Philippines updatePublished by MAC on 2007-09-11
11th September 2007
TVI Pacific and Royalco have been prominent in the Philippines' press of late.
The United Nations body that deals with racial discrimination has written a strongly worded letter to the Philippine Government, concerned about events at Mount Canatuan. Meanwhile, arguments continue over whether the sulphide tailings dam at the site suffered a 'collapse' or 'soil erosion'.
The stand-off between Royalco's subsidiary, Oxiana Philippines, and local people at Nueva Viscaya continues, with accusation and counter-accusation flying while the barricades remain solid. A call has been made for a Congressional hearing on the case.
The Communist NPA is alleged to have threatened infiltration of the barricades, while some are concerned that its attacks on the controversial Rapu Rapu mine will provoke further militarisation.
In the light of the ongoing conflict yet more local governments have sought to issue ordinances banning mining, and the local Governor at Rapu Rapu has come out against new exploration.
Nonetheless, the President and her supporters continue doggedly to sell the mineral potential of the Philippines at international conferences (though now, at least, focussing on the importance of providing benefits to communities).
Philippines gets UN deadline to act on mining charges
By ELLAYN DE VERA, Manila Bulletin
10th September 2007
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) has imposed a deadline on the Philippine government to address the charges made by Subanon people in Zamboanga del Norte who said the government "failed to uphold and protect" the rights of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in its promotion of large-scale mining in ancestral lands.
In a letter dated last Aug. 24 from UNCERD chairman Regis de Gouttes, the Philippine government was requested "to submit its response and comment no later than Dec. 31, 2007."
The response will be examined by the committee members during the 72nd UNCERD session from Feb. 18, 2008 to March 7, 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Gouttes said in the absence of a response on the set deadline, the committee will "consider adopting a decision under its early warning and urgent action procedure during the UNCERD session next year."
At least three indigenous organizations from the Subanon tribe sought the intervention of the UN last August on reports that Mt. Canatuan in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte has been "desecrated" by large-scale mining operations of Canadian mining firm TVI Pacific.
Furthermore, as cited in the UNCERD's letter to the Philippine government, it urged the government to submit its 15th to 18th periodic reports, which were overdue since 1998.
"In case of non-receipt of the overdue reports by June 30, 2008, concluding observations will be adopted in the absence of a report and in light of information received from other sources, including from non-government organizations at its 73rd session from July 28 to Aug. 15, 2008," Gouttes said.
The UNCERD is the body of independent experts monitoring the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which was adopted in December 1965, by its state parties.
At least 59 state parties including the Philippines, which ratified the ICERD in 1967, are members of the UNCERD.
All state-parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially one year after acceding to the convention and then every two years. The committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the state party in the form of "concluding observations."
United Nations committee sets deadlines for Philippine Government to address accusations of Rights violations against Indigenous Peoples
Task Force Canatuan Press Release
6th September 2007 
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD)  has imposed deadlines on the Government of the Philippines to respond to accusations of failure to uphold and protect the rights of the Subanon and other Indigenous Peoples caused by Government biased support for mining developments. The UN particularly focussed upon issues arising from TVI Pacific's gold mining operations on Mount Canatuan but also highlighted indigenous concern regarding serious shortcomings in the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (1997).
In the strongly worded letter to the Government of the Philippines, the UN CERD noted with concern the allegations 'according to which members of the Subanon community are exposed to acts of violence and attacks on their property, sacred sites and institutions, and regarding the existence of a pattern of escalating racial hatred and violence against the Subanon community'. The UN CERD expressed particular concern about 'information that paramilitary forces deployed by TVI Pacific are accused of human rights violations and that mining activities on Mount Canatuan continue and are being expanded.' It called on the Government to provide information on the measures taken to protect the members of the Subanon community and to address their complaints.
The granting of the mining concession to TVI Pacific 'without the prior consent of the Subanon community, or its duly authorized representatives, in violation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA)' was another area of particular concern for the UN. It requested information as to how a body alleged to have 'no status in indigenous structure and not deemed representative by the Subanon' was 'granted representative status for the Subanon community' thereby enabling it to conclude 'an agreement with a Canadian mining company (TVI Pacific) in order to authorize mining activities on Mount Canatuan, a sacred site of the Subanon'.
The UN CERD also expressed its concern regarding the implementation of the IPRA, requesting that the Government provide a detailed response to 'the information according to which amendments ...to the 1998 Implementing Rules and Regulations impose restrictions in relation to the time-frame and process required to obtain the free and prior informed consent ...of indigenous communities which are not in conformity with the customs, laws and traditional practices of these communities'.
The UN CERD letter to the Government of the Philippines follows a detailed submission presented by a consortium of NGOs led by three indigenous Subanon organisations, which catalogued the government's discriminatory policies and actions against the Subanon, and other Indigenous Peoples, in relation to its promotion of large-scale mining on ancestral lands. Timuay (traditional leader) Fernando Mudai and Timuay Jose Anoy explained to the committee that "Mt. Canatuan is sacred to us...but the Canadian mining company made it a dumpsite for its toxic wastes. What is our sin against the Canadians? We did not go to Canada and desecrate their place, but the Canadians came here and destroyed our sacred mountain." They added that "We are not anti-government or anti-development as some people claim. We believe in a development path determined by the Subanon themselves, one that follows our core principles of being pro-life, pro-people, pro-environment and pro-God. We have seen what has happened at Canatuan and this mining project goes against all of these principles. To defend our future we have no choice but to oppose this abusive project and its planned expansion."
A deadline of 'no later than 31 December 2007' was set by the UN CERD for the Government to provide its response to the issues raised. In the absence of a response by this deadline the UN CERD will consider adopting a decision under its early warning and urgent action procedure. The Philippines has also been requested to submit it's long overdue full country report before 30 June 2008.
