MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines update

Published by MAC on 2007-10-10


Philippines update

10th October 2007

More organisations have joined the condemnation of the shooting last week of a councillor opposed to mining on Sibuyan Island. which was featured on this site last week.

The communist NPA launched an attack on ElDore's mine and Lafayette has had to seek a financial rescue package, as the second anniversary comes round of the toxic spills that caused them so many problems.

Workers padlocked the gates at the main office at Indophil and Xstrata's proposed Tampakan project, while Oxfam Australia (CAA) has published a report critcising OceanaGold's relationship with local communities.


ANTI-MINING COUNCILOR SHOT DEAD IN SIBUYAN ISLAND

Sibuyan Aton Manggad (SAM) Official Statement

4th October 2007

In the morning of October 3, 2007, hundreds of anti-mining of advocates picketed in Sitio Olango in Barangay España, San Fernando , Sibuyan Island , province of Romblon to oppose the mining activities in the area. A heated confrontation happened and Mario Kingo, 40, an employee of Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corp., (SNDPC), a mining firm exploring for nickel in the area, was seen with a gun. Councillor Armin R. Marin , 42, who leads the picket, tried to get the gun knowing that there is an ongoing gun ban; however, the good councillor was unjustly gunned down to death at about 10:30 am. Picketers witnessed what happened. The bullet went through his mouth and out of the back of his head. On the way to the hospital he died.

Meanwhile, San Fernando Mayor Nanette Tansingco, who confronted the picketers on her way to Brgy. Mabini, was seen with pro-mining officers and people for an exclusive meeting when the incident happened.

The suspect Mario Kingo is still being hunted after escaping using a motorcycle through the help of employed mining guards known as 'Cleofe Brothers' armed with guns. Another suspect who was with Kingo known as 'Leah', information officer of SNPDC, is now in the custody of the local police. She was seen by witnesses armed, as well. The .38 calibre used by Kingo was retrieved discovering that two bullets had been used. However, witnesses say that they heard three gunshots.

A motorcade from the hospital with the remains of Councillor Marin was witnessed by the people who mourned in the streets. The motorcade stopped in front of the municipal hall of San Fernando where an anti-mining advocate challenged the local leaders. Municipal employees expressed their disappointment in tears. Then it proceeded to Brgy. España, the home-village of Marin where hundreds of his constituents awaited in mourning.

Some pro-mining barangay and municipal officials are now in hiding due to fears that the people might get back at them.

Hon. Armin R. Marin has been a staunch anti-mining advocate even before he was elected councillor. He has been with Sibuyan Aton Manggad (SAM), the Sibuyanons Against Mining Movement, now Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment (Sibuyan ISLE), constantly opposing mining operations and applications in Sibuyan Island . He had been in environmental and indigenous people's advocacy for so many years.

"We will not give up, somebody has already shed his blood, we must not fail Armin, he is a martyr and hero," said anti-mining advocate leader Ret. Maj. Benhur Macato.

"'Councillor Armin is a very humble and silent person that is why he is a man of action. He proved himself right, he is a staunch defender of the island." said Dido Royo, one of the local leaders.

SAM/Sibuyan ISLE Coordinator Rodne Galicha said that "His three-month length of service is equal to an everlasting legacy to his constituents and to all Sibuyanons and Romblomanons. We strongly condemn this unjust killing of our colleague."

Fr. Nestor Gadon, parish priest of San Fernando , said that "The local church is saddened by the incident, such will give more encouragement to the faithful to continuously oppose the project. We pray for his soul. Armin is a faithful church-leader and public servant, now a martyr."

Mining in Sibuyan Island has been opposed by the majority. Last year 8,000 people marched to the mining site to express their disagreement.

Further, BHP Billiton, third largest mining giant in the world, inked an agreement with SNPDC.

SNPDC was given several special permits by then DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes to cut 69,709 trees to commence mining explorations and operations.

Armin R. Marin, married with 5 children, is the 23rd environmental activist to be killed under the Gloria Arroyo administration.

RODNE R. GALICHA (Coordinator)
Sibuyan Aton Manggad (SAM)
/ Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment (Sibuyan ISLE)
Sibuyan Island , Romblon , Philippines
http://clearblogs.com/sam


When governance fails: Murder in the island

Commentary by Jose Ma. Lorenzo, Inquirer -

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/regions/view_article.php?article_id=92666

5th October 2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Town Councilor Armin Marin clearly understood how dependent Sibuyanons were on the exceptional ecology that characterized their island home.

For him, people came first. He understood that without people’s support, conservation would be a losing battle. He was a realist.

A civil engineer by training, Armin spent most of his adult life in the service of his island. His first brush with public service was as kagawad of his own barangay, Espana.

Then, from 1997 to 2002, he worked with the Philippine chapter of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as a community organizer and farm supervisor, overseeing livelihood projects for poor communities in Espana and other barangays in San Fernando’s northern sector.

After his exposure to WWF, Armin continued his service to his island, working with Fundacion Santiago on a project with the Department of Agrarian Reform, as a project supervisor for institutional development and cooperative formation. He saw Sibuyan evolve, from the time its economy was almost entirely dependent on illegal logging, through the years of out-migration, through the introduction of a conservation ethic.

Marin understood that the solution was not simple. He also understood that unless Sibuyanons took it upon themselves to change things, his island home would vanish and everything he gave his life to, would be for nothing. Island stands out

Among the 7,000-odd islands of the Philippines, Sibuyan Island stands out. A 46,000-hectare island in the province of Romblon, one-third of Sibuyan is a protected area. Despite its proximity to Manila, it is one of the more difficult areas to access in the country.

