MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mining firms causing indigenous people's worries

Published by MAC on 2008-09-11

Mining firms causing indigenous people's worries

Sun Star Baguio

21st August 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Large commercial mining operations of Lepanto, Philex and other large mines are still causing huge worries for Cordillera's indigenous peoples (IPs).

This is because large-scale mining, most of the times, are felt by IPs as "destructive" to the environment, their culture and societies.

This is a very common dissertation during discussion in the recent gathering of the newly formed Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (Bmaan) where 156 representatives from the 13 towns in Benguet province came together to unite against large-scale mining while marking the International Indigenous Peoples Day on August 9.

Benguet Ibaloi Santos Mero of the Baguio-based Cordillera Peoples Alliance for the Defense of Ancestral Domain (CPA) claimed their worry is because 66 percent of the Cordillera region's land area is covered by various mining applications.

These are over the existing large mining operations of the 70-year-old Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation in Mankayan town and 50-year-old Philex Mines in Itogon town, both in Benguet province.

In recent years, affected residents in host towns of Lepanto and Philex have been at odds over allegations of environmental destruction and exploitation of workers within these mines. These aside from local governments' criticisms of wealth taxes going to Makati City instead of the host towns for their development.

*5 priority mine projects*

Five of the 24 priority mining projects the present administration is pushing for reopening are located in the Cordillera.

These are Teresa Gold Project, Far Southeast Project and Victoria Project all by Lepanto in Mankayan, Project 3000 of Itogon Suyoc Mines, Padcal Copper Expansion Project by Philex Mines, and the Batong Buhay Project by the Philippine Mining Development Corporation.

Except for the Padcal Expansion Project and Far Southeast, the other projects are already in operation. Except for Batong Buhay, the rest are located in Benguet.

Aside from these, there are also transnational mining corporations either applying or operating in Benguet such as UK-based Anglo-American (with Philex Mines, Lepanto, Cordillera Exploration, and Northern Luzon Exploration Company); Australia-based Oxiana/Royalco whose Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) acquisition in Bakun is under question; Anvil Mining Company (Australian), which now owns the Itogon Suyoc Mines in Sangilo, Itogon; Ivanhoe Mines from Canada which has a 12-percent share of Lepanto; Bezant Resources (UK) with an ongoing exploration at Guinaoang and Bulalacao in Mankayan. Bezant also owns 60 percent of Crescent Mining also in Mankayan; Metals Exploration PLC or MTL Philippines (UK) with applications in Atok, Tublay and Bokod town, and Columbus/Magellan Metals, also with applications in Bokod town.

In other provinces, foreign mining firms wanting to operate include Terra Nova Exploration/Wolfland (Canadian), which has exploration activities in Tabuk, Kalinga.

The US-based Phelps Dodge has partnered locally with Makilala Mining, Olympus Mining company (Canada) in Baay-Licuan in Abra, Golden Valley Exploration (Australia) also in Abra, and Oceana Gold/Climax Arimco (Australia), which has partnered with Copper Fields for operations in Apayao province.

Mero claimed the Olympus Mining Company in Abra violated the FPIC of the Binongan communities in Baay-Licuan, Abra. "A stark example where even with the law on indigenous peoples' rights are trampled upon in the name of large-scale mining," he said.

*Dislike for mining*

Local villagers in Baay-Licuan town in Abra earlier registered their dislike for the Olympus-Pacific exploration, but the firm is still hell-bent, with hopes to mine gold and copper mineral deposits.

Forces of the 503rd Brigade were deployed as security forces of the mining companies. Diego Wadagan, spokesman of the Abra-based Agustin Begnalen Command of the New People's Army (NPA) claimed that though the military have belied such insisting they are there because of the presence of NPA.

The 41st Infantry Battalion was redeployed in Baay-Licuan and the surrounding towns of Malibcong and Lacub on July 2008 along with Reengineered Special Operations Team (RSOT) units and other forces of the 503rd Brigade, Wadagan further claimed.

Earlier, the 503rd Army Brigade denied their role in securing big mining interests in Abra, and insisted it is only the NPA which rejects these mining interests because they protect and operate the alleged "illegal small-scale mining" activities in the upland towns of Abra, specifically in Lacub, Tineg, Malibcong, Baay-Licuan, Daguioman, Boliney, and Tubo.

