MAC: Mines and Communities

More military troops won't solve mining woes in Tampakan

Published by MAC on 2008-01-11

More military troops won't solve mining woes in Tampakan

11th January 2008

by Kalikasan PNE Press Release

Philippine green groups today cautioned the Environment Secretary against supporting larger deployments of military and police personnel to protect the operations of foreign mining firms such as Xstrata in South Cotabato, warning that this would give rise to even more conflict and human rights violations against mining-affected communities.

In a statement, Clemente Bautista Jr., National Coordinator of Kalikasan Peoples' Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), challenged current Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to reverse his earlier position favoring more military and police presence in communities to be affected by Australian mining giant Xstrata and its mining operations in Tampakan, South Cotabato in Mindanao.

"We're disappointed that the Environment Secretary favors militarization over peace talks and community consent as a solution to the mining woes in Tampakan. Mining-affected communities, are increasingly vulnerable to human and civil rights violations by state and private armed security forces.. Mr. Atienza should not make a practice of encouraging troops to protect mining firms that should not be there in the first place, especially those which lack the consent of the communities to be affected by their operations," the environmental activist said.

Indigenous peoples in Tampakan are up in protest over Xstrata's mining operations because it will encroach on their ancestral alnds and devastate critical watershed areas, Bautista said.

"Tampakan in South Cotabato could be the next Surigao del Sur," Bautista warned. Since November 1, massive and mining-related military operations in the hinterland villages of Surigao Del Sur have displaced more than 1,500 Manobo lumads and 12 lumad communities. Educational activities in the area have grinded to a halt.

The military operations were reportedly intended to protect mining explorations and Chinese-owned mining corporations around the AndapValley Complex, the second largest coal deposit in the country, Bautista said. Lumad and peasant communities from the the municipalities of Tago, Cagwait, Marihatag, San Agustin, Lianga and San Miguel, as well as Church groups, non-government organizations, and civic sectors are actively opposing the mining operations.

Bautista said that increasing presence of military detachments and police checkpoints was also observed in other mining-affected areas nationwide, including Lafayette in Rapu-Rapu island, Albay, Filminera in Masbate island, Marcopper in Marinduque island, TVI in Zamboanga del Norte, NMRDC in Mt. Diwalwal, Rio Tuba in Palawan, Crew Minerals in Mindoro Oriental, Climax Arimco/Oxiana in Nueva Vizcaya, Abra, Batangas, and Zambales.

"Mr. Atienza should also be aware that the rise of human rights violations in mining-affected areas inundated by military troops was previously affirmed by the Philippine Catholic Church hierarchy and independent observers from the United Nations and the Parliament of the United Kingdom," Bautista noted.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the official organization of the Filipino Catholic episcopacy, in its second official statement on Mining Concerns issused 29 January 2006, stated that an "increasing number of mining affected communities, Christians and non-Christians alike, are subjected to human rights violations and economic deprivations", he said.

In July 2006, British parliamentarian Clare Short of House of Commons and former UK Secretary of State for Overseas Development, visited the Philippines and led a fact-finding team (FFT) to assess reports of corruption, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation associated with planned and current mining operations and noted that "mining in these conflict areas has led to significant increases in militarization and an associated escalation of human rights abuses."

In a country visit to the Philippines in 2003, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen observed that "militarization of indigenous areas is a grave human rights problem", Bautista added.

Of the 886 victims of extrajudicial killings documented by human rights organization KARAPATAN from January 2001 to July 2007, Kalikasan PNE identified 17 victims as being active or leading the campaign against mining projects in their respective communities. The victims include human rights lawyer Gil Gojol and Rei Mon Guran, Spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students chapter in Bicol, who were killed by unidentified gunmen 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.

Xstrata, one of the world's largest mining companies, assumed control over the Tampakan mine project in March 2007 through its local affiliate Sagittarius Mines. The Tampakan mine is currently Xstrata's largest portfolio project to date. ###

Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) is a Philippine-based network of non-government organizations (NGOs), grassroots organizations, and environmental advocates.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Clemente Bautista Jr., National Coordinator, Kalikasan PNE
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099

Xstrata's Planned Philippine Mine to Get More Troops (Update2)

By Luzi Ann Javier, Bloomberg

10th January 2007

Philippine police and troops will step up security at Xstrata Plc's planned $2 billion copper and gold mine after a New Year's day attack by rebels highlighted the risks for overseas companies in the Southeast Asian country.

"They called our attention to the need for a greater presence of police and military units,'' Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza said in a phone interview in Manila today. ``We accept it as something that needs to be done.''

Xstrata's Tampakan project in South Cotabato province was attacked by 50 members of the New People's Army, a rebel group waging a war against the government for almost four decades to convert the Philippines into a communist state.

The planned mine, with an estimated 2.2 billion metric tons of mineral resources containing 12.8 million tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold, is the "largest development project in Xstrata's portfolio,'' Xstrata Copper Executive General Manager for Project Development Peter Forrestal said in December.

"It's not easy to walk away from a project as big as that,'' said Astro del Castillo, managing director of First Grade Holdings Inc., a Manila-based financial management and advisory company. "The potential gains far outweigh the security risk.''

The pre-dawn attack may hamper efforts by the government to woo overseas investment and exploit mineral wealth which it has estimated to be worth as much as $1 trillion. Sagittarius Mines Inc., the venture of Xstrata and Australia's Indophil Resources NL that runs Tampakan, said it will proceed with the project.

`Protect Investors'

The rebels torched an office building and six smaller structures, including the living quarters of employees and contractors engaged in drilling, causing $280,000 of damage, Sagittarius Mines said Jan. 3.

"The government should develop a long-term strategy to protect investors in far-flung provinces where rebels operate,'' del Castillo said. "The rebels may not scare Xstrata, but what about other companies looking for investment opportunities?''

Atienza discussed mining companies' security concerns at a meeting with executives from Sagittarius Mines and the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Tony Hely. Sagittarius Mines spokesman Roy Antonio and the Australian embassy confirmed the meeting had taken place.

Xstrata, the world's fourth-largest copper producer, fell 2.9 percent to 3,267 pence at the close on London Stock Exchange yesterday. Indophil, which owns 34.1 percent of the Tampakan project, closed unchanged at 84.5 Australian cents on the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney.

Atienza ordered staff at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to work with mining companies to help prevent further attacks by rebels. Military, police, government officials and leaders of the Chamber of Mines will meet this afternoon to discuss boosting security at mines, he said.

"We are looking into the genuine causes of the attack and the identity of the perpetrators so the police can arrest them,'' Atienza said. "We want to know if this is purely ideological or plain and simple banditry.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Luzi Ann Javier in Manila

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