MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippine Community leaders call for halt to UK mining project

Published by MAC on 2006-05-16

Philippine Community leaders call for halt to UK mining project

16th May 2006

Community leaders call for halt to UK mining project

PIPLinks Press Release

Two community representatives from Mindoro Island in the Philippines have come to the United Kingdom to voice the opposition of communities to the activities of a UK-based company on their land. The company, Crew Development, is an international mining company with offices in Norway and Canada, but with its headquarters in the UK. It has plans to develop a nickel mine on the island of Mindoro, on a concession almost 100 sq km in area straddling the border between the provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro. Production will involve strip mining the soil for nickel and cobalt, with reserves estimated to last for around 30 years. The company is still considering whether to dump the large amount of waste (tailings) in the sea (a highly criticised practiced called submarine tailings disposal).

Contrary to the claims of Crew, the project has met with strong and sustained opposition throughout the island of Mindoro. The mine will be on the ancestral lands of the indigenous people of Mindoro, the Mangyans, who have expressed their antagonism to the project through resolutions. This alone under Philippine law should be enough to stop the project. Also there are concerns of de-forestation, increased flooding from siltation of the rivers, the impact on endangered species, such as the tamaraw (wild water buffalo) or Mindoro crocodile, and also from how the mine waste will be disposed of.

The Provincial Governor of Oriental Mindoro, Atty Arnan C. Panaligan, the two local congressmen and the province-wide Mayors League all oppose the mine. There are clear current statements and position papers from indigenous and civil society organisations rejecting the project. There have been numerous popular rallies, with 12,000 attending the most recent. The Provincial Board in Mindoro Oriental even has passed an ordinance imposing a moratorium on all mining activities for the next 25 years as, in their view, large-scale mining would be incompatible with their provincial sustainable development plan. However, with the support of the central Philippine government, which is currently promoting mining, often against the legitimate and legally supported wished of the people, Crew is pushing ahead with the project.

The two visitors are Ramil Baldo, a Mangyan indigenous leader from the affected area, and Father Edwin Gariguez, a priest who was, at one time, acting municipal secretary to the town of Victoria where the mine is located, and is active in ALAMIN, the local alliance against the project. They are intending to meet company representatives, investors, policy makers, journalists and NGOs, in order to highlight their opposition to the project, inform potential investors of the negative impacts of mining in the Philippines and mobilise support for their efforts to prevent mining expansion, and specifically the Mindoro Nickel project.

So far Crew, which is based in Weybridge, says it does not have anyone available to meet with the visitors.


QUOTE: “We, the people of Mindoro, demand respect for the sovereign will of our people and the recognition of our right to chart our own direction of development. Therefore, we reiterate our demand that Crew stop the proposed mining operation of the Mindoro Nickel Project.” Fr. Edwin Gariguez

QUOTE: “We the Mangyan Indigenous People in Mindoro are strongly opposing the entry of mining in our land because we will be very much affected, our land will be taken from us. We will be displaced and we have no other place to go. We owned the land from time immemorial, given to us by our ancestors, and we are determined to protect our land, because for us, land is life.”
Ramil Baldo

The visit is being organised by Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks), which is a UK-based organisation active in support of indigenous peoples in the defence and promotion of their rights, and is sponsored by IWGIA in Denmark and Christian Aid in the United Kingdom.

Contact: Andy Whitmore
Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks)
73 Thrayle House, Benedict Road, London, SW9 OXU

Summary of meeting of Mindoro community representatives at UK parliament

Andy Whitmore, PIPLinks

16th May 2006

Two Mindoreos, Fr Edwin Gariguez and Ramil Baldo, are currently visiting the United Kingdom, to voice the opposition of communities to the activities of Crew, a UK-based company, who are planning to mine on their land. Today they were invited by the British Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn to address a meeting at the Houses of Parliament in London. The meeting was attended by number of representatives of parliament, journalists NGOs and academics.

Sharon McClenaghan of Christian Aid chaired the meeting. She opened the meeting by stressing the destructive reputation of multinational mining, how the UK was increasingly central to financing the mining industry and the importance of legislation to ensure that UK companies took their responsibilities in other countries seriously. Geoff Nettleton of PIPLinks then set the historical and legal context of mining in the Philippines, stressing the determination of the government to push through mining projects regardless of the will of the people or the laws in place to defend their rights.

Fr Edwin then spoke at greater length about the Mindoro Nickel Project proposed by Crew, and the opposition to it, while also expanding upon the national situation. He stressed how little benefits had accrued to the people, and emphasised the greater costs associated with any benefits. He emphasised how the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines had come out strongly against mining in the Philippines, noting that the 1995 Mining Act destroys life. He summarised the reasons for opposition including the loss of forest, the loss of biodiversity, the loss of land to the Mangyan Indigenous Peoples, the risks to the rivers given the mining will be in a watershed area, the problems caused by mining waste disposal - especially if it is to be by submarine tailings disposal - and finally the insulting way the company has claimed it has local support when time and again this has not been proved to be true. He finished by looking at the ways the UK parliament could assist those who wish to protect their environment and way of life in Mindoro, citing possible fact-findings and resolutions (known as Early Day Motions in the UK parliament), stricter regulation of UK companies and complaint mechanisms for affected communities.

Ramil spoke next, and stressed how he was here to express the Mangyan opposition to the mining project, because if the mining goes ahead there will be nowhere else for his people to go. He noted that by preserving their land, they were preserving their culture. He noted how the Mangyan depend on the local natural resources, and that although the company has offered them money it would not be any use to them without their land. Ramil asked “Why should we lose our land for the government and the company’s benefit?” He stated that “The foreigners say our lands are barren, but we have been planting there all our lives & that’s not true. The mining companies are dividing our communities. Now they are there we are always divided. We want to maintain our communities. We want to live together.” He asked for the support of those present.

After these statements there was a lively debate, with various journalists and NGO representatives asking questions to those who spoke. One early question asked how it was possible for the company to proceed without Indigenous Free Prior Informed Consent? Ramil replied that this is also what they would like to know, and Fr. Edwin and Geoff pointed out how easy it was for a company, as in this case, to get a small number of people to sign on behalf of a community, without there being real community support. Fr. Edwin pointed out that it was well documented how Crew had gone about this process. Also Geoff noted that the position, where it was only one central government official who certified the consent, was a situation that was open to abuse. Issues were raised around the responsibilities of the Philippine government, the benefits - or lack of them - from company taxes, the right to legal redress that communities have in the Philippines – both nationally and internationally – and finally any contribution that UK-based investors or legislation could contribute to support the speakers. Other particiapants noted how this was not an isolated case, as a similar meeting took place in parliament with another UK-based company in Peru, called Monterrico Metals, where many of the same issues had arisen. It was stressed how important it was to deal with these complaints via effective legal mechanisms in the United Kingdom.


8th May 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KAFCODE Office, St. Augustine Bldg., Ibaba East
Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, PHILIPPINES
E-mail: alamin

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