MAC: Mines and Communities

Filipino mining activists seek protection as struggles continue

Published by MAC on 2020-03-07
Source: Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Mining Weekly

Environmental human rights defenders from the Philippines have attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week highlighting threats to their lives, security and liberty.

In 2019, 46 environmental defenders were killed in the Philippines, 53% increase from 30 deaths recorded in 2018. Anti-mining activists continue to feature heavily in those figures as the struggle goes on. The local barricades blockading OceanaGold's Didipio mine have been acitve for months now, reinforcing the case to cancel the mines' license, which is up for renewal.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act, which liberalised and encouraged corporate mining, a bill has been introduced to Congress seeking to impose a 25-year moratorium on prospective open-pit mining projects.

It is also the anniversary of the catastrophic tailings spill from the Marcopper Mine in Marinduque, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has (a cynic may add once again) vowed to restore the rivers damaged in the disaster. Although it would be great to see government action finally taking place, more detail is necessary.

For instance: where will the dredged materials by deposited; what does "mining the metals in the rivers" really mean and will there be processing; and should this be done before the source of contamination at the minesite itself is addressed, as pollution may still be released into the newly dredged rivers from there?

Filipino environmental defenders ask UN rights body to look into threats they face

Gaea Katreena Cabico

3 March 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Environmental defenders called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into the worsening situation of environment and land activists.

They asked the UNHRC to conduct an independent fact-finding mission or establish a Commission of Inquiry in the Philippines.

“There are serious challenges to life, security and liberty of environmental defenders in the Philippines, which redound to transgressions on the rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environmental of communities, including that of indigenous peoples and peasants,” Clemente Bautista, international network coordinator of environmental group Kalikasan, said during the 43rd UNHRC session in Geneva.

In 2019, 46 environmental defenders were killed in the Philippines, according to Kalikasan. This was a 53-percent increase from 30 deaths recorded in 2018.

The Philippines was the deadliest country in the world for environmental and land defenders, according to watchdog Global Witness, which tracks threats and attacks against rights defenders.

There were at least 113 murdered environmental and land activists since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in July 2016. Three years before administration, no fewer than 65 were killed.

Rep. Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna), a Manobo leader, said that most of the environmental defenders killed were indigenous peoples and peasants who were at the frontline of protecting the country’s forest and land resources.

“In the course of conserving our natural resources and defending communities from big mining companies, commercial loggers and agro-corporations, indigenous peoples and peasants are targeted for extrajudicial executions and judicial harassment,” the Bayan Muna representative said.

She told the UNHRC session that many of her fellow environmental defenders in Surigao del Sur are facing trumped-up charges and at least 60 households from her community evacuated from their homes due to indiscriminate firing and attacks by the military.

Clarissa Ramos of Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group said the encroachment of mining corporations, conversion of agricultural lands and establishment of industrial economic zones in Negros island “will displace thousands of poor families and destroy Negros’ remaining forests and coral reefs.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has accused many activist groups opposed to industries like mining and logging of being in league with communist rebels.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office has also advised the UNHRC to be prudent "in assessing claims particularly from sources who have enjoyed the hallowed status of human rights defenders while waging the longest insurgency in Asia and terrorizing communities in the Philippines," the PCOO said in a press release distributed through state media.

Moratorium on open-pit mining filed in Congress

Ratziel San Juan ( -

3 March 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A bill seeking to impose a 25-year moratorium (prohibition) on prospective open-pit mining projects was filed on Tuesday at the House of Representatives by Makabayan bloc lawmakers, joined by environmental and indigenous peoples' rights activists.

"A legislated moratorium on open-pit mining is urgently needed because President Duterte's pronouncements of an open-pit mine ban, along with former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez's Department Administrative Order and local ordinances, are being defied by mining corporations," Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce said in a release.

“High-risk open pit projects with atrocious human rights records like the Tampakan and King-King mines must be stopped until such a time when we have a National Industrialization Program that will ensure a needs-based, rights-based, and environmentally safe utilization of our mineral resources.”

The said bill mandates a midterm-review 12 years upon passage.

It was filed on the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942), which, according to green groups “allowed the unbridled destruction by open-pit mines for export for 25 years.”

“The ecosystems and landscapes devastated by 25 years of open-pit mining under the Mining Act must likewise be given 25 years of relief from such destructive methods,” Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines executive director Lia Alonzo said in a release.

“We must learn from our bitter experiences of ecologically disruptive open-pit mining such as in the Oceanagold mine in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya and the Philex Padcal mine in Benguet.”

Aside from environmental destruction, groups also pointed out that green activists in the Philippines are vulnerable to attacks.

International watchdog Global Witness in 2019 found that threats against environmental activists in the Philippines are systematic and usually related to “corporate greed.”

In a report, the organization spotlighted rights violations targeting those who oppose destructive coal, agribusiness, mining and tourism projects.

