MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines Update

Published by MAC on 2006-11-19


Philippines Update

19th November 2006

Widespread community opposition to mining continues throughout the Philippines, be it in the Compostella Valley, Negros Oriental or Dumingag. Local officials in South Cotabato have censured the government, and Crew Gold's local partner, for bypassing them, despite legal requirements.. Both the Governor and Bishop of Mindoro Oriental have written to the Minister of the Environment, once again stressing their opposition to Crew's proposed nickel project there. The Bishop in Zamboanga del Norte has accused TVI Pacific of lying, as controversy swirls around TVI's expansion into Bayog. The arguments over the "post-tremor problems" at Marcopper's old tailings dam serve to confirm communities beliefs that their opposition is founded upon real fears.


Compostela village opposes inclusion in mining zone - Suspended mayor sees mining firms behind removal

By Jeffrey M. Tupas, Inquirer

November 2006

DAVAO CITY -- Residents and officials of a village in Maragusan town, Compostela Valley province have banded together to block the inclusion of their area in a mining zone.

Recently, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) proposed that Barangay Coronobe be included in the mineral reservation zone in Southern Mindanao.

A foreign mining company has applied for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The application covers 5,551 hectares of land that straddles the villages of Coronobe, Langawisan and Bahi in Maragusan and Araibo in Pantukan town.

But early this month, the barangay council of Coronobe and the residents signed a manifesto opposing the application for an MPSA

"We are against the large-scale mining operations here because we know its effects on the environment. We are also concerned about its effect on our livelihood and the possible displacement of the indigenous people," Dafroso Nalual Sr., Coronobe village chair, said.

Nalual said other villages have also signified their intention to join the campaign against the approval of the MPSA.

Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao, an environmental group, said Jake Mining's application for exploration came at a time when the MGB was conducting public hearings on the proposal declaring Mount Ayag, which includes Maragusan, a mineral reservation area.

"The people cannot be fooled anymore. They know the implications of the reservation zone being proposed by the government. We could only expect to see and witness the wanton destruction of the environment should this happen," Paolo Dumayac, secretary general of Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao said.

Meanwhile, the town mayor of Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental is blaming big mining operators for his suspension.

The preventive suspension order against Mayor Jerry dela Cerna stemmed from the case filed by one Shirley Ceniza, a municipal social worker, for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act (RA 3019).

Ceniza accused the mayor of paying a ghost employee a salary of P1,500 a month. The mayor denied the accusation saying the person being referred to as a ghost employee is Darvin Taghoy, who had actually worked as an encoder for the municipal government.

He explained Taghoy's services were also required for the drafting of the town's development plan. His services were terminated when the draft was finished. Dela Cerna, a former Catholic priest who had actively opposed large-scale mining in his town, said mining companies had been determined to remove him from office. The municipal council had passed a resolution banning all large and medium-scale mining operations in the town, a policy that angered mining firms, according to dela Cerna.

"These miners are very happy because I was suspended and they are actually expecting that I would be convicted of graft and corruption. They are supportive of the complaint because should I be convicted, they can start with their operations in my town again," dela Cerna said.

Only small-scale miners are allowed in the town but their operations are strictly monitored.

Dela Cerna said at least 26 mining corporations immediately applied for mining permits to operate in the town when his suspension was handed down.


Catholic-backed lobby says Philippines mine "will turn mountain upside down"

Catholic News

13th November 2006

Three Philippines Catholic diocesan centres are backing opposition to an Australian funded open cut copper and gold mine in the country's south that has been described by community leaders as an "environmental catastrophe looming over heads".

The Philippines Sun-Star reports groups backed by the local Church, opposed to the project, have repeatedly warned that the proposed open cut mine will cause irreparable damage to the environment.

Eliezer Billanes, chairman of Soccsksargends Agenda, said open pit mining method will turn the mountains upside down.

Soccsksargends Agenda stands for South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City, Davao del Sur Alliance for Genuine Development. Among the members of the Alliance are the Social Action Centres of the dioceses of Marbel, Kidapawan and Digos.

"An environmental catastrophe looms over our head and the future generation if such (open pit) method will be employed by the firm," Billanes said.

Billanes was responding to studies done on the Tampakan project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. suggested that open pit mining is the best method to extract copper and gold deposits in the area, company officials said.

Tony Robbins, managing director of Indophil Resources, said that based on the pre-feasibility study work program completed in September, open pit mining was the recommended scheme in extracting gold and copper deposits in the area.

