MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines Stops Crew's Mindoro Project

Published by MAC on 2001-11-01

Philippines Stops Crew's STD Project

1st November 2001

By Christine A. Gaylican, Philippine Inquirer News Service

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has junked a 30-billion-peso nickel mining project in Mindoro, citing environmental concerns.

Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez said Ms Macapagal concurred with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' (DENR) assessment that the mining operations of Canadian firm Crew Development Corp. would inflict "irreparable damage to the environment."

"The President sustained our observation that the Aglubang mining project of Crew transcends the threshold of sustainable development because of technical and social evidence," Alvarez told reporters.

He said while the project entailed over 30 billion pesos in investments, "it may have inflicted irreparable damage to the environment." Alvarez said he'd discussed the DENR's decision to revoke Crew Development's mining contract in July with Canadian Ambassador Robert Collette.

Collete raised the issue with Ms Macapagal, but the President upheld the DENR's decision.

In July, Alvarez revoked Crew Development's contract to mine the Aglubang nickel prospect in Mindoro because its site was in a critical watershed.

The environment secretary said the Estrada administration, which gave the Canadian firm its contract, apparently overlooked the environmental implications of the project. Crew Development has threatened to sue the government but has, for the meantime, sought Ms Macapagal's intervention to reinstate its contract.

This option has apparently been closed.

Ms Macapagal insisted that in her first policy statement on the mining industry, investors would get government support only if the communities around the proposed mine sites were supportive. She said she was giving information technology more priority than mining, a sector that had seen little activity over the past decade due to growing local hostility toward major exploration and development projects.

"Mining is welcome when the local community welcomes it," Ms Macapagal said, adding: "That's why I'm pushing for information technology."

Sentiments against the mining industry turned sour in 1997 when a copper mine tailings dam collapsed in Marinduque, contaminating a major river system and bringing ruin to farmers and fishermen on the island.

Placer Dome of Canada, the major equity holder of this mine, was later forced to sell its stake in the project.

Criminal cases have been filed against executives of Marcopper Mining Corp. because of the incident. The case is still pending with the Supreme Court, and a resolution is not expected soon, according to industry analysts.

Congress passed a law in 1995 giving generous incentives to local and foreign investors in the mining industry, including 100-percent foreign ownership in large-scale prospects.

However, no new large-scale mining projects have been approved since the law was passed because a tribal group filed a case challenging the constitutionality of the law before the Supreme Court.

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