MAC: Mines and Communities

Gov't Warned About Mining Firms With Poor Track Record

Published by MAC on 2007-06-05
Source: Philippine Inquirer

Gov't warned about mining firms with poor track record

By TJ Burgonio, Inquirer -

5th June 2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Environmental groups cautioned the government Monday against allowing "mining giants'' with poor environmental records elsewhere in the world to operate here, even as they prepared to mount protests coinciding with the 7th Asia Pacific Mining Conference.

Clemente Bautista, one of the organizers of a group called Defend Patrimony, said he deplored that the government has been prodding the world's largest mining companies to invest here even though these companies had caused environmental disasters.

He cited the cases of case of BHP Billiton and Anglo-American.

Bautista said AHP Billiton was being wooed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo even though it is facing a $4-billion class suit filed by the Ninerum people of Papua New Guinea over its mine tailings that flowed into the Fly and Ok Tedi rivers.

The company, he said in a briefing, is eyeing a multi-million-dollar nickel project in Davao Oriental in partnership with local mining firms Hallmark Mining Corp. and AustraAsia Link Mining Corp.

Anglo-American, on the other hand, has three pet projects, including Boyongan Copper Project in Surigao del Norte, the Padcal Copper Extension Project in Tuba, Benguet with Philex Mining Corp., and the Conner Copper Gold Project in Apayao and Kalinga provinces.

Elsewhere in the world, Anglo American has a poor environment record. For instance, its operations allegedly destroyed the ecological balance in Zambia, and killed crops and contaminated waters in Venezuela, according to Santos Mero of the Cordillera People's Alliance.

It was named by the Canada Commission for Environmental Cooperation as one of the main toxic lead polluters throughout North America, he added.

"We have learned of this notorious human rights and environmental track record of the Anglo American in South Africa and Latin America. We do not want this to happen in the Philippines, particularly in the Cordillera,'' he said.

Bautista warned that the administration's stepped-up efforts to lure foreign companies would make the country "more vulnerable to grave environmental disasters'' such as the 2005 mine tailings spills at the Lafayette mining project in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

"We do not want other communities and other provinces to go through the same hardships that Bicolanos have faced as a result of the mine tragedy,'' said Antonio Casitas of Sagip Isla, an Albay-based organization calling for a stop of mining in Rapu-Rapu island.

Defend Patrimony and Alyansa Tigil Mina were to stage rallies on Tuesday outside the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City, venue of the 7th Asia-Pacific Mining Conference, to protest the operation of mining companies in the country.

"It's just right that we conduct these protest actions. Just as the bishops had said, we should open our eyes to the mining of our land, and the destruction that it has wrought on our environment, and the livelihood of our people,'' Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of Caloocan City said.

The senators, including the newly elected candidates, should review the effects of Mining Act vis-à-vis environment groups' call for its scrapping, he added.

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