Having been separated from the mainland as far back as the last Ice Age, Sibuyan boasts some of the highest endemicity among all the islands of the archipelago. There are plants and animals that you find here, on the slopes of Mount Guiting-Guiting, that are found nowhere else in the world. In 1997, it still had as much as 75 percent forest cover, as well as the most beautiful and clean rivers.

As a key site of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), the mountain and its park enjoyed protection under a presidential proclamation. Microcosm of the Philippines

Unfortunately, rare plants and animals do not often make a significant contribution to development in emerging economies.

Many traditional products of Sibuyan, e.g., copra, abaca, basketry and a natural varnish drawn from almaciga trees, were replaced by synthetic substitutes and lost their competitiveness, reducing the island to what was described as an economic backwater.

Out-migration began and the remittances of overseas workers became its main source of income.

A Dutch embassy officer once described Sibuyan as a microcosm of the Philippines. Everything you saw elsewhere in the country, both good and bad, was found here.

It was no surprise, therefore, to see mining land on its shores. In July 2006, the Sangguniang Barangay of Taclobo approved the island’s first endorsement of a mining application.

Marin, together with many other Sibuyanons, drew a line in the sands. Mining debate started.

Through the last 12 months, many things transpired. A consortium of mining companies, called Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corp. Ltd. (SNPDC), was formed. Among the applicants for mining activity in Sibuyan are Altai Mining, Sun Pacific, All Acacia, San Roque Mining, and Pelican Resources.

On the other side of the fence, the Sibuyanons against mining organized rally after rally on the island, feverishly lobbying at government offices and in Congress for support.

Local anti-mining groups revealed that mining activity on the island had grown exponentially to the point where, at present, there are 13 active mining sites surrounding the mountain and its national park.

The mining juggernaut churned on, fueling even greater local opposition. The mining debate rose in decibels. Reyes’ clearance

On Aug. 24, 2007, shortly before Secretary Angelo Reyes left the DENR, he approved five special cutting permits to clear forest land for mining activity on Sibuyan. Clearance was given to cut down an estimated 59,000 trees, making up more or less 4 million board feet of timber from Sibuyan’s lowland dipterocarp natural forests.

Some areas approved for cutting sit barely 100 meters away from the core zone of the protected area.

These permits included areas around the headwaters of the Cantingas, Punong and Olango rivers, water sources of barangays Taclobo and Espana. In a world facing climate change, where all remaining forest stands provide a major umbilical toward the future, an action as severe as this is simply dysfunctional.

Sense of betrayal

Everything many Sibuyanons had fought for were now going to officially disappear, through a clearance given by the very department whose mandate it is to sustainably manage this area.

The permit was reportedly issued to a consultant of Altai Mining. The proceeds from this sale would once again leave Sibuyan and bring greater wealth to the mainland.

The injustice was palpable, a sense of betrayal filled the air and the mining debate roared.

On Wednesday, an elected public servant was shot dead in broad daylight. A line must, once again, be drawn in the sand.

Where is the limit?

If sustainable development remains a sincere objective, there is a limit to everything. In the case of mining, what is that limit? It must be defined. And, if government does not have the will to make that definition, communities will.

Shall we allow it to get to that? Where are the standards? They must be made public.

And all who choose to venture into this business must be transparent, remain fully accountable and abide by these limits and standards. Companies that fail to comply, must be closed down. This is the rule of law.

Our country is a patchwork of land-use overlaps. Protected areas overlap ancestral domain titles that, in turn, overlap mining claims and watersheds. We have allocated more land than we actually have. This, by its very structure, is a patchwork of conflict.

Artifact of dictatorship

Seeing this, if a mining company does not demonstrate the sincerity and capability to deal equitably, amicably and productively with local communities, it should be closed down and all its permits withdrawn.

The promotion of a culture of violence is not in the strategic interest of this nation and goes against the public good.

As an artifact of the dictatorship and our recent political past, this is something we should get rid off. It is simply wrong and makes our country a pariah in the greater community of nations.

Lasting solutions are founded on fairness, true dialogue and the establishment of mutually beneficial relationships.

Consistent law enforcement and public compliance have been one of our greatest national weaknesses for decades now. Whether in logging, in fishing, in government contracts, tax collections or simple traffic rules -- the story is the same. This must stop.

We pay our taxes to ensure peace and order, a stable economy and a predictable future. This is our contract with government. It is the people’s right to demand good governance and full delivery.

When government calls the shots, government must make things work well. The best laws that are not enforced consistently are not good laws. They are a waste of public funds. They erode, rather than build, our nation. In a government of the people, by the people and for the people, that is the least we deserve. And, when human life is taken, justice must be served.

(Jose Ma. Lorenzo is the vice chairman of WWF Philippines)


Residents, green groups demand halt to mining on Sibuyan

By TJ Burgonio, Inquirer -

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/regions/view_article.php?article_id=92829

5th October 2007

MANILA, Philippines--Outraged by a colleague's killing, residents of Sibuyan and green groups demanded on Friday the pullout of mining firms and the cancellation of all permits to explore and mine resources on the pristine island of Sibuyan in Romblon province.

As condemnation of Councilor Armin Marin's killing grew louder, the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should intervene and rethink the government's mining policy.

Marin was shot and killed after a heated confrontation with a guard of a mining consortium during a picket in San Fernando town Wednesday morning. The killing came months after fitful local protests against mining.

"We share the appeal of the ATM for the mining company to withdraw all equipment and their permit especially now that the blood of our colleague had been shed,'' Sibuyan resident Rodne Galicha said in a briefing. Environmentalists have tagged the guard of the Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corp. (SNPDC) in the killing, but the firm said its personnel were attacked prior to the killing. The alleged gunman, Mario Kingo, surrendered a day after the killing.

In the briefing, which was interspersed by environmentalists' tributes to Marin, 42, the ATM demanded the "immediate, absolute and non-negotiable pullout'' of mining in operations from the 443-sq-km island.

