MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Urgent Appeal - Increased Human Rights Abuses around TVI Mine

Published by MAC on 2004-10-15


Urgent Appeal - Increased Human Rights Abuses around TVI Mine

The following is an urgent action from the German NGO FIAN. It should be noted that some of the facts quoted are perhaps arguable (notably that mining as such has not yet started, although exploration and construction have and the estimate of 10,000 small scale miners may be a little high, but are roughly accurate if counting the miners through time) the gist of the urgent action isn't.


7th October 2004 (Ref 0424HPHL)

Philippines: Mining operations threaten the right to food of indigenous peoples, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte

The right to food of more than 250 families of Subanon indigenous peoples in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte is threatened by the activities of a mining company, TVI Resource Development Philippines. Under the guise of “exploration”, TVI Resource Development Philippines has been producing gold since 1995 by using the mining tailings which they have appropriated from local small-scale miners. In June 2004, the company has started to conduct large-scale mining in over 508 hectares of land belonging to the Subanon, based on the mining rights which it obtained from the Government of the Philippines in 1998. Not only are 300 families threatened to be evicted from their farm lands, water resource will also be contaminated by mining activities thus threatening the access to resources of many more. The people opposing the mining activities face harassment from the side of security guards of the company.

An international intervention is urgently needed in order to protect the right to food of indigenous families living in Siocon. Please write a letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, requesting her immediately take measures to ensure this right.


Profile

Siocon Municipality is located in the southern part of the province of Zamboanga del Norte and is the home to the indigenous peoples of Subanon. Agriculture is their main source of income for the Subanon, while some also work as small-scale miners.

Under the guise of “exploration”, TVI Resource Development Philippines, a subsidiary of a Canadian mining company TVI Pacific Inc., has been producing gold and forcibly appropriating properties of small-scale miners since 1995. Since then, a total of 10,000 small-scale miners have been affected by the company’s operations. Apart from this, the agriculture workers have been facing difficulties in accessing their farmlands and transporting their farm products to town due to four checkpoints which were established by the company along the way.

TVI Resource Development Philippines obtained the mining rights from the government of the Philippines in 1998 and has started conducting large-scale mining in over 508 hectares of Subanon land in June 2004. The operations of the company will not only threaten the farming lands and the water source of Siocon, but the target site is also an ancestral domain of the indigenous Subanon and sacred to the natives. Many indigenous peoples also fear the pollution of their rivers by the waste of mining activities containing mercury and cyanide. In addition, around 300 families will be evicted due to mining activities. Thus the protest group “Save Paradise Water Movement” has been heavily opposing the mining activities.

On March 14, 2004, around 100 persons built a human barricade to prevent the translocation of the company’s technical equipment from the town to the mining site. After 3 days of permanent blockade, the company guards fired into the group on March 17, 2004, wounding four persons. Now the area is constantly under guard by armed security called SCAA (Special Citizen Armed Forces Active Auxiliary ) who are threatening the people to vacate from the area and warning them that they would bulldoze their homes and farms.

FIAN Mandate
As a State Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Philippines is duty-bound under international law to respect and protect the right to adequate food of the population of Siocon. The mining operation of TVI Resource Development Philippines will threaten the right to food as well as the right to water of the Subanons who are farmers and small-scale miners. As such, the government of the Philippines must immediately take action to stop the physical harassment by the armed forces of TVI and ensure the right to food of Subanons.

End of Action: 10.12.04

Addresses:

Her Excellency

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Office of the President

New Executive Building

Malacanang Palace Compound

Manila, Philippines

Fax: 0063 2 8323793

Copies to:

Honourable Elisea G. Gozun

Secretary

Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Visayas Ave., Diliman,

Quezon City, Philippines

Fax: 0063 2 9204352

TVI Pacific Inc.

Suite 2000

736 – 6th Avenue S.W.

Calgary, Alberta

T29 3 T7, Canada

Fax: 001 403 264 7028

DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) (A support group for the victims)

G/F, Diocesan Pastoral Center

Sicayab, Dipolog City

Philippines

Tel/Fax: 0063 65 212-3678

Please inform FIAN about any responses to your letters and faxes

Her Excellency

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

New Executive Building

Malacanang Palace Compound

J.P. Laurel Street, San Miguel

Manila, Philippines

Fax: 0063 2 8323793

Your Excellency,

Recently, I received alarming information about the incident in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, on March 17, 2004, when guards of the mining company TVI Resource Development, a subsidiary of a Canadian mining company, Toronto Ventures Inc. fired into a group of civil protesters, wounding four persons. They were protesting against the mining activities of TVI Resource Development Philippines.

