MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippine Update

Published by MAC on 2006-01-20


Philippine Update

20th January 2006

After much concerted local lobbying, Marcopper's San Antonio Copper Project has been "de-listed" from the government's 24 priority mining projects.

Rumours and debate persist around the re-starting of full production at Lafayette's Rapu Rapu mine.

A new Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) has been enacted by the local governor on the shipping of ore from Toledo's Berong nickel mine.

While trying to enter the Philippines to launch a fact-finding report on the mining industry, Catholic priest Fr. Frank Nally (one of this website's editors) was 'black-listed' and deported from the country. The report is due to be launched - both in London and Manila - on 25th January 2007.

Anabelle E. Plantilla has continued her series in the "Manila Times", logging civil society objections to mining in the Philippines.


Marcopper's San Antonio Copper Project Delisted from Mining Priority List

Press Release MACEC News and Information Service

18th January 2007

BOAC, MARINDUQUE - The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC), a church-based organization which strongly campaigns for making Marinduque a mining-free province, announces the official 'delisting' or removal by the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) of Marcopper's San Antonio Copper Project from the 24 mining priority projects being promoted by the Arroyo administration through the DENR's Mines and Geosciences Bureau and other agencies of the government.

MACEC Executive Secretary Myke Magalang said that "this is a product of the people's strong solidarity and unity in their struggle for environmental and economic justice. But this is also a challenge to every Marinduqueño and their public officials to come together and design or come up with clear and feasible sustainable development blueprint for the province that is not dependent on mining."

The official announcement is contained in a communication from Director Horacio C. Ramos of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau dated December 19, 2007 and addressed to Most Rev. Reynaldo G. Evangelista, D.D., Bishop of Boac.

The letter was in response to the Marinduque Declaration which called on the Arroyo administration to delist the said project. The Declaration, an advocacy project of MACEC, was initially signed by the Bishop himself, the MACEC Provincial Executive Chairman Msgr. Senen Malapad, Marinduque Governor Carmencita O. Reyes and Marinduque Lone District Representative Congressman Edmundo O. Reyes. The Declaration was supporterd by more than 10,000 signatures of Marinduqueños.

Before leaving Marinduque for the Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops'; Conference of the Philippines, Bishop Reynaldo G. Evangelista admits that he was "deeply moved by the turn of events." He also congratulated MACEC and all those who worked hard to get the nod of the DENR Officials in removing the mining project in Marinduque from the proposed priority mining tenements.

Bishop Evangelista reminded MACEC "to intensify the environmental campaigns in the diocese and ensure that we are always aware of all developments especially now that there are already applications for small-scale mining projects."

He also sent his gratitude to all local government officials who supported the call for the removal of the San Antonio Copper Project and reminded them to "unite all efforts as we rehabilitate our Island-province after the devastation we suffered from supertyphoon Reming and lead the way, in harmony with the efforts of the Church, to a dynamic and integral human development."

Magalang noted that MACEC "is still waiting for the official action of the President on the request of the Bishop, the local government officials and the 10,765 signatories to the Marinduque Declaration. It is but proper that the president should issue special order or similar document declaring the official removal of the San Antonio Copper Project from her priority mining projects because it was included in the list by former DENR Secretary Mike Defensor in accordance with Executive Order 270 issued by Malacañang and its implementing Rules."

He finally emphasized that "despite the delisting of the San Antonio Copper Project, we will still pursue our campaign for environmental and economic justice especially by demanding from Marcopper Mining Corporation the payment of more than One Billion Pesos in local taxes which should have been used by the province in its development initiatives."

MARINDUQUE COUNCIL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
Second Floor, Cathedral Compound, High Town, Boac, 4900 Marinduque
Tel. Nos. (042) 332-2713
myke_sacmarinduque@yahoo.com


TIMELINE OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

March 24, 1996: Infamous Boac River Disaster wrought by the discharge of almost 3 million cubic meters of contaminated mine tailings from Marcopper's Tapian Pit causing the death of the 27-kilometer Boac River;

January 16, 2004: PGMA [the President]]issued EO 270 (National Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Mining in the Philippines). Because of this, and despite the biggest mining and environmental disaster in Marinduque, Marcopper's San Antonio Copper Project was still included in the administration's 24 mining priority areas.

October 4, 2005: Marinduque Provincial Government filed a civil suit against Placer Dome, Inc, in Nevada USA

October 28, 2005: In a historic move, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan positively approved MACEC's call for a mining moratorium in Marinduque. After MACEC's Executive Secretary Myke Magalang's address in the provincial board's session, the Sangguniang Panlalwigan adopted Resolution No. 379, s.2005 -- Declaring a Fifty (50)-Year Large-Scale Mining Moratorium in the Province of Marinduque

January 29, 2006: The CBCP issued a pastoral Statement entitled "A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns," which questioned the mining revitalization plan of the government and called on PGMA to stop the 24 mining priority areas.

