Brief BackgroundPublished by MAC on 2001-04-11
Aglubang Mining is a subsidiary of Crew Development Corp of Vancouver, Canada. This group bought up Mindex of Norway in 1999/2000 and with it the Mindoro Nickel prospect. This is a potentially large laterite nickel mining project. However the project has been consistently opposed by local organisations of Indigenous Peoples and other citizens groups since it was first revealed to be an advanced state of exploration in 1999. The proposed project has also been opposed by the Mayors league of Mindoro Oriental and the provincial Governor.
The project would require the stripping of at least 1000 hectares of the rare remaining forest cover in central Mindoro. This is the ancestral land of 2 Mangyan peoples the Alangan and Tadyawan. It is also a watershed for downstream farmers. The forest is home to rare and endemic species including the Tamaraw-Mindoro Buffalo. Mangyan farms, forests would be destroyed. Downstream farmers fear siltation and flooding and competition for water. Coastal communities are opposed to the proposal to dump the waste in the sea and to site a processing plant near the coast within a protested watershed and next to an existing community of Pili, Pinamalayan.
Despite this clear rejection the project has continued to progress under the Estrada administration in a most anomalous manner. When President Estrada and is notorious minister of the Environment Antonio Cerilles were thrown out it was revealed that Crew Aglubang had been granted a mining license despite not having completed an environmental Clearance process nor gaining necessary Social acceptability. This was one of the so called DENR Midnight orders signed by Cerilles just before leaving office.
Massive protests in the province have taken place. the latest in February involved more than 10,000 people. The project has heightened tension and conflict. The New Peoples Army (guerillas) burned down the company camp and "executed" the local Barrio Captain who was actively supportive of the project and reported to be in the pay of the company. After this incident the company called, in a letter to the President, for the militarisation of the area to protect their investment. A development opposed by the local Mayor, Governor and even then Minister of Defence!
The attempts of the company to gain local and higher level endorsements have repeatedly been linked to questionable payments and dubious practices. Elected Provincial officials were given watches. Local media men for local and national press outlets were recruited to an advertising/PR agency by the company with substantial and regular payments. A local pro company newspaper has moved from being a weekly to coming out 4 days a week. Each edition contains a full page ad for the project.
The indigenous Mangyan have been re-organised out of their pre-existing organisations into ones under the patronage of the company and the government's agency for Indigenous peoples the NCIP. Mangyan leaders with big responsibilities for indigenous decision making have been recruited by the company as "community liaison officers" gifts of rice, farm animals and others have been made to a small group of Mangyan on the site. The legality of these moves is under challenge from indigenous organisations and church groups. The company's Consultants Dames and Moore were thrown out of the province after it was revealed that they had forged an endorsement from the provincial Administrator- only to be replaced by Woodward Clyde a seemingly independent consultancy but in fact still controlled by Dames and Moore.
In a letter to the Government the Company has called for militarization of the mine site area to protect their investment. The latest community development project- electrification was opened by the Canadian Ambassador and accompanied in the local Press by a headline announcing Canadian Government backing for the Nickel Project!
The Estrada Cerilles administration was removed from office for proven corruption. In the year prior to their removal both the President and the Environment Secretary endorsed the Crew project despite the fact that environmental assessments had not been completed or considered by the Department for the Environment and despite the fact that legally exactly these 2 officials hold the final decision on the project once all evidence and reports are submitted. (Rather like the referee in a big sports match announcing before the start that he has placed a bet on one of the teams which explains why he is wearing their colours!.)
This latest announcement that the license of Crew/Aglubang is to be revoked is clearly a massive advance for the opposition to the project. However there are reasonable fears that the unwanted project is not yet dead and that the proponents are regrouping in private and may reemerge after the May elections.
There is a need to follow up with the company and clarify their response. Also it should be noted that the DENR secretary's comment is thought to be a recommendation to the President and is not sufficient without her action on the issue.
For more background information visit the website of Alamin