Home to one of the the densest forests in the world, Sibuyan has been dubbed the "Galapagos island of Asia."

"With SNPDC and Pelican Resources' inability to rein in their private thugs, we are afraid that they will not hesitate to use force again in the future,'' ATM coordinator Jaybee Garganera said in the briefing.

"The only option to prevent further loss and eradicate the climate of fear in Sibuyan is to boot these unwanted elements out of the island.''

"We urge Jose Miguel Cabarrus, president of the SNPDC, Australian companies Pelican Resources and BHP Billiton, Canadian Altai Resources, and all mining operators in Sibuyan to immediately stop all mining activities there,'' Haribon executive director Anabelle Plantilla said.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, Marin was shot while leading a picket against a nickel exploration project of the SNPDC in Barangay España in San Fernando town Wednesday morning.

It said Marin had a heated confrontation with Kingo and three SNPDC personnel when they arrived aboard a jeep in the area. During the confrontation, the jeep drove off and dragged Marin, then a shot rang out.

Quoting witnesses, WWF said the jeep driver held Armin with his left hand, while he pointed a gun to the councilor's mouth with his right hand.

SNPDC disputed this and said that Kingo and his three passengers, including the firm's community relations officer, Lea Ladica, were mobbed by Marin, foreigner Jennie Chan and the picketers, including some who were armed. "Kingo, in order to avoid conflict, immediately backed up and proceeded to turn the vehicle around. Before he could make the full turn, however, Marin allegedly bodily grabbed Kingo, reportedly grappling for Kingo's service firearm. During the scuffle a shot rang out, and Marin was hit,'' the company said in a statement.

It said that details of the scuffle remained unclear.

SNPDC also claimed that Marin's companions chased Ladica after she jumped out of the jeep and sought refuge in a house, and "one of them reportedly bashed her head with a rock.''

It said the jeep was riddled with bullets and pushed down the river, and the company's gate was also shot at, but did not say who shot at them.

The company said its personnel were on their way to their campsite in Barangay Taclobo, and just passed by the residents picketing outside the Filipinas Top Rock Mines in Barangay Fernando.

"Now, they're twisting the facts,'' Galicha said, insisting the residents were unarmed during the picket.

SNPDC, which environmentalists said is affiliated with the Australian firms Pelican Resources Ltd and BHP Billiton, was granted by the provincial government small-scale mining permits in Barangays Taclobo and España in San Fernando town.

The firm said it had had neither brought any equipment, except for the jeep, nor started its operations on the island.

"We are deeply saddened with the demise of a true environmental steward, Mr. Armin Marin. Now every ounce of nickel, iron ore, cobalt, chromite, every mineral in Sibuyan island is tainted with the blood of Mr. Marin,'' said Philip Camara, a member of Haribon Foundation's board.

The ATM pressed the Philippine Minerals Development Corp. and the Mining and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to spare Sibuyan from "further exploitation'' and cancel all exploration permits pending with the MGB.

"One person killed because of the divisions and conflicts that the greed of mining companies bring into communities is enough reason to seriously reflect and ponder on the kind of future that the extractive industries bear for the Philippines,'' Garganera said.

"GMA must seriously rethink this government's mining strategy.''

So far, there are three approved small-scale mining operations, and two pending applications for large-scale mining, and one pending application for exploration permit in five areas across the island. Some 13 mining areas on the island had been plotted, according to the Sibuyanons Against Mining Movement.

"I dare President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, if you love the Philippines, don't allow mining in Sibuyan. It's one of a kind. Do you want this destroyed?'' Victoria Segovia of Miriam-PEACE said in the same briefing.

Another Sibuyan resident, Noli Zuela, sought more NGO representation in the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB), the body that issues small-scale mining permits.

"The President should change the composition of the PMRB. It's mostly composed of the local DENR, mining firm, and the NGO. What are our chances of getting our voice heard if we're up against DENR and mining firm?'' he said.

Residents in Sibuyan are planning to step up protest actions in the run-up to Marin's burial, whose date has yet to be announced, according to Galicha. WWF and ATM had also claimed that before he moved to the energy department, Secretary Angelo Reyes approved on July 27 SNPDC's application to cut down 69,707 trees in the island preparatory to its operations.


Defend Our Patrimony and Rights Against Mining TNCs! - Justice for Arman Marin and all environmental activists slain under the Arroyo administration

Defend Patrimony press release

6th October 2007

Defend Patrimony alliance and its member organizations condemn in the strongest terms the killing of Arman Marin, 42 years old and a staunch oppositor to the project of the Sibuyan Nickel Property Development Corp. (SNPDC) in Sibuyan, Romblon. Marin was killed last October 3, Wednesday, while leading hundreds of protestors in a picket in front of SNPDC's office in Sitio Olango in Barangay España, San Fernando, Sibuyan Island.

We extend our condolences to the Marin famiy and resolutely demand that justice be served. The perpetrators of this act must be made to face the light of justice and the mining project that Marin has died opposing must be barred from further operating in the province.

The increasing incidence of killings and human rights violations related to mining can not be divorced from the Arroyo administration's deliberate act of further opening up the Philippine mining sector to foreign interests. Under the Arroyo administration, 23 environmental activists have been killed, 2 have been abducted, and one survived a murder attempt, according to Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment. Kalikasan PNE has documented 17 killings, including that of Marin, as happening in relation to opposition to mining projects in their respective areas. Among these are the killings of human rights lawyer Gil Gujol and Rei Mon Guran, Spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students chapter in Bicol, in Sorsogon on December 12 and July 31 2006, respectively. Both victims were active in the campaign against the government's flagship mining project of Australian-owned Lafayette Mining in Rapu-Rapu island in Albay.

