MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining Pros And Cons

Published by MAC on 2007-01-31
Source: Manila Times ()

Mining pros and cons

BIG DEAL By Dan Mariano, Manila Times

31st January 2007

Secretary Angelo Reyes of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was grinning ear-to-ear last week. The reason for the uncharacteristic facial expression of the usually taciturn ex-defense chief was a DENR report on "exciting" developments in the mining industry.

"The major players are now here," said Reyes, "and their investments indicate increased confidence of global mining investors in the Philippines."

He cited two companies, Anglo-American Plc and Xstrata Copper, which have both staked millions of dollars in mining projects in the country.

Reyes recently approved the exploration permit of Manila Mining Corp. on the information that Anglo-American was finalizing a joint venture agreement with MMC for the exploration of the Bayugo Copper Gold Project in Anislagan, Placer, Surigao del Norte. The London-based Anglo-American has reportedly committed to outlay an initial $10 million for exploration works in the next two years in the project.

World-class project

The Bayugo copper-gold prospect is similar to the adjacent Boyungan Copper-Gold Porphyry Deposit that Anglo-American is exploring under a separate venture with Philex Mining Corp.

"Together, Bayugo and Boyungan would make another world-class gold-copper project that should further firm up the Philippines' place in the world mining map," Reyes said.

Last month Swiss mining giant Xstrata Copper acquired 62.5 percent of the Tampakan copper-gold deposit in South Cotabato from Indophil Resources. The management handover of the project is due for completion in March.

Xstrata's move came in the wake of encouraging results of a pre-feasibility study commissioned by Indophil on its Tampakan property.

The Tampakan deposit is one of the largest undeveloped copper deposits in Southeast Asia estimated to contain 11.6 million metric tons of copper and 14.6 million ounces of gold. The project will need $2 billion to get into commercial operation.

Aside from Anglo-American and Xstrata, Reyes also cited three more multinational mining firms-Chemical Vapor Metal Refinery Co. (CVMR), Phelps Dodge and BHP-Billiton-which will "firm up their position" in the mining industry.

So elated was Reyes by these and other developments that he predicted a boom for the local mining industry next year. "We are now on the verge of takeoff for that long-anticipated boom," the DENR chief was quoted saying.

The government seeks to revive the minerals industry, which it sees would serve as catalyst for economic growth, especially in the countryside, DENR said. The industry is projected to bring in about $6.5 billion in investments in the medium term, and create over 200,000 additional jobs.

Looking the other way

But as Reyes waxed enthusiastic about the mining industry's bright prospects, a team of Filipino, Irish and British activists scored the Philippine government for tolerating mining companies that violate safety and environmental regulations.

Antimining advocates bared last week the results of a mission conducted by the Missionary Society of St. Columban, Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, Irish Center for Human Rights, Triocaire, Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links and ATM.

The 66-page report, "Mining in the Philippines: Concerns and Conflicts," was written by a team from the United Kingdom and Ireland, led by Clare Short, a member of the British Parliament and former UK development minister. (See www.iucn.org).

Team members said they visited three mining sites in Mindanao. They also interviewed representatives of local governments and civil society from four other mining sites-including the controversial Rapu-Rapu, Albay, site under the Australian company Lafayette.

The report tells of several cases where the government relaxed its enforcement of national and international mining standards in its bid to lure foreign investors.

In July and August last year the team visited three communities affected by mining: Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur; Mount Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte; and Barangay Libay in Sibutad, Zamboangal del Norte.

Tribes bypassed

According to tribal leaders in Midsalip and Mount Canatuan, mining permit applicants routinely bypass local tribesmen in violation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and the Mining Act.

"Mount Canatuan is our ancestral domain and our sacred mountain," said Subanen leader Timuay Jose Boy Anoy. "We do not need the development promised by mining. We need peace. We need our land to continue our way of life."

In Mount Canatuan, Canadian mining company TVI reportedly evicted families despite their ancestral domain certificates. Area farmers and fishermen also reported damage to their livelihood and health, which they traced to pollution caused by mining.

In Barangay Libay, the site for large-scale mining in 1997-2002 by the Canadian company Philex Gold, the land and people have still not recovered from tailing dam overflows and mudslides destroyed rice fields, mangroves and corals.

"I was deeply shocked by the negative impact of mining in the Philippines. During our visit we found scant evidence of mining benefiting the local people of the country's economy," published reports quoted British MP Short as saying. DENR Secretary Reyes may have cause to be happy, but who is he happy for?

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