Representatives from Siocon Oppose TVI PacificPublished by MAC on 2004-11-02
Representatives from Siocon Oppose TVI Pacific
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Multi Sectoral Representatives from Siocon, in the Southern Philippines, Express Opposition to Canadian Mining Company TVI Pacific
(Ottawa, November 2, 2004)
Representatives of the local government, Indigenous Peoples, civil society and sectoral organizations from Siocon, a municipality in the southern Philippines, have travelled to Canada to declare their collective opposition to the plans of Canadian mining company TVI Pacific to operate a gold, copper and silver mine on Mount Canatuan. The mine is within the ancestral land of the Subanon people and within the critical watershed of the downstream communities of Siocon.
The delegation believes that the Canadian government has been seriously misinformed by the company as to the real wishes of local people. They charge that the company has failed to gain the support from the affected peoples and local government, as required by Philippine law and traditional law. They are calling on the Canadian government, investors and the public to stop supporting TVI and are calling for a genuine independent investigation and monitoring. "We welcome visitors who want to know the truth," says Onsino Mato. "Our concern is that our voice is being drowned out by company propaganda."
Siocon is a multi-cultural community in the conflict-torn region of the southern Philippines. The delegation to Canada includes Town Councillor Lucas who heads the municipal environment committee. According to Lucas, the mine is seen as a threat to the prosperity and livelihood of local farmers, fish breeders and fisherfolk. Since TVI began to process gold through its cyanide plant in the mountains at the head of the watershed, fishing communities and those farming and living near the river have reported a serious decline in water quality and reduced yields from their fisheries and fish farms. The municipal council is on record opposing the mine. Civil society has come together in the Save Siocon Paradise Movement, headed by Mrs. Conception (Ching) Capitania. In March, 2004, they mounted and maintained a picket to prevent the movement of mining equipment up to the mine site. On March 17, 2004, four picketers, including tribal elder Macario Salacao, were wounded when military and company guards opened fire.
Residents of Siocon fear mining will jeopardize their livelihoods and heighten militarization and conflict in their area. There have been two deadly assaults on company personnel and several incidents where company paramilitaries have shot at and wounded local people. The mine is in a region that is under a travel advisory from the Canadian government. Since TVI arrived in 1994, there has been sustained opposition to the proposed mine from the indigenous peoples on the site and the communities downstream. The mine is displacing indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands against their will. TVI now maintains a heavily armed security force to protect its site and to control the movement of goods and people. This and other excesses have been condemned in statements at the UN presented in Geneva by Mr. Mato and other Subanon representatives. Some opponents of the mine, including Mr. Mato, are now barred from access to their homes. TVI recently cleared all vegetation off the mountain, which Subanon across the region revere as a sacred place. Mining has now begun there. To circumvent local opposition TVI has supported and recognized a Subanon faction made up mostly of people who work for them and are imported from regions outside Canatuan. There are now strong divisions in the community. A traditional assembly of Subanon elders from across the region, headed by Timuay (Chief) Lambo, recently ruled that the organization recognized by TVI has no legitimacy.
Despite strong local opposition and controversy, TVI is receiving financial backing directly from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for a development project in the community. Such projects are viewed locally as efforts to win support for the mine through increasing the patronage of the company. The Canadian Ambassador, Peter Sutherland, recently stressed government support for TVI and identified the progress of this project as a "litmus test" for Canadian mining companies in assessing the commitment of the Philippine government to promoting foreign investment in mining.
Independent organizations however warn against support for TVI. According to Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, "Ambassador Sutherland has expressed support for TVI as representing responsible Canadian mining in the Philippines, but this company has never operated a mine before and already has an appalling record of community relations in Canatuan. From what I have seen in visiting the site, TVI will do nothing to Canadian mining's image in the Philippines; the embassy is betting on the wrong horse."
The delegation will be in Ottawa and Toronto from 1-8 November and will have meetings with the Department of Foreign Affairs, CIDA, Members of Parliament, the Assembly of First Nations, the Grand Council of the Crees, concerned NGOs, and human rights groups including Amnesty International. A meeting with the company has also been requested mediated by church-based groups in Toronto. As of the time of this release no response has been received from TVI. The visitors are also seeking advice on what legal redress might be possible.
The delegation consists of:
* First Councillor Lunie Lucas, Chair Environmental Committee, Siocon Municipal Council, Zamboanga del Norte
* Timuay Noval Lambo for the Gukom Sa Pito Kadulongan (7 Rivers Council of the Subanon)
* Mrs Conception Capitania, Save Siocon Paradise Movement
* Onsino Mato of Canatuan and representative of the Siocon Subanon Association Apu Manglang Glupa' Pusaka
[Representatives of the Muslim community in Siocon were denied Canadian visas to join the delegation.]
The tour is supported by MiningWatch Canada, Christian Aid, Tebtebba Foundation and Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links.
