MAC/20: Mines and Communities

PRESS STATEMENT of ALAMIN on the CATEGORICAL OPPOSITION OF THE PEOPLE OF MINDORO AGAINST THE MINDORO

Published by MAC on 2006-05-08

PRESS STATEMENT of ALAMIN on the CATEGORICAL OPPOSITION OF THE PEOPLE OF MINDORO AGAINST THE MINDORO NICKEL PROJECT OF CREW MINERALS-CREW GOLD A/S

8th May 2006

The province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, had long been opposing the entry of mining operation of Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP) by Aglubang Mining Corporation and CREW Minerals-Philippines, both owned and controlled by CREW Gold, A/S, a Canadian mining company based in the United Kingdom. The MNP proposed to operate in the 9,720-hectare mining concession, an area considered as critical watershed of the province and it also overlaps with the ancestral domain claims of the Mangyan indigenous peoples.

A very broad coalition of Mindoreos (people of Mindoro Island) opposed to the mine joined together to form the organization of ALYANSA LABAN SA MINA or ALLIANCE AGAINST MINING. It included civil society groups, Roman Catholic and Protestant church leaders, NGOs, peoples organizations, schools (teachers and students), mountaineers and environmentalists, peasant groups, human right advocates, Mangyan indigenous peoples’ organizations and federations, cooperatives, civic organizations, local government officials (Municipal Mayors and Members of Municipal Councils, Congressmen), among others.

The people’s unified stand against the Mindoro Nickel Project and their opposition to the entry of any mining operation in the province were clearly articulated in the Ordinance promulgated by the Provincial Council of Oriental Mindoro on January 2002 declaring a mining moratorium in the province for a period of 25 years.

The people of Mindoro are united in defending our right for a balanced and sustainable ecology. The pre-feasibility study conducted by Kvaerner Metals, an international engineering firm commissioned by CREW, admitted the environmental risk associated with the mining project like degradation of agriculturally productive land, degradation of marine and fishery resources due to mine waste disposal, increased erosion and sediment yield, effects on surface and groundwater supply and quality, among many more negative environmental impacts.

The people of Mindoro categorically reject the mining project because it directly threatens the ecological integrity of critical watershed since the mining concession covers the watershed of four major rivers supporting 70% of the total areas for rice production. This fact was confirmed by then DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez, in his letter published in Philippine Star, dated November 13, 2001, where he reported his findings that: “The project site forms part of the recharge area of watershed where the headwaters of Mag-asawang Tubig emanates. The extraction of the Nickel ore deposits by strip mining method…will aggravate risk of reducing recharge capability and increasing siltation, even with Best Mining Practice . . . Downstream of the Magasawang Tubig lies vast irrigated ricelands from where thousands of Mindorenos are dependent for their food security. No amount of mitigating measures can take away the risks faced by these areas”.

The strong opposition of the people and the threats of ecological destruction had been the decisive factors in the DENR’s decision to cancel the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) or the mining permit earlier granted to the company. In July of 2001 the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revoked the mining concession on environmental and social impact grounds. Then DENR Secretary Alvarez explained his decision and that of President Arroyo as being based on the need top protect critical watersheds, to protect the food security of the Mindorenos (local communities), and to respect the social unacceptability of the project. “The Mindoro Nickel Project is one case where sustainability is bound to fail…President Arroyo is fully aware of the situation. …what does it gain the 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,” (Heherson Alverez, Philippine Star, November 13, 2001).

However on March 10, 2004, two months before the national presidential election, the Office of the President revoked and set aside the Notice of Termination/Cancellation earlier issued by the DENR Secretary. CREW Gold Corporation, represented by its President and CEO, Jan A. Vestrum, jubilantly proclaimed the decision coming from the Office of the President as signaling the revival of the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP) and “the change in attitude of the Government of the Philippines towards mining, from that of tolerance to active promotion...”

CREW remained oblivious to the opposition of the people of Mindoro, and despite the resounding resistance to the project, the company made a farcical claim that “social acceptability program has successfully generated public support for the project locally.” This statement from CREW is clearly a malicious distortion of the fact that the mining project had been mired by overwhelming opposition of the people and of all the stakeholder municipalities.

CREW also claims that the Mangyan indigenous peoples living within the mining concession “can sustain their existence and traditional lifestyle through the support and coordination with individual groups during the operation.” The impact of mining operation cannot be easily dismiss for the total area of mining application of CREW overlaps with Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) of the Alangan and the Tadyawan Mangyans. Mining operation will result to the displacement of Mangyan indigenous peoples, disrespect for their cultural beliefs and tradition, and to a grand scale land-grabbing of their ancestral domains.

CREW intends to dump the 4 million tons per year of its mine waste, in Mindoro waters, in the coast of Pinamalayan and the productive fishing grounds of the Tablas Strait though the technology called Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD) or Subsea Tailings Placement (STP). Crew claimed that STD was proven to be “environmental friendly” and that this disposal process was widely accepted even in Canada and in the U.S. However, Crew’s claim for the safety of STD was later exposed to be a farce and utterly misleading. In several studies documenting the experiences of communities, like in Lihir and Misima Mine in Papua New Guinea, in Buyat Bay in Sulawesi, Indonesia, it was found out that STD is destructive of the fragile coral eco-system – it smothers living organisms, degrades marine and water environment, threatens ecological balance and allows heavy metals and other pollutants to enter the food chain. Moreover, it was found out that STD had been effectively banned in Canada since 1977. STD is also considered illegal in the U.S. and has never been proposed in Australia, for it violates the spirit of international covenants that protect the marine environment.

From the foregoing, cases of seeming deception, of utter disregard to the people’s opposition and of outright violation of indigenous peoples’ rights apparently does not conform well to the international criteria for greater transparency and accountability required for companies engaging in extractive industries. The exercise of corporate responsibility is deemed far below the standard in terms of observing minimum degree of respectful engagement with the stakeholder community and of truthful assessment of the environmental issues.

Therefore, WE, the people of Mindoro, reiterate our demand that CREW stop the proposed mining operation of the Mindoro Nickel Project.

WE demand that CREW and other mining corporations refrain from imposing their profit-driven agenda and in pursuing the liberalized mineral policy of the Philippine government, which have become too accommodating in promoting the plunder of our environment in exchange for foreign investments.

WE, the people of Mindoro, demand respect for the sovereign will of our people and the recognition of our right to chart our own direction of development. Our Provincial Council Resolution No. 259-99 categorically declares that: “Mindoro Nickel Project is incompatible with the sustainable development agenda of the Provincial Government which is anchored on food security, eco-tourism and agro-industrial development, much less, the development of mining industry is logically being ruled out in the Physical Framework Plan of Oriental Mindoro which stresses more on the environment-related strategies for sustainable land use.”

WE call on other civil society organizations, international support network, Church-based groups, and other institutions to support the struggle of our people and the Mangyan indigenous peoples against the large scale mining operation of CREW that threatens our ecology, our livelihood and the very survival of our communities.

ALYANSA LABAN SA MINA (ALLIANCE AGAINST MINING)
KAFCODE Office, St. Augustine Bldg., Ibaba East
Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, PHILIPPINES
E-mail: alamin mnp@yahoo.com

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