January 31, 2006: MACEC sponsored the Second Church-Local Government Leaders' Roundtable Discussion on Social Concerns. The Roundtable adopted the MARINDUQUE DECLARATION, a campaign to Delist San Antonio Copper Project from the Arroyo government's mining priority areas. This is the very first initiative from the 24 mining priority sites to formally request the delisting of a mining project from the priority list.

March 10, 2006: During the private dialogue between PGMA and some bishops at Trader's Hotel, Bishop Rey Evangelista formally brought before the attention of the President Marinduque's appeal to delist San Antonio Copper Project from the mining priority projects.

March 24, 2006: 13,000 Marinduqueños, wearing black, converged in Boac Covered Court to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the infamous Boac River Disaster spearheaded by MACEC. Government and Church leaders reiyerayed the call for the 'delisting.'

April 4, 2006: In response to the recommendation of MACEC for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to enlist the support of all the municipal legislative councils to the campaign for a mining-free province, the first ever Special Joint Session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and all of the six Sangguniang Bayan in Marinduque was held. They adopted Resolution No. 06-005 (Requesting Her Excellency, president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Delist the Province of Marindquue from the Twenty-Three (23) Mining Priority Areas of Her Administration.

July 3, 2006: The second meeting between Bishop Rey Evangelista and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (during the Bishops'-Businessmen's Conference) regarding the Marinduqueños' appeal for the delisting of the San Antonio Copper Project.

August 11, 2006: Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista prepared a nine-page letter summarizing the various environmental, safety, health and social problems encountered by the province because of mining operations. It was transmitted to the Office of the President.

October 15, 2006: MACEC ended its signature campaign in support of the Marinduque Declaration. The campaign gathered 10,765 signatures of support and 25 resolutions, manifestos and petitions of support. All the documents were consolidated into a 4-inch thick hard-bound documents.

October 18, 2006: A delegation headed by MACEC Executive Secretary Myke Magalang and Boac Vice-Mayor Sonny L. Paglinawan personally submitted the hard-bound documents to the Office of the President, the Office of the Mineral Development Council and Office of the DENR Secretary.

December 15, 2006: PGMA visited Marinduque to see for herself the effects of Supertyphoon Reming. In her private dialogue with Bishop Rey Evangelista, the bishop reminded the president, for the 3rd time, the people's demand for the delisting of the mining project.

December 19, 2006: DENR-MGB Horacio C. Ramos wrote Bishop Rey to inform him of the delisting of the San Antonio Copper Project.

January 18, 2007: Bishop Rey Evangelista received from the mail the letter of DENR-MGB Director Horacio C. Ramos.

January 19, 2007: A copy of Dir. Ramos' Letter was faxed by MACEC Executive Secretary Myke Magalang to the Office of Usec Valdes in Malacañang for the official action of PGMA:

Republic of the Philippines
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
MINES AND GEOSCIENCES BUREAU
North Avenue, Diliman,
Quezon City, Philippines

December 19, 2006

Most Rev. Reynaldo G. Evangelista, D.D Bishop of Boac
Roman Catholic Bishop of Boac Boac, Marinduque

Dear Bishop Evangelista,

This is in response to your letter dated 11 August 2006 addressed to President Gloria Macapagal Aroyo regarding the earnest request for the immediate "delisting" or removal from the proposed mining tenements of the government the San Antonio Copper Project in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque citing, among other reasons, the environmental, safety and health and social problems encountered by the province for hosting the said copper mining projects for almost three (3) decades.

As per earlier agreement during the Bishop Conference held in Intramuros and Ortigas Center, please be informed that this Office have already removed the said San Antonio Copper Project as early as the first quarter of this year from the 24 priority development projects being presented by the MGB in its mining investment promotion activities.

Notwithstanding this move, however, this Office considers the possibility that there would still be investors interested to inquire or get basic information about the project. In this case, the MGB is bound by its mandate and agency thrust to provide the basic information particularly referring them to the managers or caretakers of the project to address their queries.

Thank you.
Very Truly Yours,
Horatio C. Ramos


Mining Disaster Victims First to Endure Effects of Natural Calamities

MACEC News and Information Service News Report

15th January 2007

BOAC, MARINDUQUE – The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns in partnership with the Citizen’s Disaster Response Center and Caritas Switzerland distributed protein-based relief packages to 2,155 families in barangays which were heavily affected by the fury of supertyphoon Reming.

In the course of the damage assessment and humanitarian operations, MACEC noted that families in the communities along Calancan Bay, Boac River and Mogpog River (the areas affected by the various disasters wrought by Placer Dome’s Marcopper Mining Corporation) were also the ones heavily affected by Supertyphoon Reming which devastated the island-province on November 30 to December 1 of 2006. Almost 27,000 families in all of the six town of the province were homeless because 70%-80% of all houses built of light materials were either partially or totally destroyed.

According to Myke Magalang, MACEC Executive Secretary, “the poorest and most vulnerable of the victims of the recent supertyphoon, who were also the victims of the Marcopper disasters, remain homeless until today. MACEC is calling on all humanitarian aid agencies to help the province in the rehabilitation efforts and not concentrate their assistance in the Bicol Region.”