Wadagan, however, argued "long before the NPA established its ties with the people of Abra, small-scale mining was already a way of life of the Tingguians and the people of Abra, Tinggians and Ilocanos alike, will fight and defend their land, life and resources."

He cited the case against the logging operations of the Cellophil Resources Corporation in the 70s, which drove hundreds of the young and brightest children of Abra to the hills to fight Marcos. "Without doubt, the people will again rise and unite against big mining interests in the province," Wadagan said.

But both police and military authorities think otherwise. Cordillera police director Eugene Martin thinks the rebels' "terror" actions against mining companies will boomerang against them because villagers are benefitting from mining operations.

Northern Luzon Command spokesman Rosendo Armas also insists rebels, whose number had dwindled in the past years because of government's successes, are only sending signals they are still there though already a small group. (AA)


Instruments of Hope - **IPs have weapons in fight vs mine firms

By Ace Alegre, Sun Star Baguio - http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/bag/2008/08/22/news/ips.have.weapons.in.fight.vs.mine.firms.(conclusion).html

AS AN instrument of hope for indigenous peoples, Windel Bolinget, a true-blooded Igorot from Mt. Province and secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) said the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Undrip) are two instruments indigenous peoples (IPs) in the country can assert over projects which affect them.

"The FPIC is not merely a process but a basic inherent right of indigenous peoples which entails genuine participation and decision-making of IPs. That is, the right to grant or deny their consent to any project in their territories."

Even Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Cordillera Director Neoman dela Cruz vows they are very keen on respecting FPIC when mining firms apply to mine minerals in the Cordillera. Without it, he claimed, firms must be closed down.

While villagers chronicle bad experiences from large-scale mining in the region, communist rebels appear to be on the side.

They had admitted that their stepped-up attacks in the region are closely tied to foreign mining interests.

"Since January this year, the 503rd Army Brigade prioritized Abra in their counter-insurgency operations because of the more than 36 mining applications in the province awaiting approval," Wadagan said.

The 50th Infantry Battalion and the 53rd Reconnaissance Company accordingly concentrated combat operations in the Abra, Mt. Province, and Ilocos Sur tri-boundary particularly in "Dilong Valley", while the rest of the forces of the 503rd Brigade were deployed in Baay-Licuan.

Wadagan claimed the latest mining interest in Dilong Valley -- the Philippine Metals Corporation owned by an Australian mining firm with government paramilitia leader Mailed Molina as local negotiator.

On August 1, rebels ambushed troops from the Bravo Company of the 41st Infantry Battalion killing two of them and wounding two others "as a punitive action, and in defense of revolutionary gains paid in sweat, blood and lives of martyrs," Wadagan said. He insisted they actually killed six soldiers but the military only acknowledged two.

Wadagan admitted rebels used a command-detonated claymore mine on government troops, who "deserves it because they are terrorizing the people of Malibcong Poblacion, Duldulao, and Bayabas, and are forcing the people to allow the establishment of detachments."

Cordillera police intelligence and investigation chief Jesus Cambay acknowledged there is increased rebel activity in various areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

Three weeks ago, three Army troopers were also slain in a rebel ambuscade in Pinukpuk town, Kalinga. Three days before that, rebels bombed a Globe cellular site and its equipment also in Pinukpuk town, giving hints to government intelligence agencies of a concerted effort by communist rebels to attack private installations and other government targets around the country.

Abra police director Alexander Pumecha also believed there is increasing rebel activity after communist cadres failed in the Sallapadan, Abra detachment attack in July. He believes rebel attacks in the boundaries of Abra with Ilocos Sur, Mt. Province, and Kalinga might be indications of something authorities must be ready for.

"Their presence in these areas is consistent," Pumecha said.

More than two months ago, intelligence agents have also monitored unusual rebel sightings along the boundary of Benguet and Ifugao, prompting government security forces to fortify possible targets like the Lepanto Mining giant in Mankayan town.