The killing of Marin and other anti-mining advocates can not be simply shrugged off as the lone handiwork of a single criminal. These killings occurred in the context of the victims' vocal and valiant opposition to large-scale mining projects in their respective communities—projects which have enjoyed the strong backing of high-ranking government and military officials and even the Palace itself.

Accountability for the killings, thus, does not stop with the assassins who pulled the trigger. It extends to the halls of power itself: the Arroyo administration, its bureaucrats who implement anti-people and anti-environment policies, and its coercive military and police apparatus.

The killings and human rights violations are sure to continue and even grow worse for as long as the Arroyo administration pursues the path of mining liberalization and upholds the interests of foreign minng TNCs over the Philippine people, environment, and patrimony. It may even reach the point where communities will be forced to take justice and defense of their lands into their own hands because the people's legal and peaceful opposition is usually met with force and violence by the government and the mining companies themselves.

To resist the plunder of Philippine national patrimony is just. For as long as the Arroyo administration holds the interests of foreign businesses and local elite over the welfare of the majority of the population and the protection of our national patrimony, mining projects throughout the nation are sure to be faced with the rising resistance of the people. Protest actions and petition signings, lobbying and advocacy initiatives at the local and international arenas, militant actions, legal battles and even armed confrontation are sure to hound mining TNCs who dare plunder the future of the Filipino people.

Reference: Ms. Trixie Concepcion, Spokesperson, Defend Patrimony alliance, 0915-850-7394

DEFEND PATRIMONY! is a broad alliance of organizations and individuals united in the defense of the people's rights and national patrimony against the wholesale plunder of our mineral and other natural resources.

# 26 Matulungin St. Central District, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines Email:dpatrimony@gmail.com


GMA's silence on controversial Australian mining projects in RP hit

7th October 2007

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

Reference: Clemente Bautista, Jr. Kalikasan-PNE National Coordinator (0922-844-9787)

More and more Philippine "priority" mining projects owned by Australian mining firms are getting into trouble for causing environmental damage, human rights violations and community unrest for the past few years, yet the Arroyo administration never even dares to lift a single finger at these errant foreign firms, green activist group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan) said today.

"The Arroyo administration continues to tolerate the presence of Australian mining companies involved in at least four projects that resulted in the death of a local anti-mining advocate in Romblon, displacement of indigenous peoples in Nueva Vizcaya, and fish and livelihood depletion in Albay ," said Clemente Bautista Jr., Kalikasan PNE's National Coordinator, in a statement. Bautista said that these Australian companies include the following:

* Lafayette Mining Limited - which owns 74% of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay which began operations in April 2005. Six months later, on October 11 and 31 2005, two mine tailings spills occurred which resulted in fish kills. Despite this, Lafayette was allowed by the DENR to continue with full commercial operations. Community residents in Albay continue to oppose the project.

* BHP Billiton – the world's largest mining firm is developing four nickel exploration sites in the Philippines, including a potential $1.8 billion project in the mineral-rich southern island of Mindanao. BHP Billiton recently entered into an agreement with the Sibuyan Nickel Property Development Corp. (SNPDC) in Romblon, which has yet to clear its acocuntability in the fatal shooting of anti-mining advocate Arman Marin last October 3.

* Royalco Resources Ltd. - the foreign partner of Oxiana Philippines in its mining project in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. Last July, seven indigenous people's tribes in Kasibu have banded together in a barricade to block the entry of Oxiana's exploration equipment into their communities.

"So far, the Arroyo administration has been treating these firms with kid gloves. It has yet to formally register to the Australian government the calls of environmental defenders, local government units, and grassroots organizations to terminate the mining projects by Lafayette, Oxiana, and BHP Billiton ," Bautista said. The Rapu-Rapu and Sibuyan projects are included in the Arroyo administration's list of "24 priority mining projects".

"Australian and New Zealand firms are estimated to account for an estimated one-fourth of the investments in the Philippine mining sector. But this does not mean that Australian firms should be allowed to literally and figuratively get away with murder and plunder ," Bautista said.

"Whose interests is the Arroyo administration really protecting? That of their fellow Filipinos or that of foreign mining firms? The Philippine government even refuses to make public to us Filipinos the contents of the new military agreement with Australia, which we fear is tied to the latters mining interests in our country" Bautista asked.

"Instead of first ensuring accountability from errant Australian mining firms already operating in the Philippines, Pres. Arroyo is inviting even more mining firms from China, Japan and India to come and join the mining rush ," Bautista said.

CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
National Coordinator
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com
Website: www.kalikasan.org


Philippine communist rebels raid Australian mining company, torch vehicles

The Associated Press

4th October 2007

MANILA, Philippines: Communist rebels raided an Australian mining company in the central Philippines, torching heavy equipment and vehicles and stripping security guards of cell phones and weapons, the military said Thursday. Wednesday's attack on the ElDore Mining Corp. in Labo township in Camarines Norte province southeast of Manila may have been intended to extort money from the company, said Maj. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesman for the military's Southern Luzon Command.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The company has been exploring for gold in the area for about a year, said its representative, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. He said they were unaware of any demand from the New People's Army rebels in the area, about 210 kilometers (131 miles) southeast of Manila. "Up to now we are still facing a blank wall on what their motives are," he said. The military said at least 40 guerrillas were involved in the raid.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been aggressively wooing foreign investments in the mining sector since the Supreme Court ruled last year that a law allowing foreign control of local mining operations is constitutional. The government has said that the top 23 mining and 37 exploration projects around the country could generate US$6 billion (€4.23 billion) in new investments over the next five years and create 1 million jobs. It said the country's mineral reserves, including gold and nickel, was estimated to be about US$800 billion (€564 billion), and the industry could raise about 100 billion pesos (US$2.2 billion, €1.55 billion) annually, enough to wipe out the country's fiscal deficit.