MIGUEL "Myke" R. MAGALANG
Executive Secretary
Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns
Second Floor, Sacred Heart Diocesan Pastoral Center Cathedral Compound, Boac,
4900 Marinduque, Philippines
Tel: (042) 332-27-13


Environmental Groups bewail Lafayette's commercial operations in the absence of full safety & environmental guarantees

PNE Press Release

15th January 2007

"Lafayette's announcement of planned shipment of almost 2,670 metric tons of copper and zinc concentrate from their 5 months test run production is added insult to injury. In the first place, this volume is no way incidental

production as claimed by Lafayette and the DENR. The worth of this volume is estimated to equal if not exceed the gross revenue of Lafayette of $2,444,145 during its 2005 commercial operations.," says Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE).

According to international news reports, Lafayette is planning to ship another 1,800 tons of mineral concentrates to China, on top of the 870 they shipped last week.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg. We believe Lafayette has commercially extracted and mass produced gold, silver ores and other metallic concentrates more than what they have already declared in public. Lafayette is not allowed to operate at commercial level during their test-run operation but the DENR is allowing them to do so," Mr. Bautista added.

The granting of ore transport permit by DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes to Lafayette signifies that Lafayette can now fully operate at commercial levels even without the issuance of the Permanent Lifting Order (PLO). First, the DENR has given Lafayette a temporary lifting order (TLO) since July 2006 to test run their mining structures and environmental safeguard facilities and now DENR is allowing it to ship out and sell mineral products worth $2 million out of the country. Should not there be first a presentation that Lafayette has fully complied with all the environmental, social and economic questions regarding its mining operations? This smacks of betrayal of public trust ," says Trixie Concepcion, Defend Patrimony spokesperson and a geologist.

Defend Patrimony is a national alliance opposing the mining liberalization policies and large-scale mining project of the Arroyo administration.

"Lafayette is fast extracting and producing mineral products in Rapu-rapu Island. Lafayette reported that they only "incidentally produced" copper and zinc concentrates but we believe they have also extracted thousands of tons of gold and silver ores. It was deliberately produced by Lafayette to satisfy their previous hedge contracts to their contractors and also to generate money to pay their fast ballooning debt," Ms. Concepcion added.

According to Lafayette, it recorded a consolidated loss of $111,034,348 for the year ended 30 June 2006. The government allowed Lafayette to test its base metals facility starting July 10 until Dec. 8 last year, after two cyanide spills in October 2005. The mining plant of Lafayette was heavily damaged by Typhoon Reming that resulted to temporary closure of operation. Last week, DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes gave Lafayette a permit to transport and sell its 'incidental mineral products'.

"We condemn the move of the DENR Sec Reyes to allow Lafayette to ship out of the country our mineral resources. DENR Secretary should have confiscated the said volume of metal concentrates and ensured first the company's rigid compliance with all the issues raised upon the company," stated Mr Bautista.

"By neglecting this, Sec. Reyes has only shown how poor a manager he is of the country's precious and non-renewable mineral resources, especially allowing Lafayette to continue to devastate our environment and put our people in grave risk." Mr. Bautista stated.

KALIKASAN-PNE KALIKASAN: PEOPLES NETWORK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel./Fax; +63 (2) 924-8756;
E-mail: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com


Lafayette eyes restart after typhoon

Reuters - http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryID=63230

16th January 2007

SYDNEY - Lafayette Mining Ltd. said on Tuesday it was confident of a rapid resumption of copper and zinc concentrate shipments once repairs are completed at its mine in the Philippines, damaged by a typhoon late last year.

In the meantime, existing inventories of concentrate -- ground ore -- were being shipped on spot terms by South Korea's LG International, said Lafayette, whose stock is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

In late November, Typhoon Durian ripped across remote Rapu-Rapu Island, 350 km southeast of Manila, knocking out power and communication lines with the mainland and damaging staff housing quarters.

"The base metals plant and ancillary infrastructure required for the restart of production of copper and zinc concentrates are expected to be available in early February 2007," Lafayette said in a statement.

The typhoon struck as the company was testing operations on a trial basis following two cyanide spills in October 2005 that led to a suspension of mining by the government.

Before the suspension, Lafayette had been forecast to generate revenues of $350 million a year from production of 10,000 tons of copper in concentrate, 14,000 tons of zinc, 50,000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver.

Rapu-Rapu was the first foreign-owned mine to open after the Supreme Court upheld a law allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of mining projects. Lafayette shares were trading up 1.1 percent at 8.9 cents by early afternoon in a slightly firmer overall market.


Missionary priest deported from Philippines

Independent Catholic News

9th January 2007

Manila - "You're blacklisted," an official told Catholic priest Frank Nally at the immigration desk in Manila airport on Sunday, 5 January. He explained to the surprised Columban missionary, who had previously worked in the Philippines for many years, that for the first time ever he would not be admitted into the country and would be detained overnight in the transit area of the airport.

Frank Nally, 52, a member of the Columban's Faith and Justice team, had flown to Manila to prepare the release of a report on the impact of the activities of foreign mining companies on the Philippine environment and communities to be launched in London and Manila on 25 January. He was part of a fact-finding mission that visited mining areas of the Philippines in July 2006 to gain first-hand information on the situation.

