London-Based Company Acquires Majority Shares in Baguio Mining Firm

Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – A London-based company and its Filipino partner will buy 80 percent of Atok-Big Wedge Company, which would push for the reactivation of the latter’s mining operation after a few years of inactivity in the mining industry.

The London-based Ashmore Group and its local partner Boerstar Corporation will buy all the un-issued shares of Atok-Big Wedge, worth P34.78 million. The disclosure was made by Atok to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).

The proposal to acquire the shares from Atok-Big Wedge was made by Boerster Corporation, a local company owned by former Trade and Industry Minister Roberto V. Ongpin and Eric Recto.

Primarily established for mining with gold as its main product and silver as by-product, Atok-Big Wedge was formed in 1931. Its mine areas covered Gumatdang, Ucab, Tuding, all barangays (villages) of Itogon, Benguet and Brgy. Lucnab in this city.

A Benguet environmental group predicts that community struggles would be elevated to a higher level, as the new development would rekindle the anti-mining struggle in Itogon, Benguet – where villagers had witnessed the destruction of their environment and source of livelihood due to large-scale mining.

Pro-Foreign Investors Policy

Virgilio Aniceto, a resident of Itogon and the spokesman of the Benguet Mining Alert Action Network (BMAAN), said the development was expected as there are mining companies that need “pump-priming” for their operations after years of being inactive.

He added that the Arroyo administration had been actively campaigning internationally for the sale of the country’s remaining natural resources to foreign corporations.

The Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act No. 7942) and the Supreme Court’s decision that the said law is constitutional laid down the foundation for the rape of the natural resources, added Aniceto.

Destruction of Environment

“The entry of foreign corporations would rekindle the community’s opposition,” said Aniceto. “They had witnessed the destruction of their environment, on which their livelihood was dependent on.”

Aniceto explained that their experience in Itogon, where large-scale mining destroyed their environment, had been an eye-opener to other villagers in the region, where almost 70 percent of the total land area of 1.8 million hectares are covered by mining applications.

Heightening people’s struggle

“There is an administration policy that local government officials should support mining in their areas,” Aniceto added.

He pointed out that even government agencies – whose task is primarily to protect the people – manipulate the legally-mandated process of acquiring the people’s free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to any mining project that would affect their communities.

This situation had strengthened the people’s resolve to assert their rights and mobilize their ranks in exposing these agencies, Aniceto explained. “I predict the rise of the same kind of mobilization that we have done before taking place again if Atok re-operates in our community,” he added. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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