According to the same study, the Tampakan project is a world class, two billion-tonne resource, containing 11.6 million tonnes of copper and 14.6 million ounces of gold at a 0.3 per cent copper cut-off grade.

"However, with a total resource estimate of almost two billion tonnes, it is not unreasonable to anticipate a considerably longer mine life. A block cave (underground) option has been investigated and has not been completely ruled out," clarified Robbins.

Indophil owns 95 percent of the Tampakan project and the rest by Filipino firm Alsons Corp.

Once full blast mining operations start possibly by 2009, Robbins said 3,500 people will be hired.

Presently, Sagittarius is gearing towards a definitive feasibility study stage, which would be funded by global mining giant Xstrata Queensland Limited (Xstrata Copper) at a tune of $30 million.

Xstrata Copper has an option to acquire 62.5 per cent of the Tampakan project, the Sun-Star says.

Meanwhile, Bishop Warlito Cajandig of the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan in Oriental Mindoro and Provincial Governor Arnan C. Panaligan have sent a joint letter to the National Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Angelo T. Reyes, to protest against another environmentally sensitive project to develop a nickel mine.


Joint letter of the Governor and the Bishop of Oriental Mindoro, to the Department of Environment and the Natural Resources, appealing the permanent cancellation of the MPSA granted to Aglubang Mining Corporation (local partner of Crew Gold Corporation)

18 October 2006
HON. ANGELO T. REYES
Secretary
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Visayas Avenue, Quezon City

Dear Sec. Reyes,

During your visit to Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro last 18 August 2006 to launch the Green Philippines Highway Project, we conveyed to you the strong and categorical opposition of the people of Oriental Mindoro to the proposed Mindoro Nickel Project being spearheaded by the Aglubang Mining Corporation. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in an Order dated 10 November 2005 signed by then Secretary Michael Defensor, reinstated the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) granted to Aglubang Mining Corporation to explore for nickel in a 2,290.6714 hectare contract area located in the Municipality of Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. This MPSA was earlier revoked by the DENR in a Notice of Termination/Cancellation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement of Crew/Aglubang Mining Corporation dated 16 July 2001 signed by former Secretary Heherson T. Alvarez.

You advised us to put in writing our opposition to the said MPSA reinstatement. Hence, we are submitting to you this letter on behalf of the people of Oriental Mindoro and we are appealing to you to effect the permanent cancellation of the MPSA granted to Aglubang Mining Corporation and the removal of the province in the list of the priority mining areas in the country for the reasons set forth herein:

1. At the outset, we stress the undisputed fact that Mindoro Nickel Project does not have any iota of social acceptability on the part of the people of Oriental Mindoro. The entire political leadership of this province represented by the Governor, the Representatives of the two congressional districts of the province, all the 15 city/municipalities of Oriental Mindoro, have categorically and unconditionally opposed the Mindoro Nickel Project. Thus, these local Sanggunians have not issued any endorsement for the Mindoro Nickel Project.

Likewise, the Mindoro Nickel Project is overwhelmingly opposed by the local diocese of the Roman Catholic Church led by Bishop Warlito Cajandig. It is likewise opposed by all the other religious denominations in the province. The different civic organizations and non-government organizations in Oriental Mindoro have also manifested their vigorous opposition to the Mindoro Nickel Project. This strong social opposition on the part of the leaders and people of Oriental Mindoro should not be ignored.

2. It is likewise undisputed that the contract area covered by the MPSA of AGlubang and Mining Corporation is within the watershed area. In fact, this was the finding and the ground cited by Sec. Alvarez in his Notice of Termination/Cancellation of MPSA dated 16 July 2001 where he asserted that "the area it covers falls within an important watershed area requiring the protection of the DENR." Significantly, this vital pronouncement was not disputed or contradicted by Sec. Defensor in his Order reinstating the MPSA dated 10 November 2005. The very law invoked by mining proponents, Republic Act 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 expressly provides in Section 19 thereof that among the areas closed to mining agreements are watershed areas. The proposed mining area of the Mindoro Nickel Project being within a watershed area justifies the permanent cancellation of the subject MPSA.

3. You are aware of the devastating floods that submerged the entire Calapan City and large parts of Naujan and Victoria in Oriental Mindoro last December 7, 17 and 27, 2005. We experienced these three successive floodings when Aglubang River was flooded due to heavy monsoon rains in that area. Vast agricultural, residential and commercial areas were flooded that almost devastated our local economy.