British Member of Parliament, Clare Short, was also part of the mission, which took the initiative in response to an appeal from the Philippine Catholic bishops for international assistance in their struggle against large-scale mining. The 62-page report, covers legal, environmental and political issues and gives a number of recommendations.

The stunned priest said he was not given any reason for his blacklisting, but did notice a notation "NICA" (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency) on the immigration officer's computer screen. Frank Nally, an Irish citizen currently based in London, said that Philippine authorities confiscated his passport and kept guard on him overnight. He was finally escorted onto an 8am Hong Kong-bound flight on 6 January, but his passport was given to airline staff to deliver to Hong Kong authorities. He was interviewed by the Hong Kong immigration. "I could not tell them the reason I was deported as no one told me," he said. "However, I did say that I could only surmise that my involvement in the fact-finding mission and the upcoming release of the report may have had something to do with it."

A Philippine senator, Nene Pimentel, says he was non-plussed as to why the government would bar the priest. He has told Frank Nally by telephone that he will try and get more information on why he has been deported.

In recent years there have been reports of increasing human rights abuses in the Philippines, which have been documented by organisations such as Amnesty International and the World Council of Churches. The response of the government appears to be to blacklist human rights and environmental activists.

On 6 December 2006 American Human Rights Lawyer Brian Campbell was also barred from entering the Philippines. He said at that time: "what is clear is that rule of law and freedom of speech is suffering in the Philippines today".

A blog of the fact-finding trip can be found at :

www.philippinesfactfinding.blogspot.com

The Missionary Society of St Columban, with headquarters in Ireland, has 575 priests of ten nationalities ministering in 14 countries.

Source: Columbans

Contact Independent Catholic News tel/fax: +44 (0)20 7267 3616 or email


Senator's reproach over Columban's rejection at airport pleases confreres

Indian Catholic

12th January 2007

QUEZON CITY, Philippines (UCAN) -- Philippine Columbans welcomed a senator's criticism of the government's blacklisting of a British confrere.

Father Frank Nally was held overnight at Ninoy Aquino International Airport after arriving there on Jan. 5. Officials then put him back on a plane to Hong Kong, Australian Father Brian Gore, regional director of the Missionary Society of Saint Columban in the Philippines, told UCA News.

According to Father Gore, an immigration official said Father Nally was "blacklisted," but no explanation was provided as to the cause. Father Gore said Father Nally campaigns for sustainable development and served nine years as a missioner in the Philippines, mostly in Mindanao.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. filed a protest with the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation over the incident. In a Jan. 8 statement sent to UCA News, he denounced the bureau's treatment as "fascistic" and "without reason."

In his view, refusing entry to the priest after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo invited foreign critics to look into alleged human rights violations showed clearly the government's "insincerity" and "double-talk." "Are we now under martial law?" the senator asked in his statement.

Father Gore said the Columban community expects no formal explanation but is pleased that the Senate opposition leader filed a protest on Father Nally's behalf. He denied allegations Father Nally planned to demonstrate at the summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders, being held Jan. 10-15 in Cebu, 565 kilometers southeast of Manila.

Father Gore told UCA News that Father Nally came to the Philippines last year with Clare Short, a member of the British Parliament, to visit mining areas, where they heard residents complain about being moved off their lands. Indigenous people said the legal obligation to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before mining projects could proceed was ignored.

Short led a delegation on a 10-day fact-finding trip in July to investigate the impact of foreign mining companies on the Philippine environment and local communities. The delegation included Clive Wicks of the World Conservation Union, Cathal Doyle of the Irish Centre for Human Rights and Carino Antequisa of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, the official development and relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

It also investigated charges of corruption involving local officials in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur province, where Father Nally worked in the 1990s.

The group met openly with government officials, mining operators and local people, and "did nothing clandestine," Father Gore maintained. "They told everyone there would be a report issued, and the government and mining industry would be free to respond." He said that when Father Nally was refused entry, he was coming to Manila to attend the Jan. 25 launch of the report, which is to be released simultaneously in London.

"Blacklisting" his confrere is "counterproductive," the Australian priest added, since Father Nally, now in London, can embarrass Arroyo and her government by citing their rejection as an example of lack of freedom.

"The opponents of mining will get great mileage out of this: showing the government is not open to criticism on mining and maybe, more importantly, on the issue of corruption," Father Gore added.


Interview - Mining sector sees stronger year ahead on brisk investments

XFN-Asia

18th January 2007

THE mining industry expects to make a strong comeback this year driven by brisk investments, keen interest from major global players, higher commodity prices and more stable investment policies in place, a top industry official said.

"We're off to a good start this year," said Benjamin Philip Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.

The industry had suffered a setback last year amid strong anti-mining sentiment and foreign investor uncertainty over the government's investment policies. But a turnaround looks imminent.

For this year alone, several mining firms have already committed to invest at least $500 million to jumpstart their exploration projects here, Romualdez told XFN-Asia.