Opponents of the mining law say that large-scale mining destroys the environment, endangers the health of the people and displaces indigenous communities.

They say raw mineral exports from the Philippines have been undervalued and contribute only a small fraction to the national income, while mining companies make large profits.

The Communist Party of the Philippines has called for a "national war to defend the Philippine national patrimony and natural wealth against foreign mining companies."


Two weeks after closure, nickel mining firm wants to go large-scale

Alden Pantaleon, MindaNews

9th October 2007

BUTUAN CITY - Two weeks after its closure, a firm operating small-scale mining of nickel in Tubay, Agusan del Norte is now trying to secure a large-scale mining permit over the same area but an environmentalist group is blocking the plan.

Anthony Ryan Culima, acting resident manager of the SR Metals, Inc. (SRMI), told MindaNews today that the company is applying for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA).

Under the MPSA, the government, as owner of the minerals, shares in the production of the SRMI, “whether in kind or in value,” while the latter provides the necessary financing, technology, management and personnel for the mining project.

But Fr. Luis Jenor, parish priest of St. Anne in Tubay, said the mining firm is “an image of an irresponsible mining.” From the start, he said, the company had been operating illegally.

The priest said the mining area granted to SRMI had earlier been declared by the Tubay government as watershed, reforestation site and bird sanctuary. SRMI shut down its operations over a 60-hectare site on September 24, citing financial difficulties allegedly because of the drop in the price of nickel in the world market.

The 60-hectare minesite was covered by a small-scale permit issued by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board of Agusan del Norte on March 3, 2006. SRMI closed down on September 24 this year “based on management decision that continuing operation at this point has ceased to be viable,” Culima said.

The company had, in fact, stopped its marketing operations since September 3. Culima said they are now finalizing the Environmental Protection Enhancement Program, Social Development Management Plan and Final Mining Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan as requirements to secure permit over a thousand hectares of mining area in barangays La Fraternidad and Binuangan, both in Tubay town under the MPSA.

Corporations, associations, cooperatives or partnerships can apply for a maximum of 5,000 hectares.

“Within this month, we can comply with the requirements for our application with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” he said, adding they would reopen soon. Culima said the price of nickel may be down in the world market but if they produce nickel large-scale, this would offset the expenses. But Fr. Jenor, one of the convenors of the Tubaynon Against Mining, said they “strongly oppose its expansion and would lobby (that they be not granted) the MPSA.”

Fr. Jenor said SMRI does not have a track record in mining and “doesn’t even respect court orders.” “We will submit our opposition to Environment Secretary Lito Atienza within this week. Our legal arm is now working on it,” Jenor said. Enviornment Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio together with ranking officials from the regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) visited the mine site of the SRMI on October 5 but has yet to make public the evaluation team’s findings.


Rescue package to save Lafayette

Barry Fitzgerald, The Age

4th October 2007

CONTROL of Melbourne-based Filipino miner Lafayette will pass to a Malaysian-backed private equity fund under a $US151.75 million ($A171 million) rescue package.

Existing shareholders could end up owning as little as 9 per cent of Lafayette under the conditional rescue package proposed by South-East Asian Strategic Assets Fund (SEASAF), a private equity fund created by Malaysian investment bank, CIMB, and Standard Bank plc last year.

Although they will be left with little, Lafayette's shareholders can at least look forward to Lafayette's crippling debt ($158 million) and hedge liabilities ($154 million) being eliminated in the restructuring. A special-purpose vehicle owned by SEASAF and a mystery co-investor in the rescue package have until November 30 to complete a due diligence review before committing to the rescue, which includes plans for a one-for-one rights issue at 2¢ a share — if an underwriter can be found.

Lafayette managing director David Baker said that while the rescue would dilute existing shareholdings, shareholders would at least have an "interest in a completely ungeared, unhedged project with a sufficient working capital buffer to cover unexpected events such as experienced late last year with super-typhoon Reming".

Lafayette's $58 million Rapu Rapu base and previous metals mine in the Philippines was meant to have been the flagship project for the revival of the country's mining industry. Rapu Rapu was developed on the basis of an eight-year mine life, with annual production of 10,000 tonnes of copper, 14,000 tonnes of zinc, 50,000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver.

But authorities halted the move to full production in November 2005 while two spills from the tailings system were investigated. An independent environmental audit committee gave Rapu Rapu a clean bill of health in late December 2005, but the Government insisted on a three-step test program.

Lafayette remained in a trading halt yesterday. The shares last traded at 4.5¢ a share.


Two Years After Lafayette Mine Tailings Spill in Rapu Rapu

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

10th October 2007

Reference: Mr. Clemente Bautista, Jr. Kalikasan-PNE National Coordinator (0922-844-9787)

Arroyo's flagship mining project in the red with A$94 million loss, promised projects unfulfilled

One toilet, declining fish catch for residents, and financial woes. Two years after it caused its first mine tailings spill in the island of Rapu-Rapu in Albay on October 11 2005, the Arroyo administration's flagship mining project is now in the red and has left its promises of prosperity for Rapu-Rapu's residents unfulfilled, green watchdog group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) today summed up.

In a statement, Clemente Bautista, Jr., National Coordinator for Kalikasan PNE, said that there were indications that the government's Australian-owned mining showcase has failed to get out of its dire financial straits ever since the mine tailings spill in 2005.

Losses larger than project cost

"Contrary to what Lafayette Mining is desperately trying to project, it is now a sinking ship that is struggling to stay afloat financially. In its annual financial statement for the year ended 30 June 2007 which was released to the public last October 3, Lafayette Mining Limited recorded a staggering consolidated loss of Aus$94,330,385 ," Bautista said. "Last year, Lafayette also incurred losses of around Aus$77,626,448. These successive losses only indicate that Lafayette is deeply in the red," Bautista said. "This amount is even bigger than the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project's original projected cost of around US$43 million or Aus$58 million ," Bautista said.