TVI Resource Development Philippines has been conducting operations of a series of gold mines in Siocon since 1995. It was reported that the company has taken the work of small-scale miners and also forcibly appropriated some of their properties, affecting a total of 10,000 small-scale miners since then. In addition, many agriculture workers living in the area have been facing difficulties accessing their farmlands as well as transporting their farm products to town because of four checkpoints established by TVI Resource Development Philippines. The company has now started to conduct large-scale mining in over 508 hectares in Subanon ancestral land based on the mining rights given by the Philippines government in 1998. Not only are 300 families facing eviction, water source as well as farmlands will be contaminated in the area due to mining operations, thereby threatening the right to food of Subanons.

As a States Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Philippines is duty-bound under international law to respect and protect the right to food of the indigenous peoples of Subanon. As a person working international for the realization of the right to food, I would like to ask you, Madam President, to:

- withdraw the license of TVI to operate in the area;

- to prevent the eviction of the 300 farmer families;

- bring to trial those responsible for the shooting.

Please inform me about the steps you will initiate in this regards.

Sincerely yours,


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jamie Kneen" <jamie@miningwatch.ca>
To: <mineaction@mpi.org.au>; <miningcomm@umich.edu>; <gmc@globalminingcampaign.org>
Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2004 4:07 PM
Subject: Representatives from Siocon Oppose TVI Pacific


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Multi Sectoral Representatives from Siocon, in
the Southern Philippines, Express Opposition to
Canadian Mining Company TVI Pacific

(Ottawa, November 2, 2004) Representatives of the
local government, Indigenous Peoples, civil
society and sectoral organizations from Siocon, a
municipality in the southern Philippines, have
travelled to Canada to declare their collective
opposition to the plans of Canadian mining
company TVI Pacific to operate a gold, copper and
silver mine on Mount Canatuan. The mine is within
the ancestral land of the Subanon people and
within the critical watershed of the downstream
communities of Siocon.

The delegation believes that the Canadian
government has been seriously misinformed by the
company as to the real wishes of local people.
They charge that the company has failed to gain
the support from the affected peoples and local
government, as required by Philippine law and
traditional law. They are calling on the Canadian
government, investors and the public to stop
supporting TVI and are calling for a genuine
independent investigation and monitoring. "We
welcome visitors who want to know the truth,"
says Onsino Mato. "Our concern is that our voice
is being drowned out by company propaganda."

Siocon is a multi-cultural community in the
conflict-torn region of the southern Philippines.
The delegation to Canada includes Town Councillor
Lucas who heads the municipal environment
committee. According to Lucas, the mine is seen
as a threat to the prosperity and livelihood of
local farmers, fish breeders and fisherfolk.
Since TVI began to process gold through its
cyanide plant in the mountains at the head of the
watershed, fishing communities and those farming
and living near the river have reported a serious
decline in water quality and reduced yields from
their fisheries and fish farms. The municipal
council is on record opposing the mine. Civil
society has come together in the Save Siocon
Paradise Movement, headed by Mrs. Conception
(Ching) Capitania. In March, 2004, they mounted
and maintained a picket to prevent the movement
of mining equipment up to the mine site. On March
17, 2004, four picketers, including tribal elder
Macario Salacao, were wounded when military and
company guards opened fire.

Residents of Siocon fear mining will jeopardize
their livelihoods and heighten militarization and
conflict in their area. There have been two
deadly assaults on company personnel and several
incidents where company paramilitaries have shot
at and wounded local people. The mine is in a
region that is under a travel advisory from the
Canadian government. Since TVI arrived in 1994,
there has been sustained opposition to the
proposed mine from the indigenous peoples on the
site and the communities downstream. The mine is
displacing indigenous peoples from their
ancestral lands against their will. TVI now
maintains a heavily armed security force to
protect its site and to control the movement of
goods and people. This and other excesses have
been condemned in statements at the UN presented
in Geneva by Mr. Mato and other Subanon
representatives. Some opponents of the mine,
including Mr. Mato, are now barred from access to
their homes. TVI recently cleared all vegetation
off the mountain, which Subanon across the region
revere as a sacred place. Mining has now begun
there. To circumvent local opposition TVI has
supported and recognized a Subanon faction made
up mostly of people who work for them and are
imported from regions outside Canatuan. There are
now strong divisions in the community. A
traditional assembly of Subanon elders from
across the region, headed by Timuay (Chief)
Lambo, recently ruled that the organization
recognized by TVI has no legitimacy.