These include London-listed miner Xstrata Plc., which exercised its option to acquire a 62.5 percent controlling stake in the Tampakan copper-gold mine project in southern Philippines from its current owner Indophil Resources.

Indophil managing director Tony Robbins told XFN-Asia that by March, Xstrata Plc. will assume management of the $2 billion project and solely fund the Australian $30-million, final pre-feasibility study of the mine to be completed late this year or early 2008.

The Tampakan deposit is one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in Southeast Asia.

Fresh investment will also come from the joint venture of Climax Mining and Oceana Gold Ltd. of New Zealand, which will spend $100 million for the construction of mine facilities for the Didipio copper-gold project in Nueva Vizcaya.

Japan's Sumitomo Corp. is putting in $210 million to expand its nickel refinery plant in Palawan, while Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp.'s unit Carmen Copper Corp. is raising $100-million in loans to fund the rehabilitation of its copper mines in Cebu in central Philippines.

Romualdez said given brisk foreign interest, investment in the country's mining sector could go up to as much as $7 billion over the next 10 years -- if the 24 priority projects of the government all push through.

"The mining industry is getting noticed anew by big consolidating transnational companies, and with more of these mergers expected, the Philippines will likely be a beneficiary of these developments."

Romualdez recently led local industry leaders in briefing officials of Brazil's Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), the world's third largest mining company which last year bought Inco of Canada for $17 billion.

"CVRD is interested in exploring copper-silver mining prospects."

Another industry official confirmed that Canada's Chemical Vapour Metal Refinery Co. (CVMR), with extensive investments in fully integrated nickel and cobalt assets worldwide - including a 2,000 metric ton nickel refinery in Jilin, China - is proposing a $3.3 billion nickel refinery plant in the country.

The official said CVMR, which has already established two companies here (CVMR Resources Phils and CVMR Exploration and Development Phils) is currently negotiating supply contracts with at least five Filipino nickel mining companies.

The five are Benguet Corp., Eramen Minerals, Comet Mining Exploration Corp., MacroAsia Corp. and Platinum Group Metals Corp.

While renewed interest in the Philippine mining industry is being helped along by favorable metal prices, growing demand from India and China as well as better government policies, Romualdez stressed that investors were primarily attracted by the country's rich mineral resources.

"Current metal prices have created a euphoria around the world but, at the end of the day, the main basis for investor interest is that the geology of the Philippines is superior to other mining prospects in the world.

"We have the same challenges as other countries involved in mining, but the bottom line is that investors will go where it makes sense to develop a mine," he said.

Studies by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources show that about nine million hectares of mining sites across the country have high potential for mineral deposits, which equates to about 30 percent of the country's land area of 30 million hectares.

The industry hopes to further spark the interest of foreign investors when it holds the Asian Pacific Mining Conference in Manila this March. The meeting had been postponed last October following confusing signals from the government, which, industry leaders feared, could turn foreign investors away permanently. Mining companies have submitted a long list of concerns to President Gloria Arroyo, complaining about the ban on new mining projects outside of the 24 priority projects, the tedious process of getting permits, persistent lobbying in Congress to repeal the mining law and curbing fiscal perks for miners.

"But most of the big hurdles have been removed," Romualdez said as he predicted a major recovery in the industry this year after last year's controversial mine tailings spill on Rapu-Rapu Island, south of Manila, by Australian firm Lafayette Mining Ltd. After more than a year of suspension and after being made to comply with rigid environmental standards set by the government, Lafayette will finally resume its base metals operations next month.

"The potential of the mining industry is bigger compared to the business process outsourcing sector, because of the huge investments required," Romualdez said. Indophil's Robbins said foreign investors "remain optimistic about the prospects of the Philippine mining industry" although a rapid pace of development cannot be expected "because these are long-gestating projects."

"But as long as the message is clear that the investment rules are stable, the country will become more attractive for miners," Robbins said. ($1= P48.87)


TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER ISSUED AGAINST BERONG NICKEL CORPORATION (BNC)

Prepared by: Dats Sangkula, Advocacy Officer, ELAC

16th January 2007

On January 11, 2007, the Regional Trial Court of Palawan Branch 95 issued a 72-hour Temporary Restraining Order against Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) enjoining the latter from “loading, conveying, transporting and shipping approximately 30,000 dry metric tons of nickel ore…”

The Petitioner, represented by the Provincial Legal Office, sought the Court’s intervention on the matter alleging that if defendant’s acts are not immediately enjoined by the Court, the same “will severely undermine the laws of the land and will cause grave and irreparable injury to the implementation of the environmental laws in Palawan and result in irreversible destruction of its environment and ecology”.

It can be recalled, the Berong Nickel Corporation was able to secure a Special Mining Permit issued by the Regional Director of Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR- Region IV-B last November of 2006 for its mining operation in Quezon, Palawan. However, the issuance of such permit is now the subject of the complaint of the plaintiff arguing that the same was not specifically provided for in the Mining Act of 1995.

