MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mining, And The Threat To Indigenous Peoples And Environment

Published by MAC on 2005-10-29

The following updates on mining in the Philippines consist of a press statement on the impacts on indigenous peoples of the government's attempts to revive mining, news of a cyanide leak at the Rapu Rapu mine, the fatalities of miners in an accident at Mt Diwalwal and a resolution against mining adopted by the Provincial Board at Marinduque (including the text of the resolution itself).

Influx of mining, an ever present threat to indigenous peoples and environment


October 29, 2005

Reference: Himpad Mangulmnalas (a Higaonon)
Acting Spokesperson SIPA-Gloria (Solidarity of Indigenous Peoples & Advocates for GMA’s Ouster)
Brgy. Central Diliman
Quezon City

When the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 in December 2004, environmentalists, indigenous peoples and concerned groups raised hell to condemn it. Then, the fiscal crisis was used by the pro-mining clout in the highest ranks in government, led by pro-mining President Gloria Arroyo herself to justify the reversal of an earlier decision from the Supreme Court declaring some sections of RA7942 (Mining Act of 1995) as unconstitutional.

Now, the reason for the outcry becomes more justified and right, as the entry, re-operation, or expansion of mining firms become an ever glaring threat to the people, especially to the indigenous peoples and the environment.

As per experience, the indigenous peoples consider mining as tantamount to forcible and oftentimes bloody displacements, killings and the eventual loss of ancestral lands and its resources.

A specific case is the heightened operation of TVI Pacific Inc., a Canadian mining firm which plans to put US$12M additional investments to its zinc and copper operations in Mt. Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga.

Ironically, this area is part of the ancestral lands of the Subanen indigenous peoples who have been in fact awarded by the President herself a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), a document certifying the prior right of the Subanens over the lands which the TVI lays its mining claims. Due to the inutility of such a certificate to protect the ancestral land rights of the indigenous peoples and on top the Arroyo government’s servility to transnational corporations, the Subanens are forcibly displaced from their own ancestral lands while the mining operations of a foreign mining firm is justified as constitutional with the guaranteed protection from the military.

With the government-endorsed entry of mining in their sacred mountain, the Subanen people realized that the CADT, which they thought as the State’s symbol of recognition to their rights to land, proved to be a useless sheet of fancy paper awarded merely to serve as photo opportunity sessions of the president.

Others justify that the huge dollar investment from mining is worth all the woes and bane that mining poses to the anyway, “minority” population. But is it?

Mining, especially large scale foreign mining which uses the open-pit mining method is an extractive and destructive industry. This is a fact and there could never be such a thing as sustainable mining. Mining involves the logging of vast hectares of mountainous areas after which mountains are tunneled or carved out to as deep as wherever the minerals lay. As a result, mountain bases weaken causing many communities and mountains to erode or cave in. Mine wastes end up nowhere else but in the rivers and other water systems, causing severe pollution of water systems. This in turn leads to the spread of diseases among the residents, an overarching issue that touches on the state’s health dimension accountability which the Philippine government could not afford.

Also contrary to the argument of government officials that mining is the key solution to the fiscal crisis, let us be reminded of our experience with the Marcopper Mining and Placer Dome companies which left the Boac river in Marinduque biologically dead after its controversial mine spill and refusal to clean up its wastes . This caused not only the loss of livelihood for the population of Marindique but greater economic loss for the Philippine government as well.

The point is that profits from mining is not even enough to clean up the wastes that foreign mining firms leave behind after they plunder our country’s gold and minerals. On the same note, given that the Mining Act allows 100% foreign capital investment, these foreign firms have 100% repatriation rights to all their profits.

Look at the Cordillera region for instance where 100 years of foreign mining operation has only brought about forcible displacement, landlessness, and marginalization of the majority of the Igorot indigenous peoples, as well as grave environmental destruction which causes spates of landslides and the literal collapse of community infrastructures. With the influx of foreign mining applications, enticed by the Arroyo government’s liberalized and foreign –dependent economic policies, the remaining indigenous peoples in the country are finding themselves squatters in the lands that their forefathers have tilled and nurtured. Future generations would be born to a devastated and lifeless environment, the riches of which have been shipped to some foreign country’s own gold reservoir.

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