Philippines UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-09-09
9th September 2006
Environmental & peoples rights groups in the Philippines have objected to a further extension of the test run at Lafayette's Rapu Rapu mine. There is alleged to be investment interest in the project from unnamed 'foreign forms'.
MAC editor Geoff Nettleton gave a recent talk in the Philippines on mining issues.
Yet another rights campaigner, linked to anti-mining activities, has become a victim of continued "political killings"; this time an indigenous leader in the Caraga Region of Mindanao, where BHP Billiton has exploration interests.
Environmental Groups blast Lafayette and DENR for Test-Run Extension Plans
Defend Patrimony Press Release
8th September 2006
Various groups allied with the Defend Patrimony!, a nationwide alliance against mining liberalization and calling for the defense of our national patrimony, raised howls of protest over plans of Lafayette Philippines, Inc. and DENR to extend the 30-day test run.
"This is already adding insult to injury! The DENR would be self-destructing if it continues to allow the 60-day extension of the Test Run," warned Frances Quimpo, Center for Environmental Concerns, Inc (CEC). "In the first place, the 30 day test run is already a big anomaly. The DENR knows that it is not the answer to the big questions around acid mine drainage (AMD) or containment of mine wastes issues of the Rapurapu project, Quimpo added.
AGHAM spokesperson Ricarido Saturay, Jr, challenged, "Why give this recidivist mining company special treatment? If Lafayette's structures and operations are already so good why should DENR not just require a truly independent environmental impact study (EIS) of the Rapurapu project and have it secure a fresh environmental compliance certificate (ECC)."
"What is this -- another chance again?! How low should our government agencies bend for these mining transnational corporations? Lafayette is not even bringing in fresh money. It is only operating on hedge funds, how much taxes can government stand to gain out of such operations," Ester Perez de Tagle, spokesperson of Concerned Citizens against Pollution (COCAP).
"The image of Lafayette as an irresponsible miner has already been so ingrained on the people. While it had not remedied the questions around "anomalies and shortcomings in its fulfillment of its social acceptability requirement," it went so far as to blame the local folks for the fresh round of fish kill Lafayette itself caused last July -- right in the middle of this crazy test run," lamented Fr. Ino Buguisan.
"This is too much. When will the DENR listen to the people? We like to remind the DENR that it still has to repair its own image for its lapses in ensuring protection of our environment and our people since Lafayette operated last year. If it will continue allowing Lafayette to operate then we will definitely hold Secretary Reyes, Director Ramos and Chief Cabalda accountable for future accidents in the island. We maintain our stand to have Lafayette closed down," said Antonio Casetas, head servant of Sagip Isla Sagip Kapwa, Inc.
Frances Quimpo, 9248756, 9209099, 09178513296
Trixie Concepcion, 9266636, 9263139, 09158507394
c/o Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St.
Bgy, Central, Quezon City,
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756
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Foreign firms keen on Lafayette mine
7th September 2006
Three foreign firms are interested in investing in the Philippine gold and copper mine of Australia's Lafayette Mining Ltd if Manila allows it to reopen, the company's lawyer said.
The Lafayette project on Rapu Rapu island, one of 24 being promoted by the government to revive the country's once-mighty mining sector, suspended operations three months after pouring its first gold in July 2005 due to two cyanide spills.
The government allowed the mine to conduct a test run from July 10. That was supposed to end on September 9 but lawyer Bayani Agabin said Lafayette had asked for a 60-day extension.
"If things work out properly, we hope to get a permanent listing order," Agabin told Reuters on the sidelines of a plant tour on the remote island southeast of Manila.
He said prospective investors included firms from Singapore, Australia and Canada but declined to identify them. Agabin said officials from the three firms had visited the Rapu Rapu mine.
"The discussions are still very general at this stage," he said.
Rapu Rapu has completed the first two phases of the test run - a five-day water test and a nine-day water and rock test. The third phase, which simulates actual operations using ore and chemicals, should end on Saturday.
"It will be easier to convince the public that we are compliant with standards if we hold more test runs on our pollution facilities," Agabin said.
Officials from the Mining and Geosciences Bureau said the extension would also enable Lafayette to debug its new base metals plant before it begins commercial operations.
"As far as the technical merit of the 60-day expansion is concerned, we see no problem with it," said Michael Cabalda, head of the bureau's Mining Environment and Safety Division.
Environmentalists and some influential Catholic bishops have opposed a Philippine law allowing for 100 per cent foreign ownership of mines.
Before the suspension, Lafayette was forecast to generate revenues of $US350 million ($A457.07 million) a year from production of 10,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate, 14,000 tonnes of zinc, 50,000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver.
In June, Lafayette paid a fine of 10.4 million pesos ($A270,323.21) imposed by the Philippine government after the spills at the mine.
South Korea's LG Co International Ltd and the South Korean government's resources investment arm KORES together hold 26 per cent of Lafayette Philippines Inc.
The rest is owned by the Australian company.
ABN Amro: Bad Credit! Get Out of Lafayette Mine
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London-based environmentalists clarify role for responsible mining activities
6th September 2006
International financing institutions funding mining projects in the Philippines have a significant role in ensuring responsible mining activities.
Geoff Nettleton, coordinator of Philippines Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks), a London-based environmental advocacy group, said international funding agencies should look carefully into the policies of government for indigenous peoples who are the most affected in mining activities.
Likewise, they should ensure that industries review their extracting activities and that investors would conduct meaningful consultations leading to broad community acceptance.
Nettleton made the statement at the "Forum on the international mining industry in the Philippines" held Monday at the Grand Men Seng hotel. The forum was initiated by Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM) and PIPLinks.
He said the World Bank for instance, should not provide funding assistance to companies which are not sensitive to the prerequisites of responsible mining to protect the people and the environment.