"Last week, Lafayette Mining's share prices also dipped as much as 51 per cent at the Australian Stock Exchange after it announced a major restructuring that could leave present shareholders with as little as 9 per cent ownership," Bautista said.

"Ironically, the Filipino people are the ones paying for Lafayette's losses with our national patrimony and gold and other mineral reserves that Lafayette continues to ship out of the country ," Bautista said.

"It's suicidal, illogical and foolish for the Arroyo administration and the DENR to further allow such a financially-volatile project to continue. In the event of another environmental disaster caused by its mining operations, we doubt that Lafayette will have little-if any-resources left for rehabilitation, mitigation and compensation funds. It can conveniently cite bankruptcy and pull out from Rapu-Rapu leaving Filipinos with nothing but toxic waste and shattered livelihoods ," Bautista said.

Lafayette Mining Limited owns 74% of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay which began operations in April 2005. Six months later, on October 11 and 31 2005, two mine tailings spills occurred which resulted in fish kills. Despite this, Lafayette was allowed by the DENR to continue with full commercial operations.

"It is not only in the stock market where Lafayette has failed. After two years of monitoring the mining project in Rapu-Rapu, we from Philippine environmental and peoples organizations give Lafayette mining a grade of 'F' for 2007: for failing to protect the island paradise and for failing to bring about its rosy promises of prosperity to the people," Bautista said. Backlog of community projects Reports from Kalikasan PNE's local networks under Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance (SARA) also belied claims by Lafayette that is was building adequate community infrastructures, Bautista said.

"The schoolbuilding claimed as built by Lafayette is not true. Only one toilet was built," Bautista said, "The local Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance (SARA) reports that even the residents of Rapu-Rapu themselves attest that some of the social development and livelihood projects are not true. An example is goat raising. A streamer for the project, not actual goats, is displayed there, according to Virgilio Perdigon Jr. of SARA ," Bautista said.

In Barangay Pagcolbon, one of the main mining-affected areas, residents say that Lafayette has only brought drought and armed men and not community projects and prosperity to their village, Bautista said.

In a letter addressed to Lafayette Phils. Inc. General Manager for Operations Engr. Roger Corpuz and dated 12 September 2007, Rapu-Rapu Sangguniang Bayan Secretary Allan L. Asuncion noted that Manuel A. Belardo, Barangay Chair of Pagcolbon, expressed his "total dissatisfaction [of] the present scenario happening in [Pagcolbon] because of the inhumane system of [Lafayette]". Asuncion noted there was already "drought and scarcity or total absence of potable water supply to the residents of Barangay Pagcolbon" and "no proper coordination to the barangay council with regards to the projects of the company being implemented in Pagcolbon".

In the letter, Asuncion noted that in the 10th Regular Session of the Rapu-Rapu Sangguniang Bayan last September 12, 2007, Belardo also expressed apprehensions on the "militarization or presence of civilians with high powered fire arms and uniformed personnel equipped with high-powered firearms without a name tag or any insignia."

"Whether they are military or civilian personnel, the presence of heavily-armed men without any form of identification in the mining-affected communities is an alarming and illegal trend. This should be investigated as their presence violates the ongoing gun ban in respect to the pending barangay elections," Bautista said.

Bautista reiterated the call of environmental activists nationwide to stop Lafayette's operations in Rapu-Rapu. "All of these cases only indicate that Lafayette is doing more harm to the residents and local government of Rapu-Rapu. The project must be terminated before it becomes more of a total bane to the lives of the Rapu-Rapu folk," Bautista said.

"Unfortunately, the Arroyo administration and the DENR continues to treat Lafayette with kid gloves. If the government continues to accommodate such an errant investor such as Lafayette in its pursuit of the mining liberalization policy of Arroyo, we can expect more environmental and economic woes to befall mining-affected communities nationwide ," Bautista said.

"As a staunch defender of foreign mining interests, the Arroyo administration continues to sacrifice the interests of the environment and the people of Rapu-Rapu. Unless there is a fundamental change in policy and leadership, we can not expect the deplorable situation in Rapu-Rapu and in other mining areas to drastically change ," Bautista said. ###

CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
National Coordinator
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com
Website: www.kalikasan.org


Oxfam Australia Report: Melbourne based mine operator Oceana Gold accused of strong arm tactics with villagers to get go-ahead for new Philippines mine

Oxfam Australia press release

28th September 2007

A Melbourne based mine operator has been accused by Filipino villagers of harassment and the use of strong arm tactics to pressure them to accept its plans to develop a large gold and copper mine, according to a new report published today by Oxfam Australia.

Oxfam Australia raised these concerns with the company, most recently in July 2007, and recommended they investigate. But to date the mining company has failed to address community grievances. In the absence of an adequate company response, Oxfam is now making public the findings of its investigation.

‘Mining Ombudsman Case Report: Didipio Gold and Copper Mine,’ is the result of five years of investigative work by Oxfam Australia into the questionable behaviour of Australian stock exchange-listed company OceanaGold, which refuses to accept that many of the people of Didipio do not want a mine in their front yard.

According to Oxfam Australia’s Mining Ombudsman, at the heart of this case is the right of community members and indigenous peoples to be heard and to be able to influence decisions that affect their lives. ‘There is significant opposition to the project by many in the community as well as the elected local Council, which has not freely given its consent to the project despite OceanaGold allegedly resorting to coercive means to secure continuation of the project,’ said Shanta Martin.

