the Cordillera police in Camp Dangwa.
LCMC has informed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau about the work disruptions. MGB is waiting for the police report before it undertakes its own investigation.
Senior Supt. David Peredo, Benguet provincial director, said initial investigation has shown that the blast might have been caused by communist rebels but the police have not ruled out other suspects.
Mankayan Mayor Materno Luspian said the blast did not affect the rest of the town. “Only the power supply of the mining company is affected because the transmission line for the villages is separate from the one that was bombed,” he said in a text message.
In a statement, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which operates all the power transmission lines, has said it does not own or operate the Mankayan transmission tower.
“We only operate the La Trinidad (Benguet) to Sagada (Mt. Province) 69-kV transmission line traversing through [Mankayan] which is in normal operating condition,” said Lilibeth Gaydowen, NGCP spokesperson for north Luzon.
LCMC, a major gold and copper producer, has operated its Benguet mines since 1938. SFM
Poison gas kills 2 in Benguet mining tunnel
by Thom F. Picana
16 December 2015
CAMP DANGWA, LA TRINIDAD, Benguet: Two mine workers died of gas poisoning inside a mining tunnel of Baguio Gold in Tuding, Itogon this province on Tuesday, three days after another miner was reported to have died of suffocation in the mining site.
The victims of the latest incident – Edgar Campus Santos, 29, of Purok 3, Bantug-Petines, Alicia, Isabela, and Jordan Lindayo Cortez, 25, of Paracelis, Mountain Province – were working for a small-scale miner identified as Fred Segundo.
An investigation found that the victims were among the miners who entered the tunnel at 7 a.m. on Tuesday but failed to return after eight hours of work. Their co-worker, Julio Palua, said they went back to the tunnel and searched for the missing miners.
Santos and Cortez’ bodies were recovered three hours later from a tunnel about 150 meters deep. They reportedly died from gas poisoning emitted from inside the tunnel.
Separately on Saturday, Cesar Agustin Paler, a native of Nueva Ecija, was found unconscious by another miner in one of the tunnels. His co-miners said Paler went inside an abandoned vein to get some ore samples and failed to get out. He was said to have died inside the tunnel due to suffocation.
The latest fatalities add to the many other victims of the supposed abandoned mine tunnels in Itogon, locally tagged as “Benguet Death Chambers,” following a series of fatal accidents in the mining site.
Despite the reported rise in death cases due to gas poisoning in the tunnels at what has been declared a public mine site, illegal private mining in the area has continued.
Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwa has ordered a moratorium on all mining activities in Itogon mining site following the onset of rains and inclement weather, which pose danger to the lives of miners and workers.
Last year, 11 workers died when they were trapped inside one of the tunnels that collapsed due to a heavy downpour.