Despite strong local opposition and controversy,
TVI is receiving financial backing directly from
the Canadian International Development Agency
(CIDA) for a development project in the
community. Such projects are viewed locally as
efforts to win support for the mine through
increasing the patronage of the company. The
Canadian Ambassador, Peter Sutherland, recently
stressed government support for TVI and
identified the progress of this project as a
"litmus test" for Canadian mining companies in
assessing the commitment of the Philippine
government to promoting foreign investment in
mining.

Independent organizations however warn against
support for TVI. According to Catherine Coumans
of MiningWatch Canada, "Ambassador Sutherland has
expressed support for TVI as representing
responsible Canadian mining in the Philippines,
but this company has never operated a mine before
and already has an appalling record of community
relations in Canatuan. From what I have seen in
visiting the site, TVI will do nothing to
Canadian mining's image in the Philippines; the
embassy is betting on the wrong horse."

The delegation will be in Ottawa and Toronto from
1-8 November and will have meetings with the
Department of Foreign Affairs, CIDA, Members of
Parliament, the Assembly of First Nations, the
Grand Council of the Crees, concerned NGOs, and
human rights groups including Amnesty
International. A meeting with the company has
also been requested mediated by church-based
groups in Toronto. As of the time of this release
no response has been received from TVI. The
visitors are also seeking advice on what legal
redress might be possible.

The delegation consists of:
* First Councillor Lunie Lucas, Chair
Environmental Committee, Siocon Municipal
Council, Zamboanga del Norte
* Timuay Noval Lambo for the Gukom Sa Pito
Kadulongan (7 Rivers Council of the Subanon)
* Mrs Conception Capitania, Save Siocon Paradise Movement
* Onsino Mato of Canatuan and representative of
the Siocon Subanon Association Apu Manglang
Glupa' Pusaka
[Representatives of the Muslim community in
Siocon were denied Canadian visas to join the
delegation.]

The tour is supported by MiningWatch Canada,
Christian Aid, Tebtebba Foundation and Philippine
Indigenous Peoples Links.

For more information contact:
Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 795-5710 (cell)


BACKGROUND:

Indigenous Subanon, Muslims, and Other Residents
of the Town of Siocon in the Philippines Align
Against Canadian Mining Company TVI

Catherine Coumans
October 2004

TVI Faces Social, Political and Environmental Risk in the Philippines

Social Opposition

Canadian mining company TVI Pacific Inc. (TVI),
listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), faces
social opposition to its proposed mining
activities in the Philippines from a united front
of citizens from diverse cultural backgrounds in
the town of Siocon, in south-western Mindanao,
the Philippines. The Indigenous Subanon, who live
in the mountains where TVI wants to locate its
mine, have come out against the project.
Down-stream communities in the fertile valley
below the mine are opposed to the mine as they
have already observed negative effects from the
mine's operations on the Siocon and Lituban
Rivers that they rely on for irrigation and fish
farming. Muslims from Siocon, living on the
coast, rely on fishing for their livelihood and
they too blame the mine for deteriorating fishing
conditions in the river's estuaries. All three
affected communities have unified in the Save
Siocon Paradise Movement. In elections held in
May of 2004, mayoral candidate Cesar Soriano
campaigned on the platform that if elected he
would oppose the TVI mine. He won a landslide
victory, winning twice as many votes as his
nearest competitor.

Most immediately threatened are the Indigenous
Subanon of Canatuan. TVI has started operations
this year and has already bulldozed the top of a
mountain that is a sacred place for the Subanon.
There are numerous villagers living on the slopes
of the mountain who will be displaced by the mine
if it proceeds.