Over the past five years, Oxfam Australia has conducted interviews and participated in community meetings involving hundreds of villagers from Didipio. Many complained of harassment and intimidation by agents of the Australian owned mine. Tactics include allegedly attempting to pressure people to sell their land at a price determined by OceanaGold and threatening legal proceedings against illiterate farmers. Villagers also assert that OceanaGold has deliberately incited an adversarial atmosphere that has fuelled community division over the proposed mine operation.

And in what would constitute a serious breach of Australian law, Oxfam’s Mining Ombudsman heard allegations that company representatives offered financial inducements to members of the democratically elected Didipio Barangay Council in the form of money, employment and enormously inflated offers for their land. One current councilor stated he refused these inducements and alleged that a company manager offered him so much money that, ‘…as long as I was alive I would not be able to consume this money.’

Oxfam’s report also shows that OceanaGold may have publicly misrepresented levels of community support for the proposed Didipio mine, including to shareholders and the Australian Stock Exchange. Misleading investors and potential investors is contrary to Australian corporate law and a matter likely to be of interest to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

The Mining Ombudsman Case Report recommends ways that OceanaGold can address community complaints in Didipio such as:

* supporting an official investigation into allegations of offering financial inducements

* ceasing land acquisition activities described by community members as constituting harassment and intimidation

* respecting the authority of the current democratically elected Didipio Barangay Council

* respecting indigenous peoples and communities' decision-making processes and their right to give or deny their free, prior and informed consent

* supporting independent social,environmental and gender assessments of the likely impacts of the mine operation

Oxfam Australia believes that Australian mining companies can contribute to local development and poverty eradication, but that the Didipio case highlights the need to establish a formal complaints mechanism for communities affected by Australian mining companies overseas.

An Ombudsman for the Australian mining industry could provide a competitive advantage, increase the mining industry’s transparency and force less ethical companies to improve their practices. It would enable companies to be more accountable to communities affected by mining, benefiting both the communities and the industry.

Overseas the idea of a Mining Ombudsman is catching on. A recent Corporate Social Responsibility review undertaken by the Canadian government, civil society and industry concluded that an ombudsman model, ‘was the best way to advance CSR compliance in the extractive [mining] sector’.

'An independent complaints mechanism would allow the concerns of affected communities to be addressed while also helping to prevent Australian corporate complicity in breaches of human rights and environmental standards,’ added Ms Martin.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Shanta Martin call Ian Woolverton on 61 409 181 454


Mining their resentment

Andrew Hewett, Herald Sun

October 2007

THE dark side of Australia's mining sector is booming with some companies raking in multi-billion dollar profits.

Everyone from shareholders to the national Treasury stand to reap a reward in the mining bonanza.

But have some Australian miners been driven by an unquenchable thirst to mine precious minerals at any price?

Take the example of Melbourne-based mine operator OceanaGold.

On its website, the Australian listed company boasts its commitment to building relationships within the communities "impacted by its operations". However, according to an Oxfam report, villagers in Didipio, a remote community in the Philippines northeast of Manila, have accused the mine operator of harassment and intimidation.

They say the company attempted to pressure the community to accept its plans to develop a large gold and copper mine in the area.

Over the past five years, Oxfam Australia conducted interviews and participated in community meetings involving hundreds of the villagers.

Many alleged that agents of OceanaGold threatened farmers with legal action, attempting to bully people to sell their land at a price determined by the mine company.

Shockingly, a village woman named Juanita Cut-ing reported that armed soldiers accompanied mine representatives on visits to her home when trying to get her to sell.

Oxfam Australia raised these concerns repeatedly with the company, most recently in July. But the company has failed to address the community's grievances. In the absence of an adequate company response, Oxfam made its findings public. OceanaGold denied the company was at fault. In all the years Oxfam has been in contact with the mine operator, we have only received two letters from it, flatly denying community concerns and giving no indication that it plans to address their grievances.

Oxfam is not anti-mining. We believe Australian mining companies can contribute to local development and poverty eradication.

But at the heart of this case is the right of indigenous peoples and local community members to be heard and to be able to influence decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods.

And in Didipio it is worth noting that local and provincial councils have passed resolutions opposing the mine project.#

Oxfam believes the establishment of a formal, broad-based complaints mechanism to oversee Australian mining industry activities overseas would help prevent Australian complicity in riding roughshod over local communities and ensure that local people are listened to.

By obtaining the community's consent to go ahead with operations, mining companies can improve their relationship with local communities and lessen the risk of incurring costs.

Most Australians believe that everyone has a right to a fair go and the people of Didipio deserve no less. OceanaGold should respect the decision-making processes of community members and the current elected councils and should address the many grievances raised by the community before proceeding any further.

Andrew Hewett is executive director of Oxfam Australia


"Expose SMI-Xstrata’s lies of responsible mining"

Davao Today

6th October 2007

Panalipdan! Mindanao, a network of church and sectoral organizations and NGOs, issued a statement in support of the outburst of community resistance taking place in Tampakan, South Cotabato this week. The current community actions center on the refusal of the company to regularize more than two hundred of its workers despite its obligation under Philippine Labor Code.

“Big mining companies storm into local communities promising social and economic development to the residents. Yet, the experience of SMI workers from Tampakan has shown what kind of shallow ‘development’ these large mining companies bring our communities: low-paid work without job security, not to mention the massive environmental destruction,” said Sr. Diane Cabasagan, RGS, spokesperson of Panalipdan! The group chided SMI for steadily doling out money for socio-economic projects to appease local leaders, buying their passive consent to the mining project, promising thousands of jobs and other benefits.

