MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Beyond Marinduque: Debunking Myths on Mining

Published by MAC on 2003-07-01


Beyond Marinduque: Debunking Myths on Mining

The following is a letter from LRC-KSK (Friends of the Earth - Philippines) in response to the letters earlier sent by Director Horacio Ramos of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (Philippines) and Ms. Nelia Halcon of the Philippine Chamber of Mines regarding our institution's critical stand on the issue of large scale commercial mining. It was prompted by arguments, carried by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, between NGOs on one side and comapnies and Philippines government departments on the other, on the legacy and clean-up of the Marinduque disaster (a tailings spill at the Marcopper copper mine, in March 1996), as well as more recent concerns about the environmental problems at the Lepanto-owned Mankayan gold mine.

The letter from Ms. Halcon was particularly vitricolic, accusing LRC-KSK of holding a position that would lead them to fade into oblivion, and also offered the industry defence that mining tended to take place in uninhabited areas (which judging from the large amount of community opposition to mining in the Philippines would seem to be a strange proposition). This widespread civil society opposition to mining in the Philippines has produced the Dapitan Initiative, which is mentioned below. This is a petition calling for the scrapping of the 1995 Mining Act, which gives undue consideration to the rights of mining companies, particularly international ones, over the rights of local peoples.


To The Philippine Daily Inquirer

Letter to the Editor

July 1, 2003

Beyond Marinduque: Debunking Myths on Mining

The mining industry and its supporters have called our institution many names, ranging from "ecological extremists", "economic saboteurs," "DENR mafia," among other gaudy monikers. But this has never prevented LRC-KSK from continuing on with its work of upholding the rights of local communities who experience the severe effects of a development paradigm that has failed miserably to address their interests and make true their aspirations for genuine development.

So it no longer surprises us that the likes of Director Horacio Ramos of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Ms. Nelia Halcon of the Chamber of Mines would engage our institution regarding our critical stand on the issue of large scale commercial mining, as they have in times past. (June 26 & 27, 2003, PDI, Letters to the Editor)

It is also not new to us to hear the industry and its vanguards suddenly shift the engagement from a serious political-intellectual discourse to that of petty name-calling.

The buzzwords used to efface the bad track record of large-scale mining in the global arena are the same ones being advertised by its local "placement agencies" such as the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and MGB. So we have terms like, "best practices"and "sustainable mining" as Director Ramos would use in describing the industry's so-called paradigm shift in mining practice, if only to cover up the global economic slump of the mining industry as a result of mining-affected communities resistances to their unwelcome encroachment.

We have heard too often the rhetoric of a development paradigm that construes large-scale mining to be sustainable. Ms. Halcon's firm belief that mining gives jobs has been debunked many times by studies conducted by various national and international groups about the myths of employment boom. Such a distortion of the real effects of mining activities in communities has covered up the issues of labor unrest, casualty problems, meager compensation, and health risks of workers exposed to the hazards of large-scale mining operations. This has been the clear experience of the farming and fishing communities of Negros where Philex and Maricalum Mining operations destroyed vast hectares of ricefields and has caused health and social damage to its local mine workers. A first-hand integration with Marcopper-affected communities in the towns of Boac, Mogpog and Sta. Cruz would show how the people's livelihood have suffered much during the Marcoppers operations.

Halcon's idea that mining projects are located in uninhabited areas is also a big lie. Perhaps she should visit first these areas and find, for one, that Bgy. Didipio in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya where Australian-owned Climax Arimco Mining Corporation (CAMC) holds a Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) is peopled by a community of Ifugaos who have developed the areas agricultural lands for more than 30 years. With CAMCs presence, their source of water and thriving agricultural activities are put to peril. There are many other communities in other parts of the country -- such as the Blaan peoples in South Cotabato, the Mangyans of Mindoro -- who are objecting to the unwelcome entry of mining companies into their ancestral domains.

People's awareness on mining issues are growing after the Marcopper experience. Progressive pro-community lobbyists in the local government have gained ground, such that even the province of Mindoro has come up with a provincial resolution calling for a 25-year moratorium on mining activities in the province. Perhaps Ms. Halcon ought to go to these areas herself and see how communities therein have been disillusioned by the mining industry's empty promises. Maybe then she will also have the proper answer as to who has truly been misinforming the public.

Internationally, the global mining industry is being put to question by a growing international community of advocates who have witnessed the myths peddled by mining transnationals the world over. Locally, there is also a growing number of Dapitan Initiative advocates, a nationwide movement calling for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942). We saw how the mining industry was threatened by this concerted action such that they also launched their own pro-mining signature campaign right after the Dapitan campaign was launched late last year.

And lastly, if the challenge is for LRC-KSK to fade into oblivion, then we would gladly do so, if only then that Ms. Halcon and others would hear directly the voices of communities. But then, Ms. Halcons obvious lack of understanding of the real issues and outmoded argumentation serve to remind us exactly who is on the road to extinction.

It seems that it might take more hammering in the heads of our government and industry vanguards for them to get the message which our local and international communities have already been voicing out ever so clearly.

[SGD] Milagros San Jose-Ballesteros
Executive Director
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KSK)
# 7 Marunong St., Bgy. Central, Quezon City

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