Corporate Mining: An Unjust Imposition on IP Collective Rights and Systems

Last of two parts

Corporate mining in indigenous lands affects all strands of the peoples collective life as distinct from others, and directly threatens not just their survival economically, but also their continuing collective existence in their territory as the source of their culture and identity.

By Joan Carling
Northern Dispatch

Collective socio-political systems

Indigenous peoples (IP) are governed by their own socio-cultural and political systems, which include customary laws as tribal/village governance systems to ensure the protection of the common good, promote cooperation and mutual assistance and community peace, harmony and security. It also includes collective mechanisms on decision-making on matters concerning them, as well as on the participation of all members of the tribe/ village in various activities and cultural practices.

With the imposition of corporate mining through legal mechanisms and various forms of deception and divide and rule tactics, mining companies violate the socio-cultural and political systems of indigenous peoples as they have shown complete disrespect to these collective processes and ways of life of indigenous peoples.

Mining companies usually resort to misinformation drives, bribery of local leaders, deception through promises of employment, funds, projects, scholarships and health facilities among others, in order to get the support of affected communities. At the same time, they consciously hide their real motive for profit, and the adverse and long term impacts of their mining operations. For indigenous communities which have long been neglected by the government in terms of basic services and sustainable livelihood assistance, these promises then become very attractive which pave the way for community divisions. It is very deplorable that mining companies take advantage of the dire condition of neglect and marginalization of indigenous communities to pursue their vested interest, leading to break-up in community cohesion and unity.

Likewise, given the impact of corporate mining on physical and economic displacements, intact communities and villages then become dispersed, thereby weakening the continuing practice of their socio-cultural and political systems. In their efforts to cope with worsening poverty and marginalization, individualism and competition become a second nature, contrary to the tradition of mutual assistance and cooperation for their collective survival.

Likewise, indigenous systems of decision making are either subverted or co-opted by mining companies for them to claim they have the consent of affected communities. This has been the case in several ongoing mining operations in Mindanao, affecting Lumad communities.

In conclusion, corporate mining in indigenous lands affects all strands of the peoples collective life as distinct from others, and directly threatens not just their survival economically, but also their continuing collective existence in their territory as the source of their culture and identity.

The assault of massive corporate mining will surely be met with strong resistance by indigenous communities who have continued to nurture and protect their territory. They will not simply allow the devastation of their land and resources in the name of profit which has no value in their life.

IPRA and corporate mining

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) was passed in 1997, claiming to uphold the collective rights of indigenous peoples. Its problematic implementation is characterized by the lack of substance in fully recognizing the collective rights of indigenous peoples, and the insincerity of the national government to pursue social justice for indigenous communities.

While IPRA claims to recognize ancestral land rights through certificates of ancestral land/domain titles, this right is still within the framework of the State having prior right to the people’s natural resources.

The Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995 provides the national government with the legal basis to allow foreign-owned mining corporations to extract mineral resources and contract areas for their mining operations in the name of national development, even in indigenous lands.

Ancestral land recognition is merely a stewardship arrangement. The State can still intervene legally on how the resources in IP territories can be utilized. What can be useful for indigenous peoples under IPRA is the provision for the “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC) of indigenous communities affected by any project/ activities within their territory or may adversely affect them. The FPIC provision is based on the principle of self determination, and the indigenous peoples’ participation in the decision making process on matters affecting them. But because of the difficulty of mining companies in acquiring the consent of affected communities, it has been pressuring the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to weaken the provisions of FPIC. In particular, it wants this process to be technical and procedural, instead of ensuring the substance of proper and thorough consultations and decision making processes, availability of needed information, and ensuring the participation of all affected members of the communities.

While there are legal avenues where indigenous peoples can continue to assert their collective rights, what is more important and critical at the moment is for indigenous peoples to actively defend their territories through various legitimate forms of struggles, and the exercise of their right to self-determination at various levels. It is also important to strengthen cooperation and unity amongst indigenous peoples, while building bridges and networks for support. (

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