The full text of the letter issued by the UN CERD to the Government of the Philippines is available at :
www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/philippines_letter.pdf. The submission presented to UN CERD can be downloaded at:
For more information or documentation contact:-
Zherwinah Mosqueda, LRC-KSK -- phone +63 88 856 5045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Timuay Fernando Mudai, PBS -- phone +63 62 353 1480 or email email@example.com
Geoff Nettleton, PIPLinks - phone +44 207 326 0363 or +44 1367 718889 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editors
 Task Force Canatuan is a loose umbrella organisation concerned about TVI Pacific's activities in Canatuan. Local, national and international groups associated with it include Apo Manglang Glupa' Pusaka (AMGP), Gukom of the Seven Rivers, Pigsalabukan Bangsa Subanon (PBS), Save Siocon Paradise Movement (SSPM), DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI), Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KSK), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippine Misereor Partnerships (PMP), Tebtebba Foundation, MiningWatch Canada and Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks)
 The UN CERD met for its 71st session in Geneva from 30 July --17 August. The Committee is responsible for monitoring the adherence of States to their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The Philippines, which ratified ICERD in 1967, has failed in its obligations to submit regular reports. It last filed a report in 1997. At that time, the committee expressed its concern regarding mining applications on indigenous lands, calling on the government to address these issues in its subsequent report.
 The submitting organisations are Apo Manglang Glupa' Pusaka (AMGP), Gukom of the Seven Rivers, Pigsalabukan Bangsa Subanon (PBS), LRC-KSK, Tebtebba Foundation, Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks) and Irish Centre for Human Rights. The three presenting organisations were AMGP, PBS and the Gukom of the Seven Rivers.
 The Committee cautioned that in the absence of a Government report they would produce concluding remarks to their 73rd session (July-August 2008) based on other sources including NGO submissions. The submission by the Subanon and NGOs already made it clear that the problems surrounding mining expansion affected many different indigenous communities across the country.
Provincial Legislators criticise TVI for Press Manipulation
By Tito Natividad Fiel, DCMI
9th September 2007
Dipolog City- Members of the Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Provincial Board of Zamboanga del Norte expressed irritation over an offending press statement during its second committee hearing conducted last week in Dipolog City.
The press statement was penned by Bong Garcia, a correspondent of Sun Star, but it was presumed the information in it originated with TVI, a Canadian mining firm operating in Mt. Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte. The release stated that the Provincial Board of the Province affirmed the claim of TVI that there was no collapse in any of its dams in Mt. Canatuan, and that only some erosion had occurred. The press release further quoted Board Member Cedric L. Adriatico as saying he had "discovered that the pictures of the dam collapsed were taken at an angle to make it appear that there was a dam collapse".
At the start of the second committee hearing, Board Member Adriatico vehemently denied that he had made such a statement. "I did not make any conclusion about the collapse after the Committee Hearing in Siocon, because the investigation is still going on".
Board Member Adriatico stressed that he was dismayed over the news published in the national newspapers that they have affirmed the claim of TVI that there was no dam collapse. "It is for this reason that the Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection did not send any invitation to press people who might make press releases that would pre-empt their investigation" further said.
Board Member Adriatico, explained that after the first hearing held in Siocon on August 18, some press people, who came with Rocky Dimaculangan, TVI's Director for Public Affairs, introduced themselves and interviewed him.
Rocky Dimaculangan, when questioned by Board Member Edgar Baguio during the Committee Hearing, admitted that he was in the company of the media and press people when he went to Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte for the first committee.
But Mr. Dimaculangan did not answer the question of Board Member Baguio as to whether TVI paid for the plane tickets of the media and press people who allegedly made the false press statements. The press who attended were primarily from Manila and Zamboanga City.
Board Member Baguio warned Mr. Dimaculangan, in the course of the second committee hearing, that the Provincial Board of Zamboanga del Norte did not want a repeat of the false press release, as it undermined the integrity of the august body.
During the committee hearing a presentation was made on the structural design and integrity of the dam in question. Drawings of the dam were presented by Mr. Dimaculangan that showed to the committee the downstream portion of the dam that "eroded".
Board Member Baguio noted during the course of the discussion that "the term collapse and soil erosion are two confluent terms that connote the same meaning". He further added that when a collapse of a dam occurs, soil erosion normally follows.
Mr. Dimaculangan proudly told the Committee that the sulphide dam in question is well designed by American engineers, and it could withstand even in an intensity eight earthquake.
But Board Member Baguio explained that one can never guarantee the integrity of any dam against the force of nature, especially when such a dam is constructed out of soil and rocks. He noted that there are mining dams in the United States that had also collapsed. "I have served as Board Member of this province for several terms and I was also briefed like this by Philex Mining in Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte on their dam".
"Philex Mining had also explained to me in 1996 that their dam was well-designed and can stand against the strongest earthquake, but in 1997 its dam collapsed and caused millions of pesos in damages to properties of the community residing below the mining site."
During the course of the presentation, Mr. Dimaculangan was caught flat footed and blushed when asked by Board Member Baguio whether he was an expert of the dam. Mr. Dimaculangan replied "No your honor, but I was well educated by our Vice President for Civil Works in relation to the sulphide dam". Board Member Baguio continued to question him why was he tasked by his company to do the presentation of the structural design and the integrity of the dam when he did not possess the technical knowledge and expertise of a civil or structural engineer. Mr. Dimaculangan could not satisfactorily respond to the question. Board Member Baguio further said that Mr. Dimaculangan was not the right person to do the presentation in the absence of Jay Nelson, who is the Vice President for Civil Works and in-charge of the construction of the dam in question, since his field of expertise is only Public Affairs.
Mr. Dimaculangan was accompanied by Felise Yeban, Vice President on Corporate Social Responsibility and a number of the staff of TVI's Community Relations and Development Office (CREDO)
TVI's sulphide dam started construction around October 2006 utilising a tributary creek. It is asserted that the dam initially collapsed on April 2, 2007, and subsequently collapsed again on July 11, although TVI's management vehemently denies this.
