Typhoon Ulysses leads to mining-related loss of life and fears for the future in The PhilippinesPublished by MAC on 2020-11-17
Source: Mb.com.ph, The Manila Times
Rescuers have recovered ten bodies that were tragically buried by a landslide near a large-scale mining area during the heavy downpour brought by Typhoon “Ulysses,” which hit the province of Nueva Vizcaya last week.
Meanwhile, civil society organizations, led by environmental groups and Catholic organizations in Mindanao, are gathering signatures for a unity statement expressing their opposition to the Tampakan gold and copper project in South Cotabato.
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Ten bodies recovered at mine site
Leander C. Domingo
14 November 2020
QUEZON, Nueva Vizcaya: Rescuers have recovered 10 bodies that were buried by a landslide near a foreign-based, large-scale mining area during the heavy downpour brought by Typhoon “Ulysses,” which hit the province Wednesday night.
Maj. Jesus Ventura, Quezon town police Jesus, identified the youngest victim as Dexter Kurt Nah-oy, a two-month-old baby, who lived with the family at Sitio Bit-ang in Barangay Runruno here.
Ventura said also recovered were the bodies of Cresencia Tuma Nah-oy, 27, from Saclat village, and Ben Bulayo Uyami Jr., 31, from Tukod village, both in Nagtipunan town in the neighboring province of Quirino.
Also recovered were the bodies of Julie Ann Conde Taniza, 15, from Sitio Kinalabasa, Runruno village in this town; Markconie Mangandat Binwag, 25, from Baligui village, Maddela town, Quirino; Francisco Taguiling Napadawan, 54, from Don Faustino Pagaduan village, Diffun town, also in Quirino; Noel Buyaco Tayaban, 39, from Regimental village in Lamut town, Ifugao province; and Jomar Ohdon Comilang, 33, from Tupaya village, Lagawe town in Ifugao.
Ventura said two more bodies recovered were those of Joel Buyuccan, 26, from Balligui village in Maddela, Quirino, and Omar Tuguinay, 17, from Tupaya village in Lagawe.
He said all were victims in the three landslide areas in Sitio Bit-ang, Kinalabasa and Compound 1, all in Barangay Runruno.
Runruno village in this town hosts the multibillion peso FCF Minerals Corp., a London-based mining company that operates the Runruno Gold and Molybdenum Project.
It is among the four mining companies in the Philippines issued by the national government with a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) under the Mining Act of 1995.
Another mining company in Nueva Vizcaya and holder of the first FTAA is the Australian OceanaGold Philippines Inc. in Didipio village in Kasibu town.
Its Didipio Gold and Copper Project operation has been suspended for one year and is awaiting approval of its FTAA renewal with the national government.
Around the FCF Mining areas covered by its FTAA are families who refused to vacate reportedly over unsettled payments of their crops and pieces of property.
Some engage in illegal small-scale mining operations, where many among the victims and members of their families are working.
According to the Runruno local government, these residents come from the provinces of Ifugao, Benguet and Quirino and from other towns in Nueva Vizcaya.
In 2011, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau ( MGB) recorded some 6,000 illegal small-scale miners extracting gold ore in Barangay Didipio and Barangay Alimit in Kasibu town and Barangay Runruno.
Mario Ancheta, MGB Region 2 director, said these illegal small-scale miners, particularly those in Runruno, do not have the necessary technology and capability for the proper and safe conduct of small-scale mining.
MGB officials said they operate illegally without permits from proper authorities, and faced great risks, especially in areas already declared as prone to landslides and flash floods.
Ancheta said illegal miners, among them from nearby Ifugao and Benguet province, have proliferated since time immemorial in these dangerous areas as their gold-rush sites.
Local government officials in Nueva Vizcaya have confirmed the presence of these illegal miners, many of whom used banned explosives to construct small tunnels with multiple chambers and process gold from extracted ore using hazardous chemicals.
Ancheta said government-sanctioned large-scale mining like the FCF Minerals and OceanaGold have the highest engineering standards in mining that can ensure the safety of workers and can prevent flooding and landslides during calamities.
“We are amazed that there are groups that elect to have small-scale mining in Nueva Vizcaya than [be part of] the existing large-scale mining operations with the capability of designing excavated areas to prevent landslides and floods,” he added.