They further argued that “there is nothing in the law that provides an interim permit prior to the approval of the MPSA”. And assuming a permit has been issued to the mining corporation, the plaintiff further claims that the same is not supported by Sangguniang Panlalawigan Resolution and therefore, null and void as required by the Department Order Regulation No. 99-40, as amended by DENR Administrative Order No. 99-57.

A day after, January 12, 2007, the Court after hearing the arguments of both parties, extended the 72-hour temporary injunction to January 31, 2007 and set the hearings on the main case on January 23, 24 and 25, for the defendant to present its evidence.

Therefore, the shipping out of approximately 30,000 metric tons, and the vessel on which said nickel ore are loaded, is hereby ordered by the Court to desist from leaving the territorial waters of the Municipality of Quezon and the Province of Palawan until the expiration of the TRO.


Toledo Mining says Berong's ore shipment delayed due to restraining order

Hemscott

12th January 2007

LONDON (AFX) - Toledo Mining Corporation PLC said laterite ore shipments from Philippines-based Berong Nickel Corp, in which Toledo has a 56.1 pct interest, has been delayed due to a 72-hour temporary restraining order placed on it by the governor of Palawan.

The company said the TRO prevents it from loading and shipping laterite ore from the coastal stockpile area, although it added mining operations at the mine site have not been impacted.

The company said it has received legal advice indicating there is 'no foundation' to the TRO, and that Berong Nickel has 'all the necessary approvals' in place.

The company will make a further announcement once the TRO has expired.


Medusa Mining says landslide at Philippines ops a minor setback, starts drilling

Hemscott

10th January 2006

LONDON (AFX) - Medusa Mining LTD said a landslide at its Co-O mine in the Philippines is only a 'minor setback' and 'should not materially impact' its production targets.

Two weeks' torrential monsoonal rain caused the 60,000-70,000 tonne slip, which temporarily blocked the mine's horizontal entrance and cut power lines, Medusa said, adding the setback should be rectified within two weeks.

'At this stage, stockpiles which ran down over the Christmas period should keep the mill running until late this week,' the company said. Meanwhile, the gold mining firm has commenced vertical drilling at the site, results expected in late Feb.


Mining: The civil-society perspective (2)

NATURE FOR LIFE, By Anabelle E. Plantilla - Manila Times

23rd December 2006

Local mining is in an economic downturn. Starting in the late seventies and continuing up into the nineties, the global mining industry began to suffer from plunging mineral prices. The economic effects were evident as well, from 1981 to 1990, 14 percent of the country's total exports came from mining. In 1991 this number dropped to 8.87, in 1992, it fell further to 7.37 percent.

The year 1993 saw 220 abandoned mines in the Philippines. Mining's contribution to the gross domestic products from 1981-92 averaged around 1.77 percent. The industry needed rescue; the solution was through a piece of legislation, now known as Republic Act 7942, the Mining Act of 1995. Signed into law by former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1995, the Act's principal author was then-Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had helped to create a bill that was looked favorably upon by the stagnant mining industry.

The mining industry gave inputs in the crafting of the bill, creating what was in their minds a law that would help to remove the toughest barriers to mining, particularly those which prevented the large transnational mining corporations from bringing their business to the country. However, in the minds of others, the act was seen as a clear and present danger to the national patrimony and the environment as well a violation of the 1987 Constitution. The root of this problem comes from the creation of an environment appealing enough for foreign mining investors.

Investors, by and large, are wary of the Philippines given its history of social and political upheaval. The Mining Act removed the very barrier that TNCs find most daunting, the nationalist protections present in the 1987 Constitution. The law states that certain industry companies (mining among them) could only be 40 percent foreign (with the other 60 percent Filipino) was seen as the single greatest impediment to foreign investment in the country.

It should be noted though that by definition as a "protectionist" policy, it was written not as an impediment to foreigners but as a way to ensure that Filipinos had priority in their own country. To get around this ownership issue, the Act introduced the concept of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) under which a completely (100 percent) foreign-owned company could explore, develop and mine in the country.

The FTAA offers a 10-year tax holiday for companies. It also exempts them from paying capital taxes and allows them to repatriate, that is, to remove from the country and use it in their own lands, 100 percent of all the capital and the profits they make from mining. Auxiliary mining rights are also granted by the Act to foreign investors. These include the rights to water and forest resources in the area of their application, as well as what are known as "easement" rights. This is a purely pro-business consideration, giving a corporation the right to "ease out" any impediment to mining operations. In almost all cases, these impediments are people. Locally, they could be anything from farmers to fishermen to "uncooperative" indigenous groups. Though not directly stated, it is assumed that force of arms-via military cooperation or "private security contractors" a.k.a. mercenaries-is allowed to achieve easement.

The Act is biased toward TNCs or large-scale mining. It was challenged in the Supreme Court, tying it up for years. Finally, in a famous non-decision, the high court ruled it unconstitutional, only to reverse its position a few months later. With the Mining Act of 1995 in place, the government saw that it would need a way to push mining revitalization nationwide. This resulted in the National Minerals Policy (NMP) Framework.