Political Risk

In addition to social opposition, TVI is also
facing serious political challenges. The mine is
located in Zamboanga Del Norte Province on the
southern island of Mindanao. The Canadian Embassy
has a travel advisory out against travel by
Canadians in this region. This area has long
suffered from sectarian violence from Muslim
separatists known as the MNLF and MILF. It is
also the territory of the Abu Sayyaf, known for
kidnappings and local violence, and allegedly
associated with al-Qaeda. The U.S. now has troops
stationed in the region. A mine property known as
Kingking, also on the island of Mindanao, was
recently in the news ("Blood Money" - Former
Exec: American Company Paid Terrorist Group to
Protect Overseas Interests, by Brian Ross and
Rhonda Schwartz, ABCNEWS.com) for having
allegedly paid "revolutionary taxes" to the Abu
Sayyaf. TVI was a part owner of Kingking project
and two representatives of TVI were on its board
of directors. In 2002, there were two violent
attacks on TVI personnel resulting in 15 people
being killed. The second of these attacks
happened on December 26, 2002 when, according to
TVI, "an unidentified group of armed terrorists
ambushed a vehicle carrying TVI employees"
travelling between Canatuan and Siocon. Thirteen
people were killed and 12 people were wounded.

TVI employs armed paramilitary guards known as
Special Civilian Armed Auxiliaries (SCAA). These
guards are trained and armed by the Philippine
military, but employed by TVI. The guards man
numerous checkpoints between the town of Siocon
and the mine in Canatuan. Having recently visited
the area, I can attest to the fact that at least
the first of these checkpoints is on the public
road outside of the mine's concession area. The
SCAA guards control the movement of goods and
people on and off the site, which is also part of
the government-recognized ancestral land of the
local Subanon people. Leaders of the indigenous
community who oppose the mine have been singled
out for victimization. The legitimate and
recognized "Timuay" or leader of the Subanon of
Canatuan, Timuay José Anoy, is no longer allowed
to pass the checkpoints to go to his home, nor
can others from Canatuan who have expressed
opposition to the mine. TVI is clearly not in
compliance with its 1997 Environmental Compliance
Certificate that requires the company to assure
that "public roads shall remain open to allow the
free flow of traffic."

Residents both from Canatuan and from the town of
Siocon have faced attacks by the SCAA. Community
opposition to the mine has been met with violence
from security forces. There have been several
shooting incidents involving company security.
The most recent was in March 2004, when picketers
opposing the movement of mining equipment were
fired upon by company security and military. Four
people, including tribal elder Timuay Macario
Salacao, were wounded.

Environmental Problems

The environmental challenges faced by TVI are the
same ones that have plagued other mining
companies in the Philippines, including more
experienced ones such as Canada's mining giant
Placer Dome. Most mineral deposits in the
Philippines are volcanic in origin and located in
the mountains. The Philippines is also a tropical
country with a high annual rainfall. Open pit
mining generates enormous amounts of run-off and
toxic waste (waste rock and tailings) that must
be stored in such a way that it does not effect
the wider environment. The combination of
mountain top mining, high rainfall and large
amounts of toxic waste have all too often proven
disastrous in the Philippines, as elsewhere in
the tropics. High profile catastrophic failures,
such as the one that occurred at Placer Dome's
Marcopper mine in the Philippines in 1996, are a
concern, but so are the slow and steady releases
of uncontrolled erosion from the mine site and
the inadvertent - and sometimes deliberate -
releases of tailings into waterways to relieve
pressure on overfull tailings facilities.

In the case of TVI, my recent visit made clear
that one of the ways in which TVI is already
violating its 1997 Environmental Compliance
Certificate is its completely inadequate
management of erosion from the mine site.
Although the actual mine operations have only
gotten under way this year, the sand bag
enclosures that are supposed to stop runoff from
the fledgling mine are clearly already failing to
do so. Additionally, the first tailings
impoundment, used to hold tailings from TVI's
processing of small scale miners' material, is
not a modern engineered structured and there are
already reports - including a recorded
description by a former worker - of the way TVI
has been releasing tailings from that facility
during hard rains into nearby creeks that feed
the major rivers.

The Subanon of Canatuan are calling for:
o The Canadian government to stop backing TVI
o Responsible Canadian investors to not invest in this project
o TVI to withdraw its abusive security
personnel and leave the area in peace
o An independent fact-finding mission to
investigate the abuses and assess the level of
local support
o Canadian NGOs and Indigenous
organizations to monitor the actions of TVI and
oppose the denial and violation of Subanon rights
in their ancestral land.

"Toronto Ventures Inc. (TVI) has started its
illegal operations, and has desecrated our altar,
the tip of Mt. Canatuan, which is our most sacred
place. They bulldozed the tip of the mountain,
destroyed our most holy place, and in a matter of
weeks, our community will be wiped out due to
their mad drive for gold." - Timuay José Anoy,
Leader, Subanon Tribe Ancestral Domain of Apo
Manglang

 

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