By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — “It is devious and foolish for Malacañang to approve the Tampakan mining project,” Clemente Bautista of green group Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment said in a statement yesterday. He said the people of Mindanao have opposed the mining project for more than two decades now, “giving SMI the go-signal to mine will only add fire to the volatile situation in the south.”
The mining giant’s eager rush to the mineral-rich mining site has so far been held at bay by determined protests of the people. Even if their protestations have been costing them their lives and security.
Since August last year, the Aquino government issued a new mining policy via an executive order, which contains a provision that mining giants such as SMI-Xstrata hope could help them legally disregard local opposition to their mining operations. The said provision in Aquino’s mining policy asserts the primacy of national laws over local laws. Plus, as critics had pointed out last year, the new mining policy created a doubtful body tasked to decide on mining applications in the local level. It is also tasked to enforce the national government’s edict over local governments.
This year, the said body, called the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), has recommended the granting of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI-Xstrata). The recommendation directly countered the environment department’s refusal to issue one, following the local government’s reaffirmed resolution banning open pit mining in the SMI-Xstrata’s targeted mine site. The local government’s resolution traces its strength from the locals’ two-decade-long resistance to the mining giant’s incursions.
In ignoring what the locals had been saying, the MICC cited the report of the Department of Finance. The report, in turn, says that rejecting the mining application will result in the loss of potential investments and revenues from the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper and gold project. This coincides with the Aquino government’s regard of mining and foreign investments as key drivers of “growth.” Aquino aims to register the Philippines as a full-blown economic tiger by banking on foreign investments such as in large-scale mining.
But “It seems President Aquino values the interest of foreign miners more than the lives and safety of our indigenous peoples and mining-affected people in the project area,” Bautista noted. He warned that in doing so, Aquino is only fuelling more violence.
“The provincial ban and the on-going pangayaw (tribal war) of the B’laan people attest to their firm resistance against large-scale mining. Mr. Aquino’s administration should submit to the people’s wish, or else risk fueling violence and increasing the casualties,” said Bautista.
Already, the mining giant’s project in Tampakan has unleashed several cases of extrajudicial killings, most recently the murder of Kitari Capion, and two month before, the murder of Juvy Capion, brother and wife respectively of anti-mining tribal leader Daguil. Killed with Juvy were her two minor sons on October 18.
An expat and a security personnel of RCBC Tower in Makati view the ‘Stop the Killings’ painted by Manilakbayan delegates during their picket in front of Canadian and Australian embassies, Dec 2012 (Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
Defend Patrimony, an alliance against large-scale mining, suggests that instead of approving mining operations over the locals’ dead bodies, Malacañang should just abandon the Tampakan mining project and pull-out the military from the area. “These actions will definitely reduce human rights violations and start to bring peace in the communities,” the alliance reasoned.
Tampakan is also the site of the B’laan people’s declaration of war against SMI-Xstrata and the company’s security forces. The mining project threatens to displace more than 30,000 B’laans in the mountain ranges of Saranggani, Davao del Sur and South Cotabato provinces.
Bautista of Kalikasan warned that “As long as the government supports foreign and large-scale mining, bloodshed, community displacement, and environmental destruction will continue.”
More reasons to stop SMI-Xstrata’s mining operations
On top of worsening militarization and attendant rights violations at the SMI-Xstrata’s mine site, the London Working Group on Mining in the Philippines with environmental experts Clive Wicks and Dr. Robert Goodland reviewed both the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the SMI-Xstrata Tampakan Copper-Gold Mining Project. They cited the following environmental reasons to bar mining in Tampakan:
“The Tampakan mining project is situated in a water catchment on the Mt. Matutum Range which supplies water for the vast agricultural lands of three provinces—this could destroy the economy of the province and affect 150,000 farmers in rural communities that depend on their daily water needs from the aquifers.
“The mining project will allow for the cutting of forests beyond 1000 meters—that is not allowed by DENR.
“The development of the project will result in extensive physical disturbance of the land, which for most part is permanent. (EIS, p. 2-15)
“The Tampakan mine has a high potential for loss of life and high environmental damage if a failure of dams or rock storage facilities occurs.” (ESIA, footnote)
“The (mineral) deposits lie within the Cotabato Fault Zone, a West-Northwest Strike slip fault zone. The presence of faults on the proposed mine sites presents a danger to the facilities that will be constructed, such as the tailings pond.” (Catherine Abon, UP-NIGS). We demand that the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology verifies if active seismic movements have been recorded and factored in the review of the DENR-MGB.
“Storing 1.1-million tons of toxic tailing and 250,000 tons of high potential for acid drainage and medium-high arsenic content waste rock in the storage facility, which will be sited in the Mel River Catchment is a very risky strategy bearing in mind the number of people living and farming along the river. In addition, the storage of 2.7 billion tons of toxic mine rock waste and tailings and a mine void of 800 meters deep is a risk too far.” (Mining in Tampakan: Intensifying Conflict Danger in Perpetuity)
Little benefits to show for it
Aside from cases of human rights violations, many of the country’s local population, including those immediately affected by mining have hardly benefited from it. Data showed that for all its reported disastrous consequences to the environment and people, mining has contributed insignificantly to the country’s revenue (just 0.16-percent of total revenue).
Mining rakes in billions of profits but solely for the mining companies. These companies can haul all its profits out of the country because the Mining Act allows 100-percent repatriation of profits. They enjoy tax holidays and liberal treatment as government allows them to recover their costs first before asking them to share part of their reported production revenue.
For all these, the Philippines barely derives one percent of its GDP from mining. It also hardly provides employment, as data showed that from years 2000 to 2009 for example, the average share of mining and quarrying to employment is pegged at less than half of one percent of total (or just 0.376-percent) of all Filipinos recorded as employed in the same period.