Due to these two reported incidents of the sulphide dam collapse, Provincial Board Member Cedric Adriatico brought this issue to the attention of the Provincial Board - using a privilege speech - during its regular session on August 6, 2007. Consequently the Provincial Board referred the matter to the Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection for disposition.
Also present in the second Committee Hearing was Corazon Balingit, a resident in the area of the dam in question and eyewitness of the incident. Corazon presented her affidavit narrating the actual collapse to disprove the claim of TVI.
Onsino Mato, the spoke person of "Timuay" or Chieftain Jose "Boy" Anoy, the legal and legitimate holder of Ancestral Domain which is encroached by the company without their consent, presented his affidavit attesting to the fact that he personally took the pictures of the dam collapse a day after and showed the photos to the Board Members who were present.
Mr. Mato also criticized the article published in Balita Pinoy, an online publication based in the United Kingdom, calling the picture released by the community fake and claiming that it was taken maliciously at an angle to make it appear that there was a dam collapse.
Timuay Jose Anoy, challenged those media people not to allow themselves to be corrupted by financial offers from the mining company and to write based solely on the facts. They should not rely on the deceptive information of the mining firm.
Calgary mining firm wrecks havoc in the Philippines
Philippine bishops' description a stark contrast with TVI's glowing website
By BISHOP FRED HENRY, Mission of the Western Catholic Reporter -
10th September 2007
Calgary - A call for a globalization in charity, a solidarity without marginalization, entails a respect for life lacking in many of the patterns of environmental pollution.
What is called for is not simply a physical ecology, concerned with protecting the habitat of the various living beings, but a human ecology, capable of protecting the radical good of life in all its manifestations.
Such an ecological conversion will also leave behind for future generations an environment that conforms as closely as possible to the Creator's plan.
Often, the interests of production prevail over the dignity of workers, while economic interests take priority over the good of individuals and even entire peoples. In these cases, pollution or environmental destruction is the result of an unnatural and reductive view which at times leads to a genuine contempt for humanity.
In an unusual move, on May 23, Bishop Manguiran of Dipolog, the Philippines, wrote on behalf of the five bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Ozamiz to the Canadian Conference of Bishops.
His letter was prompted by the negative impact of mining operations of Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI) based in Calgary. The bishops' position stands in stark contrast to the glowing picture of corporate responsibility in the areas of environmental management and protection, and the bringing of compassion to the community presented on TVI's website (www.tvipacific.com/main/?home).
Years of complaints
There are more than 84 million people in the Philippines and the land mass is less that half the size of Alberta. After years of complaints, investigative reports and company responses, the bishops continue to insist that TVI's large-scale mining operations are wrecking havoc upon the land and its people. Among the disruptions, they cite the following:
Geological demolition and biological extinction. Rehabilitation of the plundered mountains, forest and rivers is already impossible.
Deep extensive excavation induces pollution, exposing the atmosphere to huge amounts of iron sulfide. The use of mercury and cyanide to segregate the gold from rocks has killed water organisms and constitutes a hazard to health.
Massive water consumption
The gold extracting process consumes an enormous amount of water. TVI disposes huge volumes of cyanide-polluted water, which pollutes the land, and much of the contaminated water evaporates and contributes to global warming.
Many mining areas are located within tribal domains. There are numerous instances of cultural discrimination and human rights violations. TVI has levelled off the mountain that the Subanon tribe use as a sacred site for worship. Legal cases of harassment and human right violations have been filed against TVI.
Mining companies promise development to poor countries such as the Philippines. The promise is far from real as we experience comparable poverty to other countries of the South and only a few reap the benefits.
Role of stockholders
The bishops conclude their letter by asking for prayers, assistance in explaining their cause and the discouragement of investment in TVI.
Of course, people who invest their money in stocks become part owners of the company in which they invest even though they may entrust the running of the company to others. As such, investors must cooperate in shaping policies of those companies through dialogue with management, through votes at corporate meetings, through the introduction of resolutions and through participation in investment decision.
Solidarity also needs government involvement. It is significant that in Canada, after examining the overseas operations of some of Canadian mining companies, including TVI's, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade recommended in June 2005 that the Canadian government:
"Put in place stronger incentives to encourage Canadian mining companies to conduct their activities outside Canada in a socially and environmentally responsible manner and in conformity with international human rights standards.
"Measures in this area must include making Canadian government support - such as export and project financing and services offered by government missions abroad - conditional on companies meeting clearly defined corporate and social responsibility and human rights standards, particularly through the mechanism of human rights impact assessments."
This could include, for example, allowing tax benefits to accrue to the shareholders of only those Canadian mining companies whose practices verifiably give full effect to Canada's democratic values. Tools like the consistent use of human rights impact assessments, complaints processes and reporting systems would also level the playing field.
Very often, proposals like these are criticized as unwarranted intrusions into the sovereignty of the host country. Each state, this line of reasoning holds, should have the exclusive right to make deals with mining companies in its own way, disposing of its natural resources on its own terms. This argument is deficient, because no state has the authority to abrogate human dignity.
Sound economics cannot be separated from the demands of justice. We have a right to make human use of the goods of this earth, but we are accountable to God and to others for how we use them. Ownership always involves responsibility. The two cannot be separated.
Report: Tribal, NPA threats endanger Aussie mining ops in RP
3rd September 2007
Threats of violence from New People's Army (NPA) rebels and tribal warfare are endangering Australian mining projects in the Philippines, a newspaper report from Australia said.
The Australian online newspaper reported Monday that the twin threats threaten to negate the relaxation of restriction on foreign exploration permits.
"Some local politicians, traditional indigenous tribes such as the Ifugao, senior officials in the Catholic Church, the NPA, and environmental lobby groups have all joined in the chorus opposing Australian mining and exploration projects from the northern part of the main island of Luzon to Mindanao in the south," it said.
It added that one tribe, which it did not name, even threatened to reinstate headhunting practices to stop mining in their region.
Such were the threats that environment secretary Jose Atienza Jr halted a gold and copper exploration project by Australian-owned Oxiana Philippines Inc. in Nueva Vizcaya province last weekend.