In a all these disastrous floodings, the common denominator was the overflowing of the Aglubang River. The source of the headwaters of Aglubang River is precisely the mining site of the Mindoro Nickel Project. No other justification or explanation on the part of mining proponent can alter or hide this fact. The strong rains that fell in the Aglubang watershed area, the proposed mining site of the Mindoro Nickel Project, caused the overflowing of Aglubang River which in turn submerged Calapan City and the towns of Naujan and Victoria. This fact alone proves the fragility of the environment of the Aglubang watershed area where the mining contract area is located.

If today, heavy monsoon rains in the Aglubang area already cause disastrous floodings in our floodings in our province, how much more when this watershed area is disturbed and the trees therein removed so that is can be mined.

If the area above Aglubang River, which is the contract area covered by the MPSA will be mined, it would not be difficult to foresee the catastrophic consequences to the people of Oriental Mindoro and their communities. Calapan City, and the towns of Naujan and Victoria will not only be flooded but would be practically erased from the map as they would be inundated not merely by waters but by muddy soil from mining excavations.

We therefore appeal to you to protect the lives and safety of the people of Oriental Mindoro and not to allow the alleged monetary benefits of the proposed Mindoro Nickel Project to take precedence over the survival and welfare of our people. In the words of Sec. Reyes, "no amount of mitigating measures can take away the risks faced by these areas . . . what does it gain a nation to be short sighted and merely think of money when an irreparable damage to the environment will cost human lives, health and livelihood capacity of our farmers and fisherfolks endangering the food security of our people?"

Indeed, what will be the gain to the nation of the Mindoro Nickel Project when it will lead to the destruction of an entire city and towns that are producing and supplying food to Metro Manila and to the Southern Tagalog area.

4. In his Order dated 10 November 2006 reinstating the MPSA, Sec. Defensor relied on the alleged favorable endorsements of the Mindoro Nickel Project given by the concerned local government units, such as the towns of Socorro, Victoria, Pola. This is totally false and misleading. No municipality in Oriental Mindoro has given any endorsement to the proposed mining project. Attached are the resolutions of the Sngguniang Bayan of the municipalities of Socorro, Victoria, Pola vigorously opposing the Mindoro Nickel Project that were passed after the issuance of the 10 November 2005 Order precisely to dispute the claim of Sec. Defensor in said Order.

With the repudiation by the concerned Sangguniang Bayan of their alleged favorable endorsements that were relied upon as one of the grounds for the reinstatement of the MPSA, the 10 November 2005 Order has suffered from a serious blow.

Considering the foregoing premises, we earnestly appeal to you to permanently cancel the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement between the Philippine Government and the Aglubang Mining Corporation and the removal of the province of Oriental Mindoro in the list of the priority mining areas in order to protect the fragile environment of the province, particularly the Aglubang watershed area and to save the lives and properties of thousands of residents of the province.

Thank you and best regards.
Very truly yours

ARNAN C. PANALIGAN
Governor
Province of Oriental Mindoro
MOST REV. WARLITO CAJANDIG
Bishop
Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan


SouthCot to DOE and mining firms: Don't bypass us

Written by Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews

14th November 2006

GENERAL SANTOS CITY - Local officials in South Cotabato have censured the Department of Energy (DOE) and the three mining companies exploring the coal deposits in the mountains of Lake Sebu town for bypassing the authority of the provincial government over the proposed large-scale coal mining development project in the area. South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the failure of the DOE and the mining firms Daguma Agro-Minerals Inc., Bonanza Energy Resources Inc. and MG Mining and Energy Corporation to even inform them about their operations in the coal-rich Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu is a clear violation of the Local Government Code. "The law provides local government and stakeholders to be properly consulted and informed about these kind of activities based on the principles of local autonomy," said the governor.

Aside from the provincial government, the departments of Agrarian Reform and even the the Environment and Natural Resources were not aware about the coal explorations.

Fuentes said Daguma and its sister firm Bonanza did not exert any effort to notify the provincial government about their activities in Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu since they obtained their coal operating contract (COC) for exploration from DOE in November 2002 and May 2005, respectively.

She said her office first received reports about the coal mining explorations in the Barangay Ned, which is part of the mineral-rich Daguma Mountain Range, when a road leading to the area was partially opened last year.

Fuentes said she sent letters to the DOE seeking clarifications about the project. It took several months for the department to respond to them.

