MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Asia-Pacific women bear the brunt of mining

Published by MAC on 2008-08-04

A recently-concluded seminar found that mining's adverse impacts fall hardest on women, especially those among the world's poorest populations.

BY LYN V. RAMO, Northern Dispatchg

27 July -2 August 2008

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) - Participants to the Seminar on Women and Mining at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) at Camp John Hay here, concluded that mining's adverse impacts fall hardest on women among the world's poorest populations.

Khushi Kabir of the Bantey Srei, a women's organization in Bangladesh, said poor women bear the burden of threatened food security due to mining operations.

"It is the poor women who have to scamper for food, face military atrocities and secure the whole family from environmental threats due to mining," Khushi told the Baguio press, shortly after the seminar which gathered more than 30 women from seven countries.

In her native Bangladesh, mining for coal, oil and gas has left communities with large craters and damaged fertile agricultural lands, leaving Bengali farmers in extreme poverty and hunger.

In Thailand, where there is a potash mine, health authorities found cyanide in the blood of residents, and in the river system. Potash is a mineral used to manufacture glass and soap. The Thai mining code, enacted some ten years ago, left landowners only 50 meters from the surface, the resources beyond which include minerals, belong to the Thai government. This is similar to the Regalian Doctrine, adopted in Philippine laws, which states that all minerals belonged to the state.

Suntaree, a participant from Thailand said, "People could not get anything from their own lands because the government owns the minerals 50 meters underground."

Sponsored by an all-women development group Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the four-day seminar on mining included tours to Benguet mine sites where participants interacted with local folk in mining communities.

Foreign interests in mining

Mines in all the countries represented are foreign-owned and controlled, with their respective mining laws amended to accommodate foreign ownership.

In Indonesia, for instance, the 1965 mining law was amended to suit the interests of foreign investors. One of the participants said she "did not expect the magnitude of environmental devastation after the minerals have been extracted from the bosom of the earth," describing an abandoned mine site.

Similarly, in the Philippines, the Mining Act of 1995 provides for a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) that allows foreign-owned corporations into mining ventures and grants foreign investors certain rights normally denied aliens.

Newmont, an international mining company with applications for FTAA in the Cordillera, is also in Indonesia. It is being accused of polluting the Indonesian Senunu Bay with heavy metals and other toxic wastes that might be detrimental to the ocean's ecosystem.

Human rights and the Asian women

With mining in their midst, Asian women face security problems due to military presence in their communities. As it turned out during the seminar, extra-judicial killings occur in many mining communities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Bangladesh women saw the bitter realities of genocide with the mines at the Thai border displacing many communities before 1979.

"When people returned, there was massive landlessness, conflict and poverty," Kushi told the media Monday.

The gathering provided the women a forum to identify their common situations and came up with doable resolutions, according to Vernie Yocogan-Diano, chairperson of Innabuyog-Gabriela, among APLD conveners and host of the seminar.

APWLD's programs and activities are focused in promoting women's rights as human rights as an analytical and strategic framework of engaging with the legal system to empower women.

APWLD has engaged primarily in policy advocacy, education, training and other activities to address issues and concerns of poor and marginalized women in the region. It has lobbied at regional and international levels for the implementation of government commitments in international conventions and the integration of gender issues at regional and international fora.

Northern Dispatch/Posted by Bulatlat

Contact:

Christina Hill

Acting Extractive Industries Advocacy Coordinator

Oxfam Australia

132 Leicester St

Carlton Vic 3053

www.oxfam.org.au

Tel: +61 3 9289 9311 Fax: +61 3 9347 1495

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