Lafayette Mining, another majority Australian-owned firm, has been the target of the NPA after it refused to abandon a "poly-metallic" mining project in Bicol.
Atienza ordered the stay after some 1,000 tribal protesters blocked trucks from entering their ancestral land and clashed violently with local militias sent in by the mining firm.
He also blamed Oxiana for failing to do its job of "community relations," ordering its officials to restart talks with local tribes.
Local villages representing about 10,000 residents called for a stop to the project, saying it will destroy their citrus farming livelihood.
Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban led the campaign to oppose the drilling with the backing of environmental groups, who say P500 million will be lost annually.
Last week, the police tried to enforce a court order directing the protesters to dismantle their blockade and allow the company's transport vehicles in to the disputed site.
However, environment group Kalikasan said Oxiana employed local military, private security guards and "Oxiana's own private army goons" to quell the protests.
"We have pictures of more than 100 military, police and private security guards and the armed goons of Oxiana dismantling the barricades," Kalikasan spokesman Clemente Bautista said.
"We have asked for a formal investigation by the Philippines Congress into the documented human rights violations - scores of protesters were violently harassed and bodily hurt," he said.
He said Oxiana has used court orders and reported agreements with groups such as the National Council of Indigenous People in The Philippines to try to push through with the project.
"The vigilance and determination of those defending the barricade, particularly the women, only underscore that Oxiana's project really lacks consent and acceptance among the residents of Kasibu," said Bautista.
For his part, a bishop of the Catholic Church had taken the side of the local peoples.
In a statement, Bishop Ramon Villena chided Oxiana for allegedly failing to listen to the voices of protesters barricading entry to the site since July 12.
"Yes, Oxiana claims they have in their possession legal instruments that would legitimize their entry to Pao. But what about the voice of the people? Will we close our ears to their cry and continue with the mining activities in utter disregard of their voice?" the bishop said.
Australian mining firms are also being condemned in press reports, from church pulpits and in media and political commentaries, according to The Australian newspaper report. - GMANews.TV
Large-scale foreign mining to transform Nueva Vizcaya's - citrus and watershed sites into valleys of death, groups warn
Defend Patrimony Press Release
2nd September 2007
Allan Barnacha, Save the Valley, Serve the People Clemente Bautista, Jr., Spokesperson, Defend Patrimony alliance - 0922-844-9787
Lucas, Buay, Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response Towards Ecological Development (KIRED)
Three large-scale and foreign-led mining projects could decimate Nueva Vizcaya's rising citrus industry, adversely pollute three major rivers supplying water into Cagayan Valley, and displace thousands of indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains, a recent fact-finding mission by local and national groups concluded.
Nueva Vizcayans united under the Save the Valley, Serve the People alliance this week teamed up with organizations affiliated with Defend Patrimony, a broad national alliance against mining liberalization and plunder in the Philippines, to conduct a rapid appraisal of the environmental and social impacts of mining exploration in three environmentally-critical sites. The Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission was held from August 29 to September 1, 2007 and covered the areas of Brgy. Paquet and Malabing Valley in Kasibu and Brgy. Runruno in Quezon affected by the following mining projects:
Impending exploration by Oxiana Philippines, Inc. (now owned by Royalco Resources Ltd.) in five (5) barangays of Kasibu (Pa-o, Kakidugen, Paquet, Dine & Katarawan) under Exploration Permit RO2-0014, which was recently extended by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau up to June 2009 despite the opposition of the affected communities. A barricade set up by Kasibu residents since July 2, 2007 has so far successfully blocked the entry of Oxiana's drilling equipment into Pa-o.
Impending exploration by former APMI Exploration Engineers, now connected to Oceana Gold Philippines of Chromite Hill in Barangay Papaya - a key citrus-growing area in the region and a critical source of irrigation water for Malabing Valley's other agricultural farms.
Ongoing exploration by FCF/Greenwater a.k.a. MTL in Brgy. Runruno, Quezon, whose expired permit was renewed on the first day of office of DENR Secretary Lito Atienza.
Partners in the fact finding mission included green activist group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), non-government research organization Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines, indigenous peoples federation Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), Dapon Indigenous Peoples Center, and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
Defend Patrimony Spokesperson Clemente Bautista, Jr. sounded the alarm at a press conference held today, saying that "the fact-finding mission yielded more evidence that Nueva Vizcaya stands to lose more than to gain if these explorations progress into large-scale mining operations in the near future".
"If allowed by the Arroyo administration to continue, large-scale foreign mining can literally turn Nueva Vizcaya's lush agricultural sites into valleys of death and desolation. The Oxiana, Oceana, and MTL mining projects form a dangerous triangle, whose combined impacts can strike at the heart of Nueva Vizcaya's critical ecosystems and result in the economic, social, and physical displacement of its peoples ," Bautista said.
Environmental Degradation, Human rights violations
Allan Barnacha, provincial convenor of the Save the Valley, Serve the People Movement , warned of adverse ecological damage to the Lower Muta Valley area and Brgy.Runruno if mining continues. "The exploration operations alone, which include extractive processes such as drilling, trenching, and bulk sampling, can already bring about negative environmental impacts, such as land alienation from protection options, trail/road and trenching erosion, habitat disruption, noise pollution, and acid mine drainage," Barnacha said. "The danger of landslides in communities such as Brgy. Runruno also worsens," he said.
Barnacha warned of "more environmental scourges to come if exploration proceeds to actual operations ( please refer to summary of findings prepared by Kalikasan PNE and CEC-Phils for details).
"The many environmental threats seen at this early stage of the mining explorations alone include impacts on land ecosystems, such as the instability of the reknowned Alayan Cave system, denudation of forest cover in the Mamparang and Palali mountain ranges, and the loss of endemic biodiversity. Impacts on water sources includes the depletion of water supply used for domestic and agricultural purposes resulting from the diversion of water rights to mining companies, contamination of existing freshwater and groundwater sources, siltation from wastewater discharges, and acid mine drainage. These imperil the watershed havens and headwaters in Nueva Vizcaya, which supply Region 2's major rivers," Rey Palacios, Senior Educator of the Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines said.