The Provincial Development Council (PDC) and the Provincial Board launched a joint inquiry last week on the coal explorations, which are meeting strong opposition from local residents, the Catholic Church and several non-government organizations.

The inquiry was attended by a representative of the DOE, executives of the three mining companies and stakeholders of the proposed mining area. Levi Toquero, Daguma's project development consultant, admitted during the inquiry that the company deliberately withheld information to the area's local governments about their operations in Barangay Ned when they began in 2002 as they were not certain about the viability of the project then.

He said it was not their intention to ignore the authority of the local governments in the area.

"We would like to apologize for not reporting to you in the past. We were silent because only one mine can come out in our 300 prospects and we don't want to give you any false hopes," he said.

Daguma, headed by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona's brother Benjamin, is now winding up its explorations and has been preparing for a "multimillion coal development and production project" covering a 300-hectare mining area. Toquero said the company's explorations revealed a potential mine resource of 100 million metric tons that is reportedly good for a 50-year mining operation. He said the company, which is financed by United Kingdom-based firm Crew Gold Corporation, plans to pour in at least US$70 million worth of investments in the area during the next decade.

The DOE's representative Ruel Malapitan said the agency may not have properly consulted and informed the local governments in the area about the proposed coal mining projects since they are considered as national government initiatives.

He stressed that coal mining projects are covered by the Presidential Decree (PD) 972 as amended by PD 1174 or the Coal Development Act of 1976. Malapitan said such law "promotes the accelerated exploration, development, exploitation, production and utilization of coal."

It also introduced the coal service contract system and established the appropriate guidelines for coal operations in the Philippines, he said.

But lawyer Elpidio Feria, legal counsel of the Social Action Center-Justice and Peace Desk of the Diocese of Marbel, said the DOE should have considered the provisions of the Local Government Code when they approved the coal mining projects.

"They are using a law that is approved during the time of (former President Ferdinand) Marcos and the Local Government Code already superseded it when it comes to the principle of local autonomy," said Feria, who represents the Justice and Peace Desk in the PDC.

Fuentes, also a lawyer, said she will personally study various laws regarding the matter and determine if the DOE and the coal mining companies violated some laws.

She said the PDC will also seek opinions from legal and technical experts knowledgeable about coal mining operations before making a decision on whether they would endorse or oppose the proposed mining ventures. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)


DOE: No coal mining yet at Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu

PIA Press Release

13th November 2006

Koronadal, South Cotabato -- The Department of Energy (DOE) has revealed that there is still no coal mining activity yet at Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu.

This was confirmed by Engr. Ruel Malapitan, DOE representative from Manila during the first joint Provincial Development Council - Sangguniang Panlalawigan - Sangguniang Bayan (PDC-SP-SB) Meeting on Coal Mining Projects at Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu held at the PROTECH Center last November 8, 2006 (1 am).

Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes, PDC Chair presided over the meeting attended by Vice-Governor Eliordo U. Ogena, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, municipal and brgy officials, business and religious sectors, the academe, non-government organizations and people's organizations.

In his presentation, Engr. Malapitan divulged that DOE has only issued "exploration" permits, contrary to the reports received that coal development and production activities are being conducted in the said barangay.

The sitios affected by the said coal mining activities are Polo Subong, El Dulog, Kibang, Tafal and Bandala at Brgy Ned Lake Sebu, covering more or less 10,000 hectares of agricultural land and ancestral domain of the IPs in the area.

The DOE report also revealed that South Cotabato has a potential of 100 million metric tons of lignite coal. The Philippines on an annual basis locally produces more than 3 million metric tons of coal, while more than 7 million metric tons of coal is imported.

Daguma Agro-Minerals, Inc. and MG Mining & Energy Corp., two (2) of the mining companies conducting exploration in the area confirmed also during their presentation that their permit for coal development and production, will extract annually.

Coal development and production they said, will generate a thousand jobs and more than P70 million in investments annually.

But opposition groups led by the Justice and Peace Desk voiced out their concern on the dislocation of the farmers and IPs, mostly T'bolis, in their respective sitios.

They fear that the agreement signed by the concerned groups and the mining firms especially on the royalty payment, cannot compensate them on a long-term basis.

The representative of the National Economic & Development Authority (NEDA) in region XII who also attended the meeting, likewise expressed concern over the mining activities in the area.

She relayed to the body that during the regional consultative committee meeting, of which NEDA is the secretariat, have discovered that bgry. Ned, Lake Sebu under the regional land use plan is classified as a "watershed" area.