Tampakan is host to the multi-national mining giant Sagittarius Mines, Inc. – Xstrata. SMI-Xstrata is spearheading the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project that is one of the Macapagal-Arroyo government’s priority mining projects and said to be the largest undeveloped copper reserve in Southeast Asia. The project formerly involved the controversial Western Mining Corporation that was the center of the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the Mining Act of 1995 as unconstitutional in January 2004. The Court’s decision was later totally reversed in December 2004. Workers’ barricades in Tampakan this week shut down SMI’s main office in Tampakan, its core farm, and Competence Center. Gasoline trucks have not been able to pass through to fuel ongoing drilling operations. SMI-Xstrata refuses to engage in dialogue with the workers and the local government while the barricades are ongoing. Meanwhile, the company boasts of a community relations program founded on community dialogue that is the core of its program for sustainable and responsible mining.

“The disrespect SMI-Xstrata has shown the local government of Tampakan, the workers, and land owners by not honoring previous agreements and not engaging in constructive dialogue is an omen of what should be expected if the mine is ever fully operational,” Cabasagan said. “The Mining Act of 1995 has been a wholesale sell out of our environment, farmlands, labor power, and local government authority.”

The group lauded the recent statement of the SMI Workers Association which called on all affected sectors and read: “[The management] of SMI-Xstrata just wants to grab up minerals and get rich while Tampakan will eventually become a ghost city, like a cemetery without life.”

Panalipdan! said that the recent rash of protest actions and incidents around large-scale mining projects throughout the country indicates why the Mining Act of 1995 should be repealed. The group was referring to the blockades set up in Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya in July preventing exploration by Oxiana Philippines, and the killing of Armin R. Marin in Sibuyan Island on October 3 at a protest against Sibuyan Nickel Property Development Corp. “Only concerted action by various sectors can effectively push pro-people and environmentally responsible mining based on a program of national industrialization and mineral use for our people’s benefit.”

Panalipdan also called on communities in Colombio, Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur to join in solidarity protest actions with the people in Tampakan. SMI’s Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement covers areas of these three municipalities. SMI-Xstrata is now in extended exploration despite its permit expiring on August 17, 2007.

Panalipdan! Mindanao was formed at a Mindanao-wide gathering of environmental advocates, church people, and indigenous people in January 2006. Panalipdan! promotes a people’s mining policy that lobbies for a mining industry that benefits the Filipino nation and the industrialization of the country. ###


Workers shut down big foreign-backed mining firm

MindaNews

3rd October 2007

TAMPAKAN, South Cotabato-- Workers in a huge mining firm here practically stopped the company's operations when they padlocked the main office and put up road blocks to express disgust to management's policy of not granting regular status to workers.

Some 100 workers of the foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. grouped in four clusters in their move to paralyze the firm's operations since Monday. Sagittarius is largely owned by Xstrata Copper, a global player in the mining industry. Indophil Resources NL, an Australian company, is also one of Sagittarius' s investors. Alsons Corp. of the local Alcantara group has a stake in Indophil.

Nilo Reysoma, board member of the SMI Workers Association, said they have padlocked the main office, set up a barricade at Barangay Tablu which leads to the company's base camp of the firm, and staged protest actions in the villages of Lambayong and Liberty, site of Sagittarius's ore farm. He added that while the base camp of Sagittarius in hinterland Barangay Tablu is still functioning, they will block company trucks loaded with diesel oil so they could not go there and thus stop operations.

At the principal office in the poblacion area, operations have been totally shut down with only security guards around the facility.

Reysoma said around 200 people working in the company for the past two to three years have not been granted regular status. Sagittarius, however, recently announced through local TV it is opening regular posts for 37 workers, mostly drivers.

But Reysoma condemned the announcement, pointing out that Sagittarius should look at its current pool of workers first to fill the posts instead of opening them up to the general public. Officials from the regional office of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board rushed to the town Wednesday morning to help settle the dispute.

"We got orders from the national office to settle the problem before it becomes worst. This situation is not healthy both for the management and the workers," said Wilfredo Santos, mediation officer of the NCMB.

The local government unit of Tampakan has been supportive of the workers. "The local government unit stands behind the struggle of the workers for regular status. Their demand is valid," said Acting Vice Mayor Relly Leysa.

Sagittarius, in a statement emailed to the media this afternoon, said it has reviewed its hiring practices as part of its commitment to support local employment opportunities at the mines development site.

It said it was a response to the dialogues held with local officials, community members and workers that have highlighted the need to revise and improve the current "rotational worker system."

"We are saddened by the action taken last Monday by a small group of agency and rotational workers because SMI is committed to sustainable employment practices that are aligned to our project's operational requirements and international best practice, and in line with what the community desires and expects," explained SMI project manager Gerardo Laviste.

He said management is still willing to meet with the protesting workers. Laviste said that they decided on the creation of 37 regular positions after the dialogues with local officials, community members and the rotational workers. He said, too, they will have additional 57 positions to fill up for the company's drilling program.

Over a week ago, Sagittarius general manager Mark Williams said that the new positions "will be opened to competent and qualified local residents," and that recruitment will be "based on merit."

The company said it " must attract, retain and develop high caliber people. Efforts will be made to fill positions, in the first instance, through international promotion and transfers. When this cannot be achieved, a rigorous external recruitment process will be initiated."

SMI said it will also embark on a comprehensive review of its rotational worker scheme to ensure hiring practices are equitable, open and transparent, the statement said. "In response to the feedback we have received from local communities, we are proposing a number of amendments to the scheme, including improved identification and description of project labor requirements and a more comprehensive nomination process involving more structured community consultation, " said Laviste.

But Reynosa said that SMI should not have announced a new hiring and instead prioritized absorbing existing workers qualified for the job. "We will continue with our protest until our complaints will be acted appropriately, " he said.

Leysa, on the other hand, said in his letter to Williams that "the company's decision to post 37 new regular positions appears to be bluntly astute, shrewd move and eventually deviates from the purpose of addressing genuinely the overwhelming moral and legal demand of your workers." (MindaNews)

 

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