The NMP has four policy thrusts: protection and rehabilitation of the environment, promotion of social and community stability, preservation of options for future generations and the establishment of a competitive and stable mining industry. Through their encouragement of the mining industry by way of capitulation to their most outrageous demands, and the passing into law of regulations that solely benefit the TNCs, the government hopes to draw enough of them into the country that it can pull itself from its perennial state of near bankruptcy.


Mining: Civil society view (3)

NATURE FOR LIFE - By Anabelle E. Plantilla, Manila Times

30th December 2006

It can be said that if the Philippine Mining Act is not ignorant of reality, then perhaps it is ignorant of history. The greatest mining disaster in the country and one recognized globally as an atrocious act displaying the height of both callousness and ineptitude, was Marcopper's.

It was the result of years of neglect and cost cutting that resulted in the collapse of a tailings dam and the subsequent environmental devastation of a river system and its attendant environs. But even that is ignorant of history. Once Placer Dome Canada, Inc., the foreign company that owned 39.9 percent of Mar­copper-operating under the 60/40-ownership rule-fled the country to avoid litigation and fines. Marcopper's history was scrutinized closely.

It came to light that the local owner of Marcopper had been, until his own exile, former President Ferdinand Marcos. As both president and dictator, Marcos used his power to sanction Marcopper's cost-cutting operations.

Chief among the behaviors he allowed was the dumping of tailings directly into Calancan Bay, and allowing the use of force and government agents to stifle protests from fisherfolk who saw their primary fishing grounds devastated. This was done for no reason other than to maximize the company's profits, which he was a primary beneficiary of.

Marinduque's story is a relatively well-known one. There is no need t rehash it in full but it is a story that demands a mention in any discussion about mining. It is important because it is a source of national shame and national outrage. Or it was, at one time. The backlash of Marinduque helped solidify civil society against mining companies in the nineties, contributing to their near death. As was stated in the introduction, the timing of the disaster hamstrung the Mining Act.

In the face of images of the villages drowned in toxic mud, the Mining Act's supporters back­pedaled. Their pleas for open-minded­ness fell on the ears of a deaf public, a situation exacerbated by the literal escape of Placer Dome Canada from the country along with its assets.

The most telling moment in the country's mining history is the lack of justice for Mar­copper. Marcopper has paid minimal amounts to the affected people. Placer dome has so far escaped responsibility, despite being chased abroad by the local government unit of Marinduque and hit with a hundred-million-dollar lawsuit.

Furthermore, a decade after the disaster, the steps taken to rehabilitate the environment have been next to nil. The Boac River and Calancan Bay are both clogged by mining tailings, a point that the government readily sidesteps in all discussions about responsible mining and the duties of the DENR. There are no plans to "fix" the area. It may never be rehabilitated in this generation.

Ma­rinduque has been left to its own devices, a curiosity for foreign scientists to study.

But again, it has been ten years. Why is Marinduque always referenced? Why can't we simply move beyond it and accept that mining has moved forward, that technology will cure our ills?

Simply put, because Marin­duque and the Marcopper disaster are the microcosm for mining in the Philippines. In their situation one can not only find echoes of what is happening today, but predictions for the future of mining in the country. When we look at Marinduque, the realities of Philippine mining are all too apparent.


Mining: The civil-society view (4)

NATURE FOR LIFE - By Anabelle E. Plantilla, Manila Times

6th January 2007

The great lynchpin of the government argument is that it will only promote and permit sustainable mining while severely punishing any company who does not live up to the high environmental standards set by the Mining Act.

Unfortunately, this argument is flawed from the beginning, as there is no such thing as sustainable mining. There is smart mining, there is mining that causes limited environmental damage, but these types of mining are rarely of the large scale, vast hectarage variety which the government ceaselessly promotes as the hope of the future.

Mining is among the most destructive practices known to man. Mitigation is possible, replanting an area with forestry, treating the tailings ponds and so on, but an apt analogy given by a local antimining advocate was: "if you peel the skin off a fruit but do not eat it, could you still call it a fruit? A mining company will hollow out mountains and then cover them with dirt and they will still call it a mountain."

What is considered as safe mining in other countries is mining done with an eye to the environment in check and so is done in the far wilderness, in areas where there is little or no human presence. While this raises a host of other problems, no human communities are at risk.

Contrast that with the Philippines. The mining sites that have garnered the greatest attention-Rapu-rapu, Didipio and Canatuan-are ones where the community itself is rejecting the mine. Rapu-rapu's operations affect not only the stretch of the island by the waters upon which the municipalities of Sorsogon depend on for their fishing. Didipio, famous for filing the case against the Mining Act, is an agricultural community that views the mine as a risk to their already developed industry and Canatuan is a classic example of a community divided against itself by mining. In the Philippines, the environmental costs of mining are compounded by their human costs.

Even a mine relatively isolated can affect the community, if only because of the Philippines' geography. We do not have vast stretches of unbroken wilderness. The areas that matter have been populated. The rivers that mining companies will utilize for their water and the forests they will need to clear have already been claimed, years ahead by the communities living in the area. This ecosystem of ours is small and interconnected. What happens in the far hills reaches to the shore, just as in the Mar­copper disaster.