With this controversy, she added that NEDA will conduct another consultative meeting with the different concerned agencies such as the Department of Environment & Natural Resources, Department of Agrarian Reform, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Department of Energy on November 14 (Tuesday) to harmonize the existing laws of the respective agencies concerning mining. (FCS-PGO/PIA 12)


Paying Pro-TVI Canadian Mining Rally

By Tito Natividad Fiel, DCMI

11th November 2006

Dipolog City - Contrary to the press report released by the Canadian mining company TVI Pacific in Zamboanga and Dipolog City a week ago that they have been welcomed by the people in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, the regional Church based group here alleges that TVI had paid people to rally in support of their local mining operations.

The community organizer from the Prelature of Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay reported that on November 8, "contrary to the company's public relation work, TVI's pro-mining rally on October 30 and 31 was not genuinely supported by the people of Bayog."

According to the organizer, TVI promised to pay 150 pesos to each motor and pedicab [rickshaw] driver for them to join a pro-mining rally, which aimed to show the public that the local people welcomed the company.

The report claims that those people went to the rally in support of TVI mining operation not from their own conviction that mining brings them in a better life, but due to the financial consideration offered to them.

However, some of the drivers and pro-mining rally participants were dismayed after the rally, because TVI allegedly broke its promise and failed to pay the amount being offered.

The report quotes interviews with some of the jeepney [bus], pedicab and motorcycle drivers, where it notes that all of them were chartered by the company to be used by TVI to exclusively transport their supporters, and they were disallowed by the company to pick up passengers except those identified by company.

The report criticizes an alleged TVI funded local radio program for claiming that all the people of Bayog supported the pro-mining rally, while a counter anti-mining rally relied on people outside Bayog. The truth is that TVI gathered a pocket of people in Bayog not because of their own desire but due to the financial and job promises.

TVI transported about 100 people from José Dalman, Zamboanga del Norte, 100 from Siocon and 100 from R.T. Lim to join the pro-mining rally in Bayog in exchange for job hiring.

The government's Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region 9, headed by its Director attended the pro-mining rally, the report added.

A few months ago, the church group organising the anti-mining rally received information from the local government of Bayog and from the company itself, that they would conduct a pro-mining rally at the same time and date as counter of the anti-mining rally.

Rev. Fr. Nador Hisulga, an administrator of Prelature of Ipil, wasdismayed by how the Mayor of Bayog, Mary Ann Cartalla, disallowed the approximately 500 Subanon of Bayog the right to march in public places to air their positions against mining.


Church and Government Leader Calls TVI Pacific a 'liar'

By Tito Natividad Fiel, DCMI

11th November 2006

Dipolog City - The Canadian mining company TVI Pacific has been portraying itself as a responsible miner, not just in the Philippines, but all over the world. However this image has been ruined when the highest church leader in the province of Zamboanga Del Norte has accused it recently of being a 'liar company.'

Most Rev. Jose R. Manguiran, the Bishop of the Diocese of Dipolog and the Bishop In-charge of the DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) in a recent press conference hosted by DCMI, strongly condemned the lies employed by TVI against the church and its people.

Bishop Manguiran quoted the report of TVI, which was distributed during the mining forum initiated by the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) and sponsored by the TVI mining, to prove the extent and the intensity of TVI's lies.

The Bishop noted that the TVI report said that "TVI hosted over 300 visitors on February 20-21, this year led by Bishop Jose R. Manguiran and Mayor Ceasar Soriano of Siocon. The Bishop led an interfaith rally in Canatuan",

The Bishop said that he was there in Canatuan not to bless the mining operation of TVI, but to denounce TVI's mining operation, because they destroyed the sacred ground of the Subanon people, which is the place that they practice their own prayers led by their traditional chieftain Timuay Jose "Boy" Anoy.

In the same manner, TVI continually claims that they are operating legally in Mount Canatuan, but it has been revealed by the Provincial Government a week ago that they are operating without the government approved Environmental Protection Enhancement Program (EPEP).

Earlier this month, the Provincial Attorney of Zamboanga del Norte, Jess Gal Sarmiento revealed that, based on the record discovered by Romelo Damuag - who is also member of the Tri-Partite Monitoring Team on the Mining Gold Project in Canatuan - in the Provincial Environment Development Office (PEDO), it appears that TVI submitted its EPEP in 1997, but it was not approved.

The Provincial Government has asked TVI about their EPEP. TVI have replied that they have it, but when asked for a copy they have failed to produce a copy of the said document.

