MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mindanaoans band to oppose large-scale mining

Published by MAC on 2006-04-26

Mindanaoans band to oppose large-scale mining

By Alden C. Pantaleon Jr., MindaNews

26th April 2006

SURIGAO CITY -- Mindanao-based environmentalist groups, religious leaders and advocates of alternative mining policy have united into a broader anti-large-scale mining movement to oppose the revitalization of the country's 1995 Mining Act.

In a five-day conference held at Maharlika Training Center in Lipata, this city, some 200 delegates representing various organizations coming from provinces of Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, South Cotabato, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dipolog and Zamboanga del Norte have forged unity to resist large-scale mining incursion in their respective communities and pushed for "Mindanao people's alternative mining policy".

The Arroyo government was forced to shelve the Republic Act 7942 otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 due to strong opposition of the people in 2003. On January 27, 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the Mining Act as a policy "favors the interest of foreign corporations" and directly assaults the country's sovereignty and patrimony. However, SC reversed its earlier ruling and declared the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippine had strongly criticized President Arroyo's effort to open the country's mining industry to foreign companies.

Sister Elsa Compuesto, MSM, executive secretary of the Sisters' Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), said the gathering of various organizations based in Mindanao would further push the "unity of diverse groups towards the opposition of large-scale mining."

The assembly dubbed as the "Mindanao convergence of advocates for alternative mining policy" was held April 17-21.It was the fifth Mindanao-wide conference on anti-mining advocates held in various provinces and cities to discuss on the environmental and social effects of foreign large-scale mining activities.

"Since the Supreme Court ruled the constitutionality of the Mining Act on 2004, the government has pushed for Mindanao as the haven of mining investment," Compuesto, also one of the key organizers, said. She added that there are 11 reported mining projects in Mindanao, four of these in Surigao.

Documents show that there are 31 Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) applications in Mindanao and 820,494 hectares of land in Southern Mindanao are covered by 13 FTAA applications of 11 mining companies.

Among them are the Benguet Corporation's copper and gold project in Pantukan; Crew Mineral's copper project in Maco; Pujada Nickel project in Davao Oriental; Taganito Mining Corporation in Claver, Surigao del Norte, QNI-Cagdianao Mining in Carrascal in Surigao del Sur; KIPPA Mining in Urbiztundo, Claver in Surigao del Norte; Manila Mining Corporation in Placer, Surigao del Norte; Nonoc Nickel Mining in Surigao del Norte; Canatuan Gold project in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte; and Western Mining Company in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

"Large-scale foreign mining companies, aided by their local dummies, bring about displacement and human rights violations through militarization," participants said in a statement. They also lambasted the Arroyo government for its "fervent push for mining revitalization through the Mindanao Action Plan."

Fr. Edwin Borlasa, MSC, chair of the Katawhang Simbahan Alang sa Malamboong Kabuhatan (KASAMAKA), said there's a need to promote and heighten public awareness on the state of the country's mining industry as well as on the environmental and social cost of mining, particularly in tribal communities. He cited evidences of environmental destruction and social displacements brought about by the Manila Mining Corporation (MMC) in Placer town.

At least 12 people have been buried alive when a tailing pond of the MMC in Sitio Tinabigan, Magsaysay in Placer town collapsed 10 years ago, Borlasa said.

Lawyer Gerry Sentro, of the Surigao City-based San Sebastian College Recoletos, said "it is sad to note that Surigao is rich in natural resources but majority of the Surigaonons are poor."He said only foreign corporations have enriched themselves while displacing hundreds of farmers and Lumads from their lands.

"We formed a human barricade at the center of the road to block the entry of MRL (Mindoro Research, Ltd.) vehicles," said Rose Calañas, vice president of the Hiniusang Katawhang Bantay sa Kinaiyahan (HKBK).

She said they were not consulted by the MRL when the latter started its mining exploration in Barangay San Francisco in Mainit, Surigao del Norte. Calañas said the residents were frightened on the effect of an almost kilometer-long land crack that traversed three puroks of Barangay San Francisco since the exploration started months ago.

Borlasa said the meter-wide crack was already reported to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Surigao City but no positive action had been taken. He said the MGB only assured the residents that it is not dangerous but warned them to immediately evacuate from the area if continuous rain occurred.

"We need help to stop the mining exploration in our community," said Calañas, adding that the exploration permit of the MRL would expire on June this year.

Lumad participants also raised concern regarding the "divide-and-rule" scheme employed by foreign mining corporations against indigenous communities.

Floro Tabalina, secretary-general of the Zamboanga del Norte People's Alliance, said the mining operation of the Canadian firm TVI Resource Development Philippines in Siocon town has divided the Subanon tribe.

Tabalina said one group of Subanons welcome TVI's operations as having "brought progress to their community while another group blames TVI for encroaching on their sacred land." He claimed that the mining firm seems to be "happy seeing the people killing each other."

"It is a mining industry that rapes, extract, denudes, divests, drains and brings about division and death to our environment and the indigenous peoples," the conference statement said.

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