Similarly, the incidents at Rapu-rapu at the end of the year 2005 were an example of geography coming into play, alongside a display in the lack of common sense. The tailings ponds at the Lafayette site overflowed when torrential rains flooded them. As a country regularly struck typhoons per year, it seems more than a little senseless that a company had not taken such an obvious consideration as the weather into their planning.

Among civil society, it has long been suspected that there is a disconnect in the government's policies toward mining and the reality of mining. Both the Act and the National Minerals Plan (NMP) seem to be born of this disconnect, wherein the government considers mining without considering the Philippine geography. The economic considerations of the Mining Act seem to be the source of this.

Money, particularly in the amounts promised by the mining industry is an attraction enough as it is. An application for an FTAA requires an investment of P50 million. To a government whose desperation for funds is palpable, mining is a windfall and it is easy to replace the reality with its promises.

Everything about the Mining Act and the NMP screams "make more money." If it did not, then companies would find no reason to invest. If it actually promised to be stringent on mining, tough on violators and interested in development, mining companies would not be here.

The third world is attractive to miners because it is lax and welcoming, not because it has adopted laws as stringent as the first world countries whose populations and government would respond to mining violations with brutal, legal swiftness. It is absolutely in the interest of mining companies to work in the their world, and make sure that the countries they work with have low environmental and social standards of accountability, if they have any at all.

In the NMP, it is recommended that mining be a self-regulated industry, with the DENR, the MGB and the EMB existing only to facilitate the set up of mines with their miners doing their own monitoring. Their accountability to the public is set to nil. We know why this is, is because miners helped write the Mining Act. To spend a few million pesos to tap untold billions of mineral resources is good business any way one looks at it.


Mining: The civil-society view (5)

The price of Philippine mining

NATURE FOR LIFE - By Anabelle E.Plantilla, Manila Times

13th January 2007

Money is all what it all comes down to. The Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) that allows for 100 percent foreign ownership of a mining firm is the biggest draw to foreign mining companies, not for legal or logistical purposes-Mar­copper's proof enough that a firm can escape all legal sanction by simply existing in the Philippines-but for sheer money reasons. Under the rules of the FTAA, all profits the company makes on its mine are for the company. It will not pay taxes for years. All its profits, all its earnings may be brought out of the country.

For these rules, the Mining Act of 1995 has been called the equal of the mining laws of such mining-intensive countries as the US, Canada and Australia. Does anyone else see the sizable difference between the Philippines and those three countries? Global studies on mining have shown that countries (such as several nations in Africa) who give their economy over to mining remain poor unless they echo the progression of the first world mining countries who developed industries around their mineral extraction. Some of these countries, such as Sierra Leone and Congo are known for their "bloody minerals." Sierra Leone has some of the richest diamond mines in the world, but their products are treated as "conflict diamonds" in an industry perpetuated through brutal military force and child slavery.

The Philippines' own mining history has shown that the provinces that are the highest producers of minerals-such as Agusan and Camarines Norte-are among the nation's poorest. Mining has not alleviated poverty even under conditions where the government was guaranteed a share of the profits, when companies were 60 percent Filipino-owned, prior to the Mining Act of 1995.

With FTAAs allowing totally foreign companies to extract, not to mention to repatriate all the wealth and enjoy tax holidays, where then will the Philippines profit from its own mineral wealth? If tons of gold are being shipped out of the country and the companies are doing this with the blessing of the government, where will the promised riches come from?

To explain at length is to enter a discussion of income transfers, excise taxes and the global economy. To make that long story short, the government hopes to profit off a company's crumbs. Since the profits of a mining company under such laws will be so large, the relatively tiny amount that the government will make will still be substantial. This is among those ideas that look excellent on paper but fail to get translated into reality. Hence, the disconnect among government officials. They base their ideas on a flawed system and introduce more flawed ideas to prop it up.

A perceived stance of a tough but welcome approach to mining is flawed. The Mining Act is not tough on polluters. One of its Implementing Rules and Regulations involves charging companies P50 a ton of spilled tailings, no matter how much the costs of the environmental damage.

Put in simpler terms, this means that Marcopper would be charged a fine of some P80 million (about $1.63 million at today's 48-to-1 rate) for the estimated 1.6 million tons of tailings that spilled from its dam. After the spill, international agencies estimated that the cost of rehabilitating the Boac River would exceed $100 million. This fine is not only ridiculous, but painfully insulting to the people of Marinduque.

While the government may wish to exhibit toughness, it has shown constantly that it will bend over backwards for to please mining industry investors. Yet another provision says that a mining company need only receive permission from the two levels of the LGU-rather than all levels-to begin its mining operations. While the reality is that local government is indeed fractious and racked with factional power struggles, this type of decision-making ren­ders the participation of the people of communities moot. For it is the communities, those directly affected by mining that will protest it, while local and provincial authorities will find little to object to. Definitely not the money. This forced marginalization of citizens and communities opposed to mining ventures ensures that everyone who isn't coming with back hoes and millions in foreign currency receives little or no attention from government. Unless it is attention to bring them around into favoring the mining venture.

 

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