Likewise, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) say that TVI submitted its EPEP in 1997, but failed to get approval due to its failure to comply the certain requirements.

The MGB Regional Director also confirmed that TVI failed to submit another EPEP, and its operation in Canatuan is using the old and disapproved EPEP.

Since the beginning, TVI is operating without getting all the necessary requirements, but through intimidation of local people to give in their constitutional rights as citizens of the Philippines.

The MGB is continuing to defend the deeds of TVI Canadian mining firm despite the irregularities that they are operating despite lacking several necessary requirements.


A Failed Promise - The Dumingag Case

By Ellen Red Inside Mindanao, Published in Mindanao Monitor

1st November 2006

Dumingag, Zamboanga Del Sur - Reforestation was promised by logging companies to the people in this town. This never happened.

This time, with the promise of responsible mining of TVI Minerals Processing, Inc., the people in this town are wary; while others are downright saying not to the planned entry of the mining company.

"Based on our experience, the areas that were destroyed by logging never again regained its former appearance and state. What more with mining where the mountain itself will be destroyed?"

Written in the dialect, this is the common sentiment contained in the many letters sent by the people of this town to Constancio Paye Jr., region IX director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The letters signed by both the Subanon. The ethnic group in this town, and settlers from neighboring provinces, added.

"As the logging companies did not fulfill the reforestation agreement as stated on the Timber License Agreement (TLA), the same thing would happen with the mining company. They could never bring back the soil of the mountains that they would destroy, flatten, and dig."

A TLA is a privilege granted by the State to a company to utilize forest resources within forestlands with the obligation to develop, protect, and rehabilitate those resources.

In the year 2002, the municipal government of Dumingag released a document saying that as a "consequence of illegal logging and widely practiced kaingin (slash and burn) system of farming, the forest classified as timberlands have been reduced to mere forest patches".

TVI Mineral processing, Inc., an affiliate of a Canadian Mining Company TVI Pacific Inc., filed before the regional office of Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) -Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) two exploration permits for exploration of gold, copper, silver, and other associated metallic mineral resources in three barangays in this town: namely Dapiwak, Dilud, and Lipawan; covering a total of 13,446 hectares.

Republic Act 7942 otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, defines exploration as the searching or prospecting for minerals resources by geological, geochemical or geophysical surveys, remote sensing, test pitting, trending, drilling, shaft sinking, tunneling, or any other means for the purpose of determining of determining the existence, extent, quantity and quality thereof and the feasibility of mining them for profit."

Teofila Tumalis, a Subanon residing in barangay Dilud, Dumingag, told Inside Mindanao in her dialect. "The tribe here agreed that we would not allow the entry (of TVI Minerals Processing, Inc.). Because our crops will be destroyed. We will not able to till our land."


Marinduque exec wary of DENR dam report

Inquirer

13th November 2006

BOAC, MARINDUQUE -- A provincial board member here has expressed apprehension over a report of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that the mine structures and waste facilities of Marcopper Mining Corp. in Sta. Cruz town had no cracks or seepages.

Alan Nepomuceno, board committee on public order and safety chair, said provincial leaders and environmental authorities should not feel complacent after the press statement made by DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes that the mining company's inactive dams were safe after the province was hit by an earthquake.

"It is true that Secretary Reyes had sent experts from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to inspect the dams after the quake and they said that there was nothing to worry about," said Nepomuceno.

"However, we cannot ignore the findings of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), to which we paid P20 million to conduct a 2-year study on the dams, identifying the Makulapnit Dam of Marcopper to be in imminent danger of collapsing," he added.

Engineers from the mining company also admitted in a special provincial board session last March that they had monitored leaks at the structures of the Makulapnit Dam, he said.

Prior to Reyes' press statement, the entire provincial board and the vice governor of this province met with Reyes and other DENR officials on Nov. 7 to discuss the integrity of the Marcopper dams and their immediate repair to prevent a repeat of the mine spill tragedy of 1996 in Boac River. Nepomuceno said they agreed that the repair of the dams would be funded by the $12 million escrow deposited by the mining company in a bank in Hong Kong known only to select government and Marcopper officials.

The escrow was initially intended for the cleanup of the Boac River. Nepomuceno said Reyes told them that the amount was still intact as assured by a former Placer Dome executive who is now working for an international non-government organization that is willing to undertake repairs of the Legacy Mines in the Philippines, including the Marcopper dams.

He failed to identify the former executive and the international NGO. Placer Dome used to own and operate Marcopper.