"In an agricultural economy such as Nueva Vizcaya's, the destruction of the environment will result in the destruction of people's lives and livelihood. This also threatens and imperils the heart of the vibrant local citrus industry which Nueva Vizcaya is known for," Defend Patrimony's Bautista stressed. Also of concern, he added, were the human rights violations documented in mining-affected communities.
Kasibu barricade still up
At the press conference, Lucas Buay of the Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response Towards Ecological Development (KIRED) announced that the ten barangays of Kasibu which successfully defended a two-month long barricade against the entry of Oxiana's drilling equipment in Brgy. Paquet would continue to maintain their vigilance in the face of news that DENR Sec. Lito Atienza temporarily ordered a stop to the exploration.
"This is a victory of the united communities of Kasibu, but we will not let our guard down. We will maintain the barricade until the project is formally terminated and until the exploration permit is officially cancelled. We also support other communities who will mobilize themselves against the entry of large foreign mining firms such as Oceana and MTL ," Buay added.
"The people of Nueva Vizcaya should remain vigilant despite Atienza's order. It is unlikely that the Arroyo administration, which is so bent on selling off the rest of the country to foreign mining investors, will fully support the pull-out of Oxiana from Kasibu in the long run. The government and foreign mining firms have resorted to diversionary tactics in the past to lull the people into complacency, we should guard against that," Bautista said.
"Overwhelmingly, there is a glaring lack of consent from majority of the communities to be affected by mining," Defend Patrimony's Bautista said. "This is reinforced by the loopholes under the current mining law, where foreign mining companies or their subsidiaries can be given exploration permits without even requiring consent from local government units or the majority of affected peoples," Bautista said. "The residents of Kasibu have once again proven that militant and collective action is the most effective way of stopping the entry of foreign mining TNCs," he stressed.
Upon returning to Manila tomorrow, Bautista said that Defend Patrimony would be coordinating with pro-environment solons, including Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casino and Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla, to seek a Congressional probe into the lack of free and prior informed consent by the mining companies in Nueva Vizcaya.
DEFEND PATRIMONY! is a broad alliance comprised of organizations and individuals united in the defense of Filipino people's rights and national patrimony againt the wholesale plunder of our mineral and other natural resources. Our unity is based on the principles of goodwill and solidarity, cooperation and consensus, and independence and initiative.
Bishop steps in as Vizcaya mining row gets violent
By Melvin Gascon, Inquirer
1st September 2007
BAYOMBONG, NUEVA VIZCAYA ---Catholic Bishop Ramon Villena had to finally step in to resolve a mining conflict between tribal groups in the province and an Australian mining firm.
Villena had a hastily-called dinner with President Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacañang on Wednesday to seek her help in solving the mining conflict between Oxiana Philippines Inc. (OPI) and members of the Bugkalot, Kalanguya, Ibaloi and Ifugao tribes now living in Kasibu town.
The next day, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza ordered OPI to stop its planned exploration activities in the area, until the issues raised by the people there were resolved, according to media reports.
Dialogue with the President
In a statement made over the Catholic Church-run radio station dwRV on Friday, Villena narrated how he had to ask Ms Arroyo for a dialogue on Wednesday, hours after several tribal men and women in Kasibu were hurt following an attempt to dismantle their human barricade in remote Paquet Village.
"Over dinner, I told the President about the highly explosive and critical situation in Nueva Vizcaya. I told her my fear that there could be bloodshed and that lives might be lost because of the persistence of the mining company," Villena said.
Immediately, the President called Atienza on the phone and asked him to talk to the bishop.
"(Secretary Atienza) assured me that he would act on my request immediately. Indeed, we have read in newspapers today about his order," Villena said.
He said he was flustered when Sister Maria Eden Orlino, directress of the Church-based Diocesan Social Action Center (DSAC) reported to him by phone from the barricade site in Paquet Village about the violent dispersal of the protesters, most of them women. Scores were hurt during the dispersal.
Militiamen in plain clothes dragged protesters who sat in the middle of the mountain road to stop a bulldozer that was to be used by OPI for clearing the land at the exploration site.
"The bishop was crying over the phone when he heard about the confrontation, and immediately said that he would do his best to personally talk to the President about the matter," Orlino said.
Since July 12, members of the Bugkalot, Kalanguya, Ibaloi and Ifugao tribes from six villages in Kasibu have been guarding the barricade to prevent the entry of OPI's heavy equipment.
In his statement, Villena thanked Ms Arroyo for giving him the time and for listening to his plea and Atienza for "acting like a good father and brother."
He called on officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, the local governments, OPI, the local church and the protesters to come together for a dialogue and conduct an honest-to-goodness consultation.
"The bottom line here is that no human life should be sacrificed for the sake of development or of mining. Above all these, human dignity must first be respected," he said.
Villena said mining companies should use the Pao experience in learning the lesson that "no amount of wealth, not even guns, can destroy the determination of the people."
Tribal folk, who were resisting OPI's entry in Pao Village, welcomed Atienza's order but said they were not leaving the barricade site.
"We are thankful to Secretary Atienza, if indeed, there is such an order. But we are also wary that this could just be part of the government's tactics to soften our resistance," said Benito Cudiam, vice chair of the Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (Kired), a people's organization.
"We will remain at the barricade site until we receive the formal order for Oxiana to stop its activities," Cudiam said.
NGOs seek House probe of Aussie exploration project
By TJ Burgonio, Inquirer
3rd September 2007
MANILA, Philippines -- A broad alliance of NGOs is seeking a House inquiry into an Australian mining firm's exploration project in an upland town in Nueva Vizcaya province that has sparked violence between the firm's workers and the town's indigenous people.
Defend Patrimony said it found out that the Oxiana Philippines Inc. project lacked "informed consent" from the majority of communities.
