MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines bishops decry Canadian mining firm's tactics

Published by MAC on 2007-04-30

Philippine bishops decry Canadian mining firm's tactics

by Ramon Gonzalez, CNN/Western Catholic Reporter

30th April 2007

MINDANAO, Philippines – A group of Philippine bishops is appealing for assistance from Canadian Catholics and international agencies in their struggle against the continual vandalizing of the country's environment by international mining companies.

Bishops and administrators of six dioceses in the region of Mindanao recently sent an open letter to the Catholic Church of Canada asking for help.

They say foreign mining companies are wreaking havoc upon the land and people of the region and their operations must stop.

Stop harassment

Their main target is Toronto Ventures Inc. (TVI), a Calgary-based mining company the bishops accuse not only of destroying the environment, but also of human-rights abuses and harassment against indigenous people.

"We would like to appeal to your kind intervention about our problem involving TVI, whose large-scale mining operation is wreaking havoc upon our land and people," the leaders say in their April 11 letter to the Canadian Church.

They say the TVI's open-pit mining operation has resulted in plundered mountains, destroyed forests and contaminated lands, creeks and rivers. To produce up to three grams of gold, the company has to excavate at least one ton of soil and stone. TVI is processing 1,800 tons of stones and soil daily.

Since the gold-extracting process is a water-consuming operation, "the TVI disposes huge volumes of cyanide-polluted water, a big quantity of which evaporates into the atmosphere to remain there as a dissipated energy that contributes to global warming," the church leaders warn.

"Open-pit (mining) creates a wide range of disruption against the wholeness of creation."

Concerned about the plight of indigenous communities whose ancestral domains are encroached by big-scale mining operations, the bishops recently signed a Statement of Concern in which they urge the TVI to cease its operations in Mindanao.

"These mining operations in ancestral domain areas deprive the indigenous peoples of their cultural rights," the bishops say in their one-page document.

The leaders also accuse TVI of human rights violations and harassment against indigenous people. They cite an incident where the company demolished the house of Floro and Manolita Galves in Mount Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte, because it was in their way.

Destroyed home

"The demolition took place at 11:30 p.m. when the Galves family was already asleep," the bishops' report. "They were mercilessly driven out of their house even when TVI had no court order (authorizing the demolition)."

The company employs armed guards to intimidate indigenous people and to impose its will, the bishops denounce. In one case, an indigenous woman - Vivian Anoy - and her family were barred at gunpoint from passing through the route leading to their ancestral land. Pressing the gun against Vivian's belly, one of the guards threatened to kill the woman if she insisted on

"There have been several cases of human rights violations that occurred in the area against the rightful owners of the ancestral land occupied by TVI," the bishops note. "However, to this day, the indigenous people have yet to understand the meaning of justice."


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