At least 13 environmentalists in the country were victims of extrajudicial killings between July 2016 and July 2019, according to data from human rights monitor Karapatan.

“We have experienced militarization in our ancestral lands in South Cotabato even before the mining project’s commercial ops. At least 12 environmental defenders have been killed since 2001 for opposing the Tampakan mine's threats to our domain's forests, fields, schools, and villages," Lumad youth Alviena Wali from South Cotabato said.

DENR to rehabilitate mining-damaged Boac, Mogpog rivers in Marinduque

By Alexandria San Juan

2 March 2020

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has vowed to restore two rivers in Marinduque province which were damaged by one of the “worst mining disasters in Philippine history” more than a decade ago.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said it is time for the government to lead a massive cleanup and rehabilitation of the Boac and Mogpog rivers for the benefit of the people of Marinduque who continue to suffer from the effects of the catastrophic tailings spills from the Marcopper Mining Corporation site in 1993 and 1996.

“We made a plan to restore all the rivers in the Philippines, including the Boac and Mogpog rivers. We will clean it and we have a way of doing that using non-government resources,” Cimatu said at Marinduque’s centennial celebration last month.

In March 1996, a fracture in the drainage tunnel of Marcopper’s Taipan pit spilled more than 1.6 million cubic meters of toxic mine tailings which flooded nearby villages and poisoned the Boac River.

Three years prior to this incident, the firm’s Maguila-guila siltation dam also burst, flooding the town of Mogpog where two children drowned in the mine waste. It practically killed the Mogpog River with its toxic mine tailings.

“The environmental damages and unresolved issues brought about by the Marcopper mining operation in Marinduque for several decades now must be put to an end,” the environment secretary said.

According to Cimatu, he will immediately issue a department administrative order once the Marinduque provincial government submits a formal request to place the Boac and Mogpog rivers under rehabilitation.

The planned river rehabilitation, he said, would include the dredging of the two rivers by a private contractor at “no cost to the government.”

Cimatu explained that the private contractor will shoulder all the expenses of the dredging operation in exchange for “whatever minerals that he may recover, provided he pays the corresponding four percent excise tax.”

So far, the DENR has already issued four administrative orders in relation to the restoration of silted rivers through dredging following separate requests of the provincial governments of Zambales, Oriental Mindoro, and Negros Occidental.

These orders, Cimatu explained, were pursuant to a joint memorandum circular of the DENR, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Department of Transportation, which aims to “protect and restore to their natural state and water flow the heavily silted river channels in the country.”

Meanwhile, Cimatu said he already approved an initial P5 million funding for the construction of the 90-meter-wide gabion dam across the Mogpog River, particularly the downstream portion of Maguila-guila Creek, to prevent further siltation in its basin.

Didipio troubles weigh on OceanaGold

Esmarie Iannucci

21 February 2020

PERTH ( – Dual listed gold miner OceanaGold has reported lower revenues and profits for the year ending December, as production volumes declined on the back of a decision to suspend mining operations at the Didipio mine, in the Philippines.

The TSX- and ASX-listed OceanaGold produced 470 600 oz during the full year ended December, down from the 533 300 oz produced in the previous financial year, while copper production declined from 15 000 t to 10 300 t.

Gold sales for the full year also declined from 532 700 oz to 448 400 oz, while copper sales declined from 14 500 t to 6 900 t.

Underground operations at Didipio were suspended in mid-July last year, and ore processing in December, owing to depletion of consumables required for sustained operations. Mining and processing activities were suspended owing to restrictions placed on material movements imposed by the local government unit’s blockade.

As a result, no gold or copper sales were made from Didipio in the second half of the year.

The issues at Didipio resulted in net profits decreasing from $121.7-million at the end of 2018 to $14.5-million, with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation declining from $363.7-million to $214.2-million.

“Our US and New Zealand operations delivered a strong fourth quarter to close out 2019. Haile continued its improvement throughout the year and we expect this to continue in 2020 with an approximate 25% increase in production and lower all-in sustaining costs relative to the previous year,” said OceanaGold CEO and president Mick Wilkes.

“In New Zealand, Macraes reported improved production and steady cash flow generation for the year. We expect much of the same from the Macraes as we advance opportunities to extend the mine life of the operation.

“At Waihi, the Correnso underground operations are winding down with cessation of mining in the main pit areas this quarter ahead of narrow vein mining for the remainder of the year.

“Development of the Martha Underground continues to advance well with first gold production expected in the second quarter of 2021,” Wilkes added.

He noted that exploration at Martha Underground also continued to be successful in 2019, with increased resources reported, and with further investment planned, the company was looking to convert more resources and steadily increase the resource base over the coming years.

The Waihi district study is also under way with a completion date set for the second quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, Wilkes noted that OceanaGold also continued to work closely with the Philippine national government on restarting operations at Didipio.


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