The group was on a fact-finding mission to Kasibu town in the aftermath of Wednesday's dispersal of tribal folks by paramilitary forces employed by Oxiana.
Defend Patrimony said it would ask Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño and Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla to open an inquiry into the lack of free and prior informed consent from the communities about the project.
"Overwhelmingly, there is a glaring lack of consent from majority of the communities to be affected by mining," said the group's spokesperson Clemente Bautista.
This came about, he said, because of the loopholes in the mining law, where foreign companies or their subsidiaries could secure exploration permits without consent from local government units or majority of the people.
"Oxiana officials have agreed to stop everything that they're doing until all issues have been resolved. We welcome this," Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza said.
Scores of people were hurt on Wednesday after militiamen in plainclothes dragged away tribal folks who had barricaded a mountain road in Barangay Pacquet to stop Oxiana workers from hauling a bulldozer into the exploration site.
Members of the Bugkalot, Kalanguya, Ibaloi and Ifugao tribes had been manning the barricade since July 12 to stop the transport of heavy equipment to the site.
On President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's instructions and Bishop Ramon Villena's request, Atienza on Thursday ordered Oxiana to stop transporting equipment to the site to avoid fresh violence.
Despite Atienza's order, the Defend Patrimony urged the people to remain vigilant about any "diversionary tactics" by the government.
"It is unlikely that the Arroyo administration, which is so bent on selling off the rest of the country to foreign mining investors, will fully support the pullout of Oxiana from Kasibu in the long run," said Bautista of Defend Patrimony.
The exploration permit of Oxiana in Barangays Pa-o, Kakidugen, Paquet, Dine and Katarawan was recently extended by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau up to June 2009 despite opposition from the communities, it said.
It warned that people stood to lose more from the explorations by Oxiana and other mining firms in the province.
The large-scale projects could decimate Nueva Vizcaya's thriving citrus industry, adversely pollute three major rivers supplying water into Cagayan Valley, and displace thousands of indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains, it said.
GMA, Atienza at APEC Summit: Soft on climate change, rabid on mining
KALIKASAN-PNE PRESS RELEASE
9th September 2007
References: Clemente Bautista, Jr. Kalikasan-PNE National Coordinator (0922-844-9787) Trixie Concepcion, Defend Patrimony alliance Spokesperson (0918-629-3648)
Leaders of Philippine green groups today slammed the Arroyo administration's "blatant anti-environment stance" at the APEC Summit in Sydney Australia as manifested in the President's policy statements on the issues of climate change and mining.
"The Philippine government has unabashedly demonstrated a blatantly anti-environment position during the APEC Summit proceedings. The Arroyo administration has gone soft on the alarming issue of climate change and global warming, while rabidly promoting foreign mining and plunder of Philippine resources," Kalikasan Peoples' Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) Spokesperson Clemente Bautista Jr. said in a statement.
"With regards to the issue of global warming, the Philippines remains silent and taciturn on the refusal of the United States and Australia to adopt the European Union's proposal to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2050," Bautista said.
"Such inaction is tantamount to tolerating the massive amounts of GHG and carbon emissions being spewed by the US and Australia. It seems that the Arroyo administration is turning a blind eye to this inconvenient truth because GMA is relying on US and Australian military aid and mining investments to counteract her plunging popularity ratings among the people," he said.
Bautista scored the Arroyo administration for "blindly towing the US' attempts to circumvent a reduction in their carbon and GHG emissions by aiming instead for "aspirational" targets bracketing developed and developing economies". "Considering that the US emits nearly one-fourth of all GHG emissions worldwide, this proposal is tantamount to passing the buck on to other poorer countries," Bautista explained.
Trixie Concepcion of the Defend Patrimony alliance also scored DENR Sec. Lito Atienza for his "endless sales pitch for foreign mining investments in the Philippines".
"By his pronouncements, Sec. Atienza is acting more like a spokesperson or liaison officer for large mining companies rather than Environment Secretary," Concepcion said.
At an earlier meeting with multinational mining and business firms in Makati City, Secretary Atienza vowed to revitalize mining by working closely with local government units (LGUs), in line with the national government's thrust to promote the industry in the country.
"It would do well to remind Mr. Atienza that many LGUs are in fact opposed to the large-scale foreign mining that he is promoting. These include local government officials from mining-devastated sites such as Marinduque and Samar, as well as "new frontiers" for mining operations, such as Palawan and Nueva Vizcaya," Concepcion countered.
"Since August 1999, the provincial government of Capiz declared a 15-year moratorium on all large-scale mining, later extended up to 50 years. In January 2002, the provincial government of Mindoro Oriental passed a resolution enforcing a 25-year mining moratorium. The provincial government of Eastern Samar also approved an indefinite moratorium on mining. Marinduque, ravaged by the tragic Marcopper-Placer Dome mine spill, also passed resolutions banning mining in the municipalities of Boac and Mogpog. Recently, Mayor Hagedorn of Palawan and Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu in Nuev Vizcaya also voiced their opposition to the mining projects in their areas of responsibility," she enumerated.
"The ongoing APEC Summit only reveals more of the anti-environment and anti-people policies of the Arroyo administration. While it acts like a rabid dog baring its fangs in its promotion of foreign mining in the Philippines, the Arroyo administration seems to have tucked its tail in when it comes to the issue of global warming," Kalikasan PNE's Bautista said.
CLEMENTE BAUTISTA National Coordinator Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100 Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Income from mines must trickle down to host communities - DENR
11th September 2007
Manila -- That the economic progress derived from mining activities must trickle down to the host communities, was President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's advice to Australian mining giant BHP Biliton and other mining firms operating in the Philippines.
This, according to Environment and Natural Resources secretary Lito Atienza, was what President Arroyo said during her meeting with BHP Biliton chief executive officer (CEO) Chip Goodyear at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, Australia last Saturday, September 8.
Mining enterprises must "engage the local community more" to avoid problems in their areas of operation, specifically with local groups," the President said The President also said mining concerns must "settle their problems with their partners."
