MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Raging Against Norwegian Mining Company: They Conned Us With A Cup Of Rice

Published by MAC on 2006-09-20

Raging against Norwegian mining company: they conned us with a cup of rice [all translated from Norwegian c/o PIPLinks]

Published: 20th September 2006

The indigenous population was conned with a cup of rice into giving the thumbs up to Crew Gold Exploration's mining project in the Philippines.

By Lars Magne Sunnanå

Oslo Stock Exchange-listed Crew (CRU) is digging its way through grave sites and threatening water reservoirs in its pursuit of nickel, claims Ramil Baldo, a leader of the indigenous Mangyan people.

The indigenous people live on the remote Philippine Mindoro islands, where Crew wants to develop nickel production.

"They summoned people down from the mountains to a meeting. There everyone was offered a cup of rice in return for putting a fingerprint on the agreement," says Baldo to Næringsliv24.

Baldo is currently in Oslo. With support from inter alia The Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous People, Galdu, and The Future In Our Hands, he claims that the indigenous people agreed to the project after having been made false promises.

"Threatening our cultural foundations"

Crew has been among the fastest rising shares on the Oslo Stock Exchange in recent years. The Mindoro project in the Philippines has contributed to raising the share price sky-high. According to Baldo, Crew's mining plans will destroy the environmental and cultural foundations of the area's indigenous population. The company is digging its way through grave sites and its plans are threatening important water reservoirs, he claims.

Baldo says his people fear being driven off their own land if full-scale mining activities commence.

The local authorities on Mindoro are opposed to the mining project, which however has strong support from central government and the presidential office in Manila.

"Brought in a pastor"

The agreement between the Norwegian mining company and the Mangyan people was entered into in 1999. The contract, of which Næringsliv24 has a copy, is full of thumbprints from representatives of the indigenous population.

Mining company Mindex (now a part of Oslo Stock Exchange-listed Crew Gold Corporation) had brought in a local pastor to explain what the agreement entailed, says Baldo.

The local population believed, according to Baldo, that they were only giving their support to the taking of soil samples. The local population were reassured that important areas, such as grave sites and water reservoirs, would be protected.

Unable to read or write

But the agreement states clearly that Mindex (now Crew) has the right to exploit metals found in the area. In return, the Mangyan people would benefit from royalty incomes and funding for infrastructure.

In Baldo's opinion, however, the company is heading towards full-scale extraction on Mindoro - something to which the Mangyan people did not understand they were giving consent.

"Since they could neither read nor write, they believed what was said about the agreement," he says. Philippine law requires the affected indigenous population and local government authorities to be fully informed and to have given their consent before this type of project is commenced.

Taking Crew to court

Baldo will, with support from anti-mining organisations in the Philippines, fight against Crew's project in court.

Today Baldo and priest Edwin Gariguez, who is active in the anti-mining movement in the Philippines, met shareholders in Crew Gold Corporation.

They are also to meet members of the Storting [Norwegian Parliament]. They have previously laid their accusations before the Sameting [Sami Parliament].

Neither managing director Jan A. Vestrum nor other members of Crew's management have been willing to meet Baldo and Gariguez.

"They don't respect the law"

Vestrum told Næringsliv24:

"This group don't accept Philippine legislation. Therefore we have nothing to discuss with them. We have obtained a licence pursuant to Philippine law and have followed it meticulously. Period."

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