MAC: Mines and Communities

Groups Renew Drive To Scrap Mining Law

Published by MAC on 2007-06-05
Source: Business Mirror

Groups renew drive to scrap mining law

By Jonathan L. Mayuga, Business Mirror

5th June 2007

ANTIMINING groups renewed Monday the campaign to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, warning that the entry of the world's giant mining firms will cause environmental catastrophe.

The entry of BHP Billiton and Anglo-American will "bring the country into a state of calamity" and "unleash an environmental tsunami," said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), during a press conference in Quezon City on Monday.

The group was scheduled to stage a lightning rally at the RCBC Plaza, near the TVI headquarters and Australian and Canadian Embassies along Dela Rosa corner Ayala Avenue, Makati City, late in the afternoon Monday in protest against the scheduled Asia-Pacific Mining Conference and Exhibition to be held in Makati City this week.

Today, June 5, a protest march from LandMark, Makati to Glorieta 3 Garden near Shangri-La Hotel will be held in time for the mining conference's kick-off ceremony.

The group is expected to launch the Human Rights Impact Assessment Publication on Thursday, exposing the alleged ills of large-scale mining in the Philippines.

The anti-mining protesters found a strong ally in Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Yñiguez, who reiterated the position of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the mining issue.

Yñiguez said there is a need to reassess the cost and the benefits of mining in the Philippines, taking note of the tragedy it brings in the name of economic development, before opening the doors to more mining firms.

"I am calling on the lawmakers to review the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and for President Arroyo to reconsider her policy on mining," he said.

ATM, a network of nongovernment organizations and civil society organizations, assailed the government for playing host to the 7th Asia Pacific Mining Conference and Exhibit in Makati City which is scheduled to kick of today, Tuesday.

Garganera said as the government was upholding the economic benefits of mining during the 2006 Asean Mining Conference and Exhibition last year, an environmental disaster was also ongoing, referring to disaster brought about by the two mining incident at the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project of the Australian mining firm Lafayette Philippines Inc. on Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay.

"We were really shocked by the fact that the management of that mining company were scrambling to cover up the incident, while at the same time extolling the economic impact of mining money to our shores," Garganera said.

The environmental activists group Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) and Defend Patrimony vowed to stage a series of protest actions against the scheduled regional conference on mining.

Kalikasan-PNE secretary general Clemente Bautista echoed Garganera's call to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, saying it only favors foreign interests, which have control of both capital and technology.

He said the provisions of the law and especially the implementing rules and regulations are "spurious and oppressive, immoral and antipeople."

Worse, he said, the law condemns the very poorest and marginalized sector-the indigenous people-to suffer even more as they watch the destruction of their ancestral lands.

"We condemn the gross environmental destruction caused by large-scale, open-cast and mechanized mining operations which virtually destroy the lands, forests, rivers and oceans leading to habitat alteration, loss of rich bio-diversity and irreversible impacts on climate change," he said.

Bautista warned that the entry of giant mining firms in the Philippines, most of which are notorious in other parts of the globe for their role in grave environmental disasters, spotty human rights records, and anti-labor histories.

He cited the case of BHP Billiton and Anglo-American, which are both eyeing big projects in the Philippines.

BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, is eyeing a multimillion-dollar nickel project in Pujada Peninsula, Davao Oriental in partnership with local mining firms Hallmark Mining Corp. and AustraAsia Link Mining Corp.

Anglo-American, the world's fourth largest mining company by capitalization, has mining interests spread across Cordillera and Mindanao through its subsidiaries Cordillera Exploration Inc. (CEXI) and Northern Luzon Exploration and Mining Co. Inc.

At least three of Anglo-American's pet projects are included in the 24 priority mining projects of the Arroyo administration, namely, the Boyongan Copper Project in Surigao del Norte, which is expected to go into full commercial operations in 2009, the Padcal Copper Extension Project in Tuba, Benguet with Philex Mining Corp., which is expected to go into full commercial operations this year, and the Conner Copper Gold Project in Apayao and Kalinga provinces by CEXI.

BHP Billiton is being wooed by the government, despite the fact that it is facing a $4-billion class suit filed only this January 2007 by Nenrum people of Papua New Guinea for the Ok Tedi environmental disaster it has caused.#

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