"We welcome mining investments. We welcome mining firms that give due concern to the environment and to the community," Atienza quoted the President as saying."
I think the Australian issue is not much about the environment. It's really more of the community," the President said, according to Atienza.
BHP Billiton is developing four nickel exploration sites in the Philippines, including a potential $1.8 billion project in the mineral-rich southern island of Mindanao.
The mining firm has been encountering some problems with disgruntled local groups opposed to its nickel mining plans.
President Arroyo has always batted for sustainable mining activities in the country, said Atienza who accompanied the President to Sydney to have bilateral meetings with Australian mining companies. Australian and New Zealand firms are estimated to account for an estimated one-fourth of the investments in the Philippines's booming mining industry.
The Arroyo administration has identified the minerals industry as one of the engine of growths considering the immense natural endowments of the country. The Philippines is the fifth mineralized nation in the world, the third richest in gold, fourth in copper, fifth in nickel and sixth in chromite.
The President has always batted for sustainable mining activities in the country, the former Manila mayor said. Atienza said that this year alone, investments in mining could reach as much as $600 million and $10-$11 billion in 2010-2011.
Benguet dad hits FPIC process
Nordis - http://www.nordis.net/blog/?p=1455
30th August 2007
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet --- A Benguet provincial official criticized the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process conducted at Camp 3, Tuba, here for the proposed expansion of the Philex Mining Corporation saying it was railroaded.
"Based on the information that another round of consultation was set despite the claim of Camp 3 residents that they already said "No" to an earlier FPIC process proves that the process was railroaded," Itogon Councilor and Philippine Councilor's League Interim Chair Oscar Camantiles said.
Camantiles added residents of Ampucao, Itogon should also be consulted because the 98-hectare land covered by Philex special mines permit is a contested area. He said the area is part of the unsettled boundary dispute of Itogon and Tuba.
"Since the area is contested, the mining firm needs to get the nod of both municipalities not just Tuba," Camantiles said. He added due process should be followed.
Camantiles further said Ampucao barangay officials, Itogon municipal officials and the provincial board support the clamor of affected residents for the nullification of the special mines permit the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued to Philex in January.
Earlier Nordis report said Camp 3 and Ampucao residents issued a statement of rejection on April 12 refusing to issue an FPIC. The same report said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) transmitted the resident's statement of rejection and asked for a Certificate of Non-Consent as early as May 16.
The NCIP, however, scheduled another consultation on August 14 despite the earlier and continuing opposition of affected residents. The said dialog failed due to Philex management's proposal to change the venue of the dialog.
NCIP is yet to schedule another dialog in a mutually accepted venue and date. # Kim Quitasol for NORDIS
Mine applications fast-tracked --- CPA
Nordis - http://www.nordis.net/blog/?p=1456
30th August 2007
BAGUIO CITY --- The regional leadership of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) recently dismissed the creation of the Regional Minerals Development Council (RMDC) Tuesday as a move to fast-track the mining applications in the Cordillera.
Windel Bolinget, CPA secretary-general, claimed that the formation of mineral development councils nationwide is meant to revitalize the mining industry as a priority agenda of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
The Cordillera RMDC was created on August 28 to coordinate the smooth facilitation of mining projects in this highland region and assist the Mineral Development Council implement mining programs of the GMA administration.
The regional federation of indigenous peoples' groups in the region, CPA, however, claimed that this will hasten the exploitation of vast tracts of mineral lands by big companies in the region.
A move to revitalize mining industry
"It aims to remove the obstacles, legal and otherwise, for any mining application," Bolinget pointed out. He claimed that it is fast tracking these mine applications as a result of lobbying by mining companies in Malacañang.
The move, pointed out Bolinget, is a move that would disregard democratic processes granted to local government units and to affected communities. As the RMDC is directly under the Office of the President, applications would be facilitated while they would disregard democratic processes under the guise of mine investments.
"How will the NCIP, strictly enforce the "no free, prior and informed consent, no mine project" principle with that set-up?," asked Bolinget. He added that some 1.2 million hectares or 66% of the total 1.8 million-hectare land area of the region has been applied for mining explorations and operations by big mining companies. With most communities opposing such projects, the said, RMDC will facilitate the applications of these companies, he added.
Bolinget foresees an strengthened indigenous peoples' opposition due to the creation of the council as most Cordillera communities had seen the ill-effect of mining in several areas of Benguet.
Corporations welcome move
Benjamin Philip Romuladez, president of the Chamber of Mines, welcomed the creation of the councils in an interview with national media. He claimed that the councils will at least address issues in a certain degree. He estimated that in the next five years starting 2008, foreign investments would hit $1 billion a year. He added that in 2010, mining can have a total capital investments as high as $10 billion due to fast entry of foreign investments.
Since the Supreme Court decided for the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995, foreign multi-national companies had been interested in investing in the country. The Philippines has an unexplored gold, copper and nickel worth trillions in pesos.
The Mineral Development Council was created under Executive Order 460 which created the Mineral Development Council in 2005.
In the Cordillera, the RMDC will be headed by Regional Executive Director Samuel Peñafiel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources -- Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR). Other members with permanent and alternate representatives come from the regional offices of the Departments of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Agrarian Reform (DAR), Agriculture (DA), Labor and Employment (DoLE), Finance (DoF), Trade and Industry (DTI), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Presidential Management Staff (PMS), National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
A representative from the private sector who comes from the Chamber of Mines will be named by the national Chamber of Mines. There is no local counterpart in the Cordillera.
The Nordis source claimed that the council is expected to address conflicting functions of different agencies on certain application as different committees will be created to iron out problems that would be encountered. The council will promote mining under the Minerals Action Plan of the administration, he said. # Arthur L. Allad-iw for NORDIS
Albay Mining Company Braces for NPA Attacks
Manila Standard Today.