For more information contact: Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 795-5710 (cell)
Indigenous Subanon, Muslims, and Other Residents of the Town of Siocon in the Philippines Align Against Canadian Mining Company TVI
Catherine Coumans October 2004
TVI Faces Social, Political and Environmental Risk in the Philippines
Canadian mining company TVI Pacific Inc. (TVI), listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), faces social opposition to its proposed mining activities in the Philippines from a united front of citizens from diverse cultural backgrounds in the town of Siocon, in south-western Mindanao, the Philippines. The Indigenous Subanon, who live in the mountains where TVI wants to locate its mine, have come out against the project. Down-stream communities in the fertile valley below the mine are opposed to the mine as they have already observed negative effects from the mine's operations on the Siocon and Lituban Rivers that they rely on for irrigation and fish farming. Muslims from Siocon, living on the coast, rely on fishing for their livelihood and they too blame the mine for deteriorating fishing conditions in the river's estuaries. All three affected communities have unified in the Save Siocon Paradise Movement. In elections held in May of 2004, mayoral candidate Cesar Soriano campaigned on the platform that if elected he would oppose the TVI mine. He won a landslide victory, winning twice as many votes as his nearest competitor.
Most immediately threatened are the Indigenous Subanon of Canatuan. TVI has started operations this year and has already bulldozed the top of a mountain that is a sacred place for the Subanon. There are numerous villagers living on the slopes of the mountain who will be displaced by the mine if it proceeds.
In addition to social opposition, TVI is also facing serious political challenges. The mine is located in Zamboanga Del Norte Province on the southern island of Mindanao. The Canadian Embassy has a travel advisory out against travel by Canadians in this region. This area has long suffered from sectarian violence from Muslim separatists known as the MNLF and MILF. It is also the territory of the Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings and local violence, and allegedly associated with al-Qaeda. The U.S. now has troops stationed in the region. A mine property known as Kingking, also on the island of Mindanao, was recently in the news ("Blood Money" - Former Exec: American Company Paid Terrorist Group to Protect Overseas Interests, by Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz, ABCNEWS.com) for having allegedly paid "revolutionary taxes" to the Abu Sayyaf. TVI was a part owner of Kingking project and two representatives of TVI were on its board of directors. In 2002, there were two violent attacks on TVI personnel resulting in 15 people being killed. The second of these attacks happened on December 26, 2002 when, according to TVI, "an unidentified group of armed terrorists ambushed a vehicle carrying TVI employees" travelling between Canatuan and Siocon. Thirteen people were killed and 12 people were wounded.
TVI employs armed paramilitary guards known as Special Civilian Armed Auxiliaries (SCAA). These guards are trained and armed by the Philippine military, but employed by TVI. The guards man numerous checkpoints between the town of Siocon and the mine in Canatuan. Having recently visited the area, I can attest to the fact that at least the first of these checkpoints is on the public road outside of the mine's concession area. The SCAA guards control the movement of goods and people on and off the site, which is also part of the government-recognized ancestral land of the local Subanon people. Leaders of the indigenous community who oppose the mine have been singled out for victimization. The legitimate and recognized "Timuay" or leader of the Subanon of Canatuan, Timuay José Anoy, is no longer allowed to pass the checkpoints to go to his home, nor can others from Canatuan who have expressed opposition to the mine. TVI is clearly not in compliance with its 1997 Environmental Compliance Certificate that requires the company to assure that "public roads shall remain open to allow the free flow of traffic."
Residents both from Canatuan and from the town of Siocon have faced attacks by the SCAA. Community opposition to the mine has been met with violence from security forces. There have been several shooting incidents involving company security. The most recent was in March 2004, when picketers opposing the movement of mining equipment were fired upon by company security and military. Four people, including tribal elder Timuay Macario Salacao, were wounded.
The environmental challenges faced by TVI are the same ones that have plagued other mining companies in the Philippines, including more experienced ones such as Canada's mining giant Placer Dome. Most mineral deposits in the Philippines are volcanic in origin and located in the mountains. The Philippines is also a tropical country with a high annual rainfall. Open pit mining generates enormous amounts of run-off and toxic waste (waste rock and tailings) that must be stored in such a way that it does not effect the wider environment. The combination of mountain top mining, high rainfall and large amounts of toxic waste have all too often proven disastrous in the Philippines, as elsewhere in the tropics. High profile catastrophic failures, such as the one that occurred at Placer Dome's Marcopper mine in the Philippines in 1996, are a concern, but so are the slow and steady releases of uncontrolled erosion from the mine site and the inadvertent - and sometimes deliberate - releases of tailings into waterways to relieve pressure on overfull tailings facilities.
In the case of TVI, my recent visit made clear that one of the ways in which TVI is already violating its 1997 Environmental Compliance Certificate is its completely inadequate management of erosion from the mine site. Although the actual mine operations have only gotten under way this year, the sand bag enclosures that are supposed to stop runoff from the fledgling mine are clearly already failing to do so. Additionally, the first tailings impoundment, used to hold tailings from TVI's processing of small scale miners' material, is not a modern engineered structured and there are already reports - including a recorded description by a former worker - of the way TVI has been releasing tailings from that facility during hard rains into nearby creeks that feed the major rivers.
The Subanon of Canatuan are calling for:
o The Canadian government to stop backing TVI
o Responsible Canadian investors to not invest in this project
o TVI to withdraw its abusive security personnel and leave the area in peace
o An independent fact-finding mission to investigate the abuses and assess the level of local support
o Canadian NGOs and Indigenous organizations to monitor the actions of TVI and oppose the denial and violation of Subanon rights in their ancestral land.
"Toronto Ventures Inc. (TVI) has started its illegal operations, and has desecrated our altar, the tip of Mt. Canatuan, which is our most sacred place. They bulldozed the tip of the mountain, destroyed our most holy place, and in a matter of weeks, our community will be wiped out due to their mad drive for gold." - Timuay José Anoy, Leader, Subanon Tribe Ancestral Domain of Apo Manglang