Government authorities, meanwhile, have to work double time because DENR engineer Mike Cabalda said during the meeting that the escrow fund is about to expire next year.

"We have to find ways to have it released as soon as possible," Nepomuceno added.

Reyes then instructed DENR Undersecretary Horacio Ramos that if the escrow fund is released for the repairs of the dams, the DENR will ban Canadian mining operations in the country until the Marcopper dams are repaired.

In a related development, Nepomuceno said the provincial government of Marinduque was planning to file a separate case against Placer Dome in Canada, in behalf of the victims of the Marcopper tragedy.

He said the jurisdictional issue of the case that they filed against Placer Dome in Nevada, USA had not yet been decided by the court.

"We are planning to file a separate case against them in Canada because if Marinduque loses the jurisdictional issue in Nevada, we will have a fallback," he said.

It will be recalled that the provincial government of Marinduque filed a $200-million lawsuit earlier this year against Placer Dome Inc. at the US Federal Court in Nevada to hold the mining company accountable for the damages made in the province and obtain just compensation for the Marinduqueños. Gerald Gene Querubin, Inquirer Southern Luzon


Quarrying seen to cause dam collapse

Inquirer

13th November 2006

PILA, LAGUNA -- More than 2,300 farmers in five Laguna towns stand to lose their livelihood after unhampered quarrying on a river and after Typhoon "Milenyo" (international name: Xangsane) caused irreparable damage to an irrigation dam in Liliw town, officials said recently.

Mayors of the affected towns and officials of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) said more than the effects of the typhoon, the continuous quarrying along the Sta. Cruz River was behind the destruction of the Calumpang Diversion Dam.

The dam, built in the 1970s, is a source of irrigation water for 2,185 hectares of ricefields in Pila, Sta. Cruz, Liliw, Victoria and Nagcarlan towns. Its walls and other parts were destroyed during the height of "Milenyo" on Sept. 28.

During a dialogue at the NIA office here, local officials led by Sta. Cruz Mayor Dennis Panganiban said the typhoon damage could have been minimal if not for the destructive effects of quarrying on the dam structures in the last 20 years.

The dialogue was also attended by farmers' groups in Laguna.

Although the mayors were against the quarrying in the area, Panganiban said, they could do nothing to stop it because it had permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He lamented that even the provincial government maintained a quarry site in the area.

Efren Roqueza, NIA-Calabarzon director, said that as early as 1994, they had notified the DENR about the damaging effects of quarrying in the riverbed of Sta. Cruz River, the only source of water of the dam.

He said while the quarry operations were located beyond the dam's 1-km radius, the continuous collection of rocks in the lower portion of the area caused erosion in the riverbed.

Roqueza noted that a survey they recently conducted showed that the riverbed had dropped by 12 meters because of erosion.

He said that aside from commercial quarrying, there were also several small quarrying activities in the river.

"The dam is really beyond repair. All the structures were destroyed. We have to build a new dam now," Roqueza said.

Virgilio Yorro, NIA assistant provincial engineer, said it would take 11 months to two years to build a new dam. "[It] depends on the availability of funds.

This means that our farmers may not be able to plant rice for two years," Yorro said.

The new dam, he said, could cost between P100-P160 million.

Panganiban and all the other mayors present during the meeting sought the help of President Macapagal-Arroyo to immediately release the funds.

Roqueza said the National Disaster Coordinating Council had pledged P10 million to help them construct a new dam.

Marlon Ramos, Inquirer Southern


Once-idyllic island center of debate on mining

By Cyrain Cabueñas, Inquirer

19th October 2006

GUIUAN, Eastern Samar -- On a clear day, Manicani Island looks imposing, dwarfing the other island villages of this town facing the Pacific Ocean.

In the heart of the island lies its secret: two huge gaping craters carved by heavy machinery.

About an hourlong boat ride from the town proper, Manicani is home to Hinatuan Mining Corp.

For many years, Manicani has served as a haven for people who wanted to commune with nature or check out World War II artifacts.

The island used to be endowed with various species of tropical fish, coral reefs and lush vegetation. These images of serenity and bounty led some people to stay in Manicani for good.

Mauricio Siman, 60, a native of Bohol province, was a third-year mechanical engineering student when he decided to settle in Manicani with his Samareña wife in the late 1960s.

"It was like the promised land," he said. "There was abundant produce in the mountains, the sea was teeming with fish, and the islanders lived like one big happy family."

