CPA sees these awards as deceptive and a cover up for the worst environmental track record of LCMC and Benguet Corporation.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – An indigenous group condemned the awarding of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) environmental management certification to Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC), yet another mining giant in the Cordillera region, which, they said, has a long history of “environmental crimes.”
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) lambasted the recent award of the ISO 14001 to LCMC, the second this year, after Benguet Corporation received the same certificate of compliance in March. “CPA sees these awards as deceptive and a cover up for the worst environmental track record of LCMC and Benguet Corporation,” said CPA secretary general Abigail Anongos.
The ISO 14001:2004 + Cor. 1:2009 was issued to LCMC on May 12, after a certification audit by TÜV Rheinland, an international testing service provider based in Germany. TÜV Rheinland was the same company that audited Benguet Corporation and issued its ISO 14001.
Last year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued Administrative Order (AO) 2015-07 which required all metallic mining companies to be ISO-certified by April 30 this year, or else their environmental compliance certificate (ECC) will be suspended.
Aside from Benguet Corp and LCMC, the mining companies which had acquired ISO 14001 as of March this year are: SR Metals, Inc., OceanaGold (Philippines) Inc., Philex Mining Corp., and GreenStone Resources Corp., said a news report by Business World.
Anongos, however, disagreed that the ISO certificate shows that a company is truly engaged in responsible mining.
“CPA firmly believes that it is not ISO that defines what a world-class environmental management system by mining companies should be. It is the people and the communities affected by the impacts of large scale mining,” she said.
“LCMC deserves to be awarded as one of the worst mining companies in the country,” said Anongos. “This award is a complete insult and an attempt to cover up the long list of environmental crimes committed by the LCMC in Mankayan, Benguet and to the downstream communities along the Abra River,” she said.
The CPA cited the 2013 and 2009 sinking and ground subsidence in Mankayan town proper, as among the most recent “irreversible damage” attributed to Lepanto Mining, which started its operation in 1936.
“Upon its operations, LCMC dumped mine tailings and waste straight into the Abra River. It was only in the 1960’s that the first tailings dam was built. The dam was abandoned after less than 10 years and the land became unsuitable for agriculture. Tailings Dam 2 was constructed in the 1970s. Its collapse caused the contamination of nearby rice fields,” Anongos said.
Citing data from the Save the Abra River Movement (Starm), Anongos said that in 1986, an LCMC tailings dam and diversion tunnel collapsed after a typhoon. This was followed seven years later when a spillway collapsed in 1993, causing tailings to flood riverbanks and destroyed rice fields downstream. The riverbed also rose and caused the backflow of contaminated water into the Abra river tributaries.
Anongos also recalled the death of Mankayan villager Pablo Gomez in July 1999, when he “was swept away in a landslide along with the Colalo Primary School building.”
In September 2002, an environmental investigative mission conducted by Starm on Abra River reported heavy metal content of lead, cadmium and copper in the soil and waters downstream from the Lepanto mine. The tailings disposal from the mine also washed out around 465 hectares of rice land along a 25-kilometer stretch of the Abra River, Anongos said.
The CPA also condemned the use of state security forces by mining companies such as LCMC. Anongos said the presence of the Philippine Army’s 86th infantry battalion in Mankayan resulted to human rights violations against the people.
She cited the rape of a 16-year-old girl by Capt. Danilo Lalin of the 86th IB in 2012. Lalin remains at large, she said.
“ISO should listen to the people of Mankayan, Benguet and the communities along the Abra River in their call for LCMC to stop its operation and compensate the affected areas due to its environmental destruction. And if ISO is really looking for a world class environmental management system, it should award each community that continues to practice sustainable stewardship of the Earth and asserts their rights against the operation and entry of large scale mining companies into their territories,” Anongos said.
I believe there was no bias in the audit conducted. But I think the problem lies in how the audit was conducted. Like most audits in any field, it surely was only surface-deep.
You can visibly see how polluted the Abra river is. But that’s not what the auditors check. Like most other audits, the ISO audit only focused on paper evidences.
Try to ask the certifying bodies or these mining companies! NO ACTUAL TESTING was made to check the cleanliness of air and water released by these companies to the environment. This should be demanded by the CPA from ISO.
Sadly, mining companies receive very weak opposition from its host communities because of the employment it generates. They will not allow these companies to stop. It’s money, man!
But even I wouldn’t agree to stop their operations, many families will lose their livelihood- from miners to professionals. What’s needed is a strict implementation of the law. Yes, the laws are in place, but are not being implemented effectively.
DENR should make ways to decrease the costs of compliance to these laws. These agencies, can’t the government pay for your accommodation and food when you go conduct testing compliance of these companies?! It’s your mandate to ensure the protection of the environment. The mining companies only think about profits, the hos communities only think about their jobs, these pro-environment people prioritize the environment, and you? I can’t see your significant participation in this picture. You must be the missing factor to keep a balance here.