Tuesday, November 17, 2015

“Stop fooling the people with your so-called responsible mining,” CPA tells PMSEA

[Note: This is a press statement as sent to us by Santi Mero, Deputy Secretary General of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).]

The Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) redefines the term responsible mining. Under the current mining industry in the country, responsible mining is only a myth and slogan propagated by the PMSEA to mislead the people and as a cover up to the realities on the ground. The history and experiences of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera region on large scale mining clearly speak of environmental disasters, blatant violation of indigenous people’s rights and collective rights of mine workers.

This year’s PMSEA theme for their annual meeting in Camp John Hay, Baguio City is “62 Years of Responsible Mining … United in Creating Relevant Development for Inclusive Growth”. CPA views this as a total insult and unremorseful statement against the communities destroyed due to decades of underground and open-pit mining operations in the region. Tale of mining disasters

PMSEA must be joking to claim that for 62 years, large scale mining corporations are responsible in their operations. But the track record of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC), Philex Mines, Benguet Corporation in their mining operations strongly debunks the claims of the PMSEA of responsible mining.

How could PMSEA overlooked or forgotten past and recent mining disasters in the region?
In 1992, 1994 and 2012, all three tailings dams of Philex collapsed. The first collapsed in 1992 and released some 80 million tons of tailings and causing heavy siltation in the irrigation system downstream. The company paid Php5 million to the affected farmers. Again, during a typhoon in 2001, another tailings dam of Philex collapsed. Ricefields in San Manuel and Binalonan, Pangasinan, were buried in toxic silt a meter deep. This time, Philex refused to admit responsibility for the disaster putting the blame on nature.[1] Then in 2012, another tailings dam collapsed. Again, tons of mine wastes spilled on Balog creek and the Agno River.

In the case of Lepanto, when it started operations in 1936, the company 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 ricefields. Tailings Dam 3 and a diversion tunnel gave way in 1986 during a strong typhoon. Another spillway collapsed after a typhoon in 1993. The spilled tailings encroached on riverbanks and destroyed ricefields downstream. They also caused the riverbed to rise and the polluted water to backflow into other tributaries of the Abra River.

In September 2002, an Environmental Investigative Mission (EIM) indicated that heavy metal content (lead, cadmium and copper) was elevated in the soil and waters downstream from the Lepanto mine. The downstream impact of tailings disposal is that along a 25-kilometer stretch of the Abra River, some 465 hectares of riceland have been washed out.

In July 1999, Pablo Gomez, a villager in Mankayan, Benguet was killed when he was suddenly swept away in a landslide along with the Colalo Primary School building. In 2009 and 2013, Poblacion, Mankayan experienced sinking and ground subsidence.

And just recently is the sinking in Camangaan, Virac, Itogon which swallowed five houses due to the underground holes left by the century of mining by Benguet Corporation.

Indigenous peoples rights violations
Aside from these environmental disasters, mining firms violate people’s rights in cahoots with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources and state security forces to force their way into the host communities.

In Mankayan, Benguet, the South African Far South Gold Resources Incorporated and the NCIP totally manipulated and disregarded the conduct of the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). In Bakun, Benguet, similar violation is committed by the Australian Royalco Mining Corporation and the NCIP. In Baay-Licuan, Abra, Canadian Olympus Mining did the same violations of the FPIC. Worst, the Armed Forces of the Philippines deployed military troops in Baay-Licuan as an investment defense force for Olympus mining company and to quell local opposition. In its adjacent municipality of Lacub, Abra, Goldfields mining along with the local government unit and the NCIP ignored the strong opposition of the affected communities. In Guinaang, Pasil, Kalinga, Makilala Mining Corporation and NCIP-Kalinga also violated the FPIC process.

Contractual scheme
In recent years also, Kilusang Mayo Uno-Cordillera noted a significant shift from regular mine workers to contractual scheme by mining corporations in the region. At present, Lepanto only employs more than 700 from its original 1000 regular mine workers while its contractual workers are more than 800. In Philex mines, from its original regular mine workers of 1, 500, the company now have at least 1, 200 while its contractual workers are more than 800. In Balatoc mines, it hired 21 contractors who employs more than 5000 contractual mine workers. These contractual workers are divided by 300 persons per contractor. In contrast, Balatoc mines now have only 100 regular employees from its original 200. For contractual workers, mining companies only pay the minimum wage for the region which is pegged at 285/day. In Balatoc mines, contractual mine workers sometimes do not received the minimum wage. This depends on the contractors.

In addition, KMU-Cordillera also reported at least six fatalities of mine workers in their work places for 2015. Other cases were not reported. Most of these fatalities are contractual mine workers; four in Lepanto and two in Philex mines.

Instead of hyping a deceiving and empty slogans, PMSEA should help in compensating and rehabilitating communities damaged due to decades of irresponsible mining by large scale mining corporations.