The firm is a rebel target for so long because it has allegedly been polluting Cordillera and Ilocos rivers with its mining activities since the 1930's.


Thousands of Benguet villagers file petition to stop firm's project

Dexter A. See, Manila Bulletin

21st August 2008

BAKUN, Benguet -- Thousands of residents here have petitioned government authorities to stop the mining exploration being conducted by a company in Barangay Gambang, this town, saying that the pre-mining activities have triggered misunderstanding and animosities among the villagers.

The petitioners said that Barangay Gambang is predominantly an agricultural area and most of the inhabitants prefer farming as livelihood and do not welcome the mining exploration being conducted by Royalco Philippines Inc., a Nueva Vizcaya-based firm.

In a strongly worded petition, the villagers stated that if a referendum is held to determine if the company is allowed to do mining exploration in the barangay, the customary decision-making process practiced since time in memorial would be the system to be followed.

Expressing their opposition to the method used by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) when it secured the consent of only the tribal elders, the residents said that the customary practice is crucial in the bid to secure a majority vote of the landowners and their heirs.

The petitioners opposing the controversial mining exploration include the communities of Basig, Nametbet, Bolbolo, Liwang, Tacayan, Bagtangan, Batanes, Mogao, Goldstar, Pulag, Mabuhay, Tempogan, Dankigan, Cagam-is, and Ingaan, all in Barangay Gambang.

The protesting communities are located in the areas of the company's Phase III mining exploration concession.

Earlier, the office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in the Cordillera issued a permit to Royalco for the exploration of a 98-hectare land in Gambang despite the vehement opposition by the affected communities.

However, Cordillera MGB officials said they approved the exploration permit only after NCIP issued a pre-condition certification of a free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the people for the exploration project.

But the petitioners said that only a few elders in the community, who are supportive of mining, were invited to a meeting held in Bangao, Buguias town, where the endorsement of the council of elders for the mining exploration was reportedly approved.

Despite the assurance of Royalco executives that the company will include in its list of priorities the villagers' concerns, the petitioners viewed the "pledge" as just one of the reportedly false promises of the firm.

The provincial board will soon conduct an investigation on the allegation that the endorsement by the council of elders was hastily given and that the legitimate concerns of the affected communities were not addressed by the company.

The mining activities in their communities, the residents said, will lead to the destruction of the environment and their displacement as well as the depletion of the underground water supply and the loss of their sources of livelihood.


*Tribes seek wider role in mining consultations - Additional guidelines on free, prior consent sought*

By Dexter A. See, Manila Bulletin

14th August 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- An umbrella organization of indigenous peoples here has asked concerned national government agencies that tribal communities be given a more active involvement in the conduct of consultations on the exploitation of natural resources in ancestral domain.

The Benguet Federation of Ancestral Domain Indigenous Peoples Organizations (FADIPO) seeks the issuance of guidelines that would govern the grant of free and prior informed consent (FPIC) to companies that intend to undertake mining projects in tribal communities.

The guidelines would be in addition to the procedures being followed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). This would give the host communities a good chance to present their positions and assert their rights to their resources and ancestral domain.

Cordillera is one of the mineral-rich areas in the country, but much of the mineral resources has not been tapped because of the vigilance of indigenous peoples who do not want to suffer the sad fate which befell communities where mining and power-generating companies operate.

The sad experiences of communities that hosted mining and power-generation activities include the unfulfilled promises of compensation for damaged and claimed properties, depletion of water sources, loss of ancestral domain, and environmental degradation.

The federation of indigenous peoples wants the additional protocol that would expand their participation in the process for the grant of FPIC and in the approval of projects involving exploitation of natural resources.

One of the provisions the federation wants to be included in the guidelines of the NCIP is the active participation of indigenous peoples in the conduct of pre-field investigation conference, which is an initial step towards the grant of FPIC.

Likewise, the federation is seeking the conduct of a mandatory information and education campaign that would make the indigenous peoples fully aware of their rights as well as the related laws and policies regarding natural-resources development projects in their domain.

Under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the conduct of an FPIC consultation is a mandatory process in every project proposed in indigenous communities. This must be conducted by the NCIP to inform the indigenous peoples and to get their consent for a specific project.

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