These days, Siman has no glowing account of Manicani. "The island's balding mountains and depleted marine resources no longer hold any promise," he said. Hinatuan Mining acquired its mining rights over Manicani Island from Palawan Syndicated Ventures Inc. in January 1991. But due to low metal prices and limited demand of nickel in the world market, it suspended its operations from December 1993 to 1996.

It resumed operations in 1997 and 2001 but was met with protests by some sectors, including the Catholic clergy of the Diocese of Borongan.

In 2002, then-secretary of environment and natural resources Heherson Alvarez created a special team of representatives of the Office of the Undersecretary for Environment and Natural Resources, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau to investigate the impact of the mining operations on the island and to validate complaints of the diocese.

After a week of research, the team reported that the craters posed to threat because they occupied only 5.27 percent of the smallest village and contained no toxic elements.

Manicani Island is part of the Guiuan Protected Seascapes and Landscapes, as declared on Sept. 26, 1994 in Presidential Proclamation No. 469.

From interviews with the inhabitants, the team reported that marine life was greatly damaged by dynamite and cyanide fishing.

They said their samplings showed that siltation and destruction of fish habitats were not caused by mining operations but by other factors, such as natural geological changes.

Carlo Caliwan, 39, president of the Concerned Citizens for Peace and Progress of Manicani Island, said the minerals on the island were God's gifts to the people of Manicani, which they use.

"The Roman Catholic Church of Borongan should give a chance to the mining company to rehabilitate the area before making any judgments," Caliwan said. "We want to get employed by Hinatuan Mining because we can no longer compete with the illegal and big-time fishermen."

Hinatuan Mining president Salvador Zamora II, in a Nov. 10, 2004 letter to then-secretary of environment and natural resources Michael Defensor, said the minerals should be extracted and exported so they would generate jobs and tax revenue.

Zamora had said the company was committed under the mining laws to rehabilitate mined-out areas.

After getting an ore transport permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and approval of Guiuan Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan, Hinatuan Mining shipped 150,000 tons of nickel ore to Japan staring in January last year. Bishop Leonardo Medroso, the former bishop of Borongan, and the rest of the local clergy had repeatedly expressed their collective stand against mining in Manicani through circulars to the faithful and letters to government officials.

Medroso had said that only the operators and a few government officials stood to benefit from the mineral deposits.

Hinatuan Mining vice president for operations Federico Ganigan said the mining operations would do more good than harm to the people of Manicani.

"Those who are against us worry only about the environmental hazards, which they claim our company would bring," he said. "But they should know that we have a covenant that we always religiously follow -- to protect the environment and to rehabilitate mined-out areas."


Colet exploration in Sipalay to be assessed

By Erwin Ambo S. Delilan, Sun Star

11th November 2006

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), together with the Provincial Board (PB) of Negros Occidental and other community stakeholders in Sipalay City, will conduct an environmental impact assessment in the ongoing exploration of Colet Mining Corporation in Barangay Manlocahoc, Sipalay City.

"The assessment aims to learn more of the complaint of the residents in Manlocahoc on the alleged environmental destruction caused by the exploration," said Board Member Reynaldo Depasucat, PB chair of the committee on environment.

This as he revealed that his office recently received a letter of complaint from 19 families in Manlocahoc addressed to the Bishop's Palace in Kabankalan and Bacolod cities alleging about the massive destruction of environmental and displacement of farmers in the area due to Colet exploration.

"That's why this environmental impact assessment will appraise us of the real situation in Manlocahoc considering that based on its permit, it will cover hundreds of hectares for copper mining later," Depasucat said.

Depasucat said that after the assessment, they will make a recommendation on whether or not to allow Colet's operation.

He also said that he will echo the result to the PB for them to decide on needed measures that will address the problems if the complaints are true. Sipalay City, dubbed as the "Jewel of Sugarlandia" because of its undiscovered fine beaches, which is likened to Boracay island, has been host to two mining operations in the past.

These were the Maricalum Mining for copper in Barangay San Jose and Gil Montilla and Philix Gold Mining for gold in Barangay Asia.

Both, however, caused environmental damages after their operation ended. Until now, the Maricalum Mining's tailing ponds are said to be still posing danger to nearby residents.

In the past years, these tailings ponds have been subjects of complaints of Sipalay residents as it reportedly brought illnesses hitting mostly children in the city.

"I hope that if Colet continues with these exploration, it will adhere to responsible mining rather than cause damage to environment and hazard to people's health."

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