5th September 2007
Lafayette Phils. has tightened security around its Rapu Rapu polymetallic project following military intelligence reports of an impending New People's Army attack
It will also coordinate closely with Bicol regional Peace and Order Council headed by Albay Gov. Jose Salceda, the military, and the Rapu Rapu residents to protect the region's biggest investor and its roughly 1,000 employees, most of whom are from the island itself.
Bayani Agabin, company spokesman, said the company is taking the threat seriously and has adopted the necessary security measures but declined to give details.
The military intelligence report followed a recent announcement by the NPA to attack foreign mining companies in the country.
At the same time, Cecille Calleja Rapu Rapu Mining Vice President, renewed the project's invitation to Bishop Lucilo Quimbao and the Save Rapu Rapu Alliance to visit its mining operations in response to their accusation that the company "snubbed" last week's multisectoral forum on the socio-economic and environmental impact of mining in Rapu Rapu.
She said, "prior to the forum, we invited them to come to the plant to witness for themselves all the environmental protection measures we have on site and all the improvements we have instituted. We asked them over so that we may have real facts to discuss in the forum and not just dwell on the myths of mining.£
Calleja said that the invitation still stands. "We have always had a policy of openness and transparency. We want them to see what is there now, and not something that existed 18 months ago. We want them to realize how committed we are to responsible mining and environmental protection."
Only last week, Rapu Rapu Processing Inc. was given an ISO 14001 certification, signifying that its existing environmental management system adheres to the highest international standards.
It is the only other local mining company that has earned this international award after Philex Mining, which has been operating the past 50 years. The Rapu Rapu project has been in operation only since 2005 but the certification effort gained impetus under its new Filipino management that took over only on January 16 last year.
Governor opposes new Lafayette exploration
By Rhaydz B. Barcia Correspondent, Manila Times
12th September 2007
Legazpi City: The provincial government of Albay has strongly opposed the new exploration of Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) in the island of Rapu-Rapu, Albay.
Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay warned the officials of the Environmental Management Bureau and Mine-Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources against granting any new permit to explore mining prospects anywhere in Albay.
Salceda, who had strongly opposed mining in Rapu-Rapu, noted that the host communities of the mining operations hardly benefited from the activity.
"There is simply no evidence of widespread benefit to the people from mining operations," said Salceda. "Instead, the risks to the environment are becoming abundantly clear," he added.
Salceda cited reports of unscrupulous speculators attempting to exploit Albay's natural resources and deprive Albayanos of their rightful share.
Cecile Calleja, LPI vice-president for corporation affairs told The Manila Times that they don't have a new application but are currently doing exploration in areas approved by MPSA.
"We don't have new application. We're doing exploration in areas we already have an MPSA since the law requires us to do so within a specified time frame." Calleja said.
The Manila Times tried to get the side of DENR officials in Bicol regarding the reported new exploration contested by Salceda but to no avail. Sulpicio Bernardo, officer in charge of the Mines and Geo-science Bureau, was busy entertaining a phone call, according to an employee while directors Rey Juan of the DENR regional office and Engr. Gilbert Gonzalez, director of EMB were in Manila.
The project has a potential life of eight years with a planned annual production of 10,000 tons of copper in concentrates; 14,000 tons on zinc concentrates; 50,000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver annually with mine leases covering 180 hectares in the eastern side of Rapu-Rapu.
The project is an open pit mine focused on the Ungay-Malobago ore body where about six million tons of ore are to be mined.
Early this year, the Rapu-Rapu Mining operation was able to ship copper concentrates abroad.
The first shipment was 805 tons of copper concentrate with a market value of $1.8 million and the second was 705 metric tons with a market value of $1.1 million. The third shipment is zinc, approximately 1,600 metric tons for Korea.
Manuel Agcaoili, Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. president said that during the four-month test run, they were able to ship at least 1,510 tons of copper concentrate to China.
Lafayette began its mining operations in April 2005, six months after two mine tailings spills occurred on October 11 and 31 causing fish kills in Albay Gulf. Opposition to the mining operations has not heeded.
Roxas City, Capiz towns seek 15-year ban on mining
By Felipe V. Celino, Visayas Bureau.
10th September 2007
ROXAS CITY, Philippines -- The officials of Roxas City and several towns have urged the provincial government to scrap its policy allowing large-scale mining in the province.
On June 8, the Capiz provincial board approved Provincial Ordinance no. 69, which allows mineral exploration and development activities over areas granted with permits by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The Roxas city council approved Thursday last week a resolution, sponsored by Councilor Herbert Chu, supporting Provincial Ordinance No. 6, series of 1999, which declared a moratorium on all large-scale mining activities and the processing of mining applications in Capiz for 15 years that could be extended up to 50 years.
The Roxas city resolution also sought the revocation of Provincial Ordinance 69.
Sigma, Pontevedra and other municipalities of Capiz passed similar resolutions that echoed the sentiments of militant groups Madiaas Ecological Movement (MEM) and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-Capiz).
Chu said the province recently approved the mining permit of Teresa Marble Corp., which got a mineral production sharing agreement for gold and copper in towns of Dumarao, Maayon, Pontevedra and President Roxas that covered 2,735 hectares.
He said the pending mining applications for Capiz reached 24,460 hectares, almost nine percent of the province's total land area.
Chu noted the exploration activities would have damaging effects on the forest and soil.
"Forest is so vital to our ecosystem because this is home to many animal species and microorganisms. The exploration, excavation and extraction downgrade the quality of soil and make the soil vulnerable to landslides," he pointed out.
The drilling of the land, which would be part of the exploration, would destroy the water table, said Chu who added that the actual extraction could peril the water source.
"Aside from the destruction of water table, large scale mining destroys watersheds that the important in maintaining abundant sources of fresh water underground," he said.
He cited the pollution and siltation of rivers, especially the Panay River, due to mine tailings.
Chu said that allowing exploration would compromise their "resolve to defend and nurture" the environment.
Provincial board member Rommel Lastimoso, who chairs the committee on environment, assured Capiceños that no mining would be allowed without the approval of the provincial board.
"The request is merely an exploration of the areas as possible site for mining operation," he said.