The World Bank should also ensure that funding intended for directly affected communities in mining development projects is delivered, he added.
Nettleton said claims that there are trillions of dollars in value for mining here in the Philippines are misleading.
He explained that in order to see if a mine creates a profit, the cost of extracting must be taken into account against its market and the companies have to pay for all the needed expenses for people and environment protection.
"The Philippines has much mineralized lands but it does not have much mineral deposits," he said.
Countries that depend on mining are experiencing a sluggish development compared to those who are focusing on other investments, Nettleton said.
The national government has been pushing the mining industry of the country, saying aside from generating additional revenues, it would also create more jobs.
But according to Nettleton, such statement is also misleading because mining investors employ only a few workers as they have enough facilities to do the business activity.
Founded in 1992, PIPLinks was created in response to requests for support from Philippine indigenous people's organizations. The organization is based in the United Kingdom which works on the same issues globally, AFRIM said.
Government asked: Stay as regulator, stop being promoter of mining
Written by Walter I. Balane, MindaNews - http://mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=823&Itemid=50
6th September 2006
DAVAO CITY -- The Philippine government should be a regulator and protector of the welfare of its people, not a promoter of mining operations in the country, an official of an international human rights group said.
Geoff Nettleton, coordinator of the Philippine Indigenous People Links, said in a forum on mining here today that the Philippines should stop promoting mining to international investors because it is not yet capable of "effectively" regulating the mining industry.
"If the national government could not do its work and protect Filipinos from abuses of mining operations, who will?" he asked.
Nettleton cited the government's efforts to lure foreign investors to go into the mining industry here. In his presentation, he said among the local boosts to mining is the Mining Act of 1995 and the National Minerals Policy shown in the country's mining action plan.
Last year, after the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Mining Act, the Philippines hosted an international conference on mining dubbed "Open for Business: Mining and Minerals as New Drivers of Growth."
According to data from the Alternative Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), the mining act provided for incentives to attract mining investors to the county.
AFRIM showed that the law provides for 100-percent foreign ownership of mining firms; guarantees the direct flow of capital, profits, equipment and loan services out of the country; reduced the royalty on gold to two percent; assured non-expropriation; and reduced excise taxation from five to two percent.
It also gave tax holidays and an assurance that mining companies will be prioritized in access to water in their areas.
Anti-mining advocates claimed the law was devised upon the behest of mining companies and on the recommendation of international financing agencies such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Program. They say the mining act's approval paved the way for the entry of giant foreign mining corporations into the country to explore and exploit local mineral resources.
Nettleton noted that attracting investments to mining also means stricter and more careful regulation, which the Philippine government does not provide.
He said the government should have cancelled the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of mining companies that has committed human rights violations in their areas of operations. "But it did not do so," he stressed.
Nettleton said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources does not have the capacity to ensure the safety of the people and the environment from mining hazards.
"There is historical basis that the DENR was not able to manage, monitor, and regulate well the mining industry," he said.
But to him, it is actually the whole political system that is not facing its responsibility to protect the people and the environment.
"If we don't have the capacity to ensure responsible mining without adverse effects to people and the environment, then mining operations will have to wait," he said.
Nettleton said if the government allows the flow of investments to mining even if it has no capacity to regulate effectively, then its people will be at the losing end. "Without the checks and balance, what does it make of the government's promotion of mining investments? What has happened to its role as protector of the people?" he asked.
Nettleton said the government must apply the precautionary principle and allow mining only when it is ready to regulate for responsible mining.
"Look at the past evidence of mining companies in the Philippines, don't just look at the bright future prospects that are not yet there," he said.
If indeed the government wants to raise funds, he said, it cannot do that at any cost.
Nettleton said majority of Filipinos depend on their lands and the water resources for livelihood, that is why there is need to carefully regulate mining operations in the countryside.
He said he does not believe the government has no alternative to mining.
Sustainable agriculture and tourism, he pointed out, are just two of the alternatives that could be explored. "There are real and viable alternatives out there. They simply are just not attractive to politicians," he said.
But Nettleton stressed that if the government is serious about developing the countryside and working for an equitable distribution of wealth, it has to ask the communities about how they want to solve it.
"Ask the communities. They simply want better lives, they want to survive, they want to take care of their lands and other natural resources. They just want peace," he said.
Nettleton said the communities have their own sustainable development plans. "It might not be attractive, but the plans will make their lives better without adverse effects to the environment," he said.
Indigenous people's rights activist slain
By Ben Serrano, The Philippine Star - http://www.philstar.com/philstar/NEWS200609069905.htm
6th September 2006
BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte - An advocate of indigenous people's rights and a Manobo leader himself was gunned down right inside his residence here last Monday afternoon.
The victim, Jovito Pinakiid, 45, killed by three men on board a TMX motorcycle, became the 15th activist slain in the Caraga region and the 35th across Mindanao.
Pinakiid's gunslaying now adds to the so-called "political killings" which the independent commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo is tasked to probe.
The Melo Commission includes Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos.
Pinakiid had advocated the right for self-determination of indigenous groups in the Caraga region against destructive mining and logging.
He sustained four gunshot wounds from caliber .45 pistols in different parts of the body, the Buenavista police said.
Pinakiid told The STAR two months ago that he was sad that thousands of lumads (uplanders) in the region were still oppressed and wallowing in poverty due to ignorance and continuing government neglect despite the passage of the Indigenous People's Rights Act, which supposedly guarantees their rights and welfare.
Chief Superintendent Antonio Dator, Caraga police director, said he has instructed his men to conduct a thorough investigation into Pinakiid's murder.
In an initial report, police claimed that Pinakiid had repeatedly been enticed by the New People's Army but reportedly turned their offers down because he wanted a peaceful resolution to the problems of indigenous groups.