Ancheta said these small-scale miners even joined anti-mining groups opposing these nationally-sanctioned mining corporations instead of helping stop rampant illegal extraction of minerals in these areas that is the “true cause of floods and landslides.”
Opposition to Tampakan mining project in South Cotabato mounts
14 November 2020
DAVAO CITY – Civil society organizations, led by environmental groups and Catholic organizations in Mindanao, are gathering signatures for a unity statement, expressing opposition to the Tampakan gold and copper project in South Cotabato.
The project’s developer, Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), was given a certification precondition (CP) by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to extract minerals in an area of approximately 10,000 hectares.
According to the Unity Statement titled “Protect Tampakan… Defend Mindanao: SMI Tampakan, Leave MindaNOW”, the project “will leave irreversible impact on food security, peoples and biodiversity, and is a serious threat to peace and security including Mindanao’s resilience to climate change.”
“We do not want another Marcopper disaster: dead rivers, a heavily silted and toxic Calancan Bay, heavy metals flowing in the bloodstream of children, tailings-laced rice fields, from nearly 25 years ago until today,” it said.
The statement was referring to the disaster in Marinduque province brought about by the spillage of the mine tailings of the Marcopper Mining Corporation in 1996.
“Adverse impacts will be felt not only in Tampakan and the entire island of Mindanao – potentially for 2,000 years. As Mindanao is the food basket of the country, a national food crisis in the middle of a pandemic looms,” it said.
Among the groups’ calls are to “recall the 12-year extension of the FTAA (Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement) of SMI Tampakan mining; to respect the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato and ensure the safety of the peoples and environment in all provinces.”
A copy of the Unity Statement posted on Saturday, November 14 by the Ateneo de Davao University online shows that 452 individual and 92 organizations have so far signed it
Pleas to the President
Diocese of Marbel Bishop Cerilo Alan Casicas said he was hoping President Duterte will continue his commitment “that he would never allow particularly open pit mining in Mindanao.”
“My firm hope for the president (is) that he continues that commitment and I pray that this could be shown in his concrete decisions especially as this is reflected in his secretary’s and other offices under him,” Casicas shared during a virtual press conference on Thursday.
Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) President Joel Tabora said they were optimistic with the President’s “clear opposition in the past to open pit mining that is so destructive on the environment.”
“We take heart in his having seen the effects of open pit mining here in Mindanao and we hope and pray that he would protect South Cotabato and the neighboring provinces from the devastations of this open pit mining here,” Tabora added.
“We have to get more people nationwide to understand the implications of such violation of environment and people’s rights,” Tabora said, adding that they will be talking with other Catholic schools as well.
The groups believe that the experience of the people with the typhoons battering the country will bring in the support for the campaign.
Carmela Santos, Director of the Ecoteneo said ”the resurgence of the Tampakan mining project carries with it the resurgence of the support of the people, not just our school and not just our network.”
“I also foresee a revival of the campaign because as we speak now, there is an onslaught of the typhoons opening the Christmas season,” Santos added.
Among the largest copper mine globally
According to the SMI’s website, if approved, “the mine would be the largest in the Philippines and among the largest copper mines in the world. “
The area is located “between the towns of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur in southern Mindanao.”
”The mineral resource estimate defined by the exploration work undertaken to date comprises a total of 2.94 billion tonnes at a grade of 0.51% copper and 0.19 grams per tonne gold, using a cut-off grade of 0.2%. This represents 15.0 million tonnes of copper and 17.6 million ounces of gold,” it said.
The Tampakan Project is estimated to yield “an average of 375,000 tonnes per annum of copper and 360,000 ounces per annum of gold in concentrate over the 17 year period of mining and ore production.”
The SMI said they take “environmental responsibilities very seriously.”
“We understand that mine waste and water management are important issues for our stakeholders and they form an important part of our design, operation and rehabilitation plans for the Project,” it added.
Based on the primer on Mineral Processing Permit by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) a CP from the NCIP is among the additional requirements “submitted after the acceptance of the application but prior to the issuance of the Mineral Processing Permit.”
A CP is issued by the NCIP, signed by the Chairperson, attesting to the grant of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) by the Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs).