of Mining Safety
Statement of the Cordillera Peoples
Alliance and Kilusang Mayo Uno-Cordillera
on the Occasion of Mining Safety and Environment Week
The worker's plight
Julio, (not his real name) has worked as a miner for the Lepanto
Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) for the past 20 years, receiving
a minimum wage of a little over P400 to feed a household of eight.
For the past 20 years as a miner, his and his family's life has
not progressed much. This June, during drilling and blasting underground,
he was struck by falling rocks, leaving his right leg fractured.
A brace has been affixed to his leg to support him, until he completely
recovers. The company did not offer any assistance during his hospitalization.
He laments that his daily wage as a miner was never enough to feed
his family, how much more now that he is unemployed and lives on
a P200 daily allowance from his employees' compensation. "Awan
ti naipundar ko iti 20 tawen a panag trabahok isunga awan maipatawid
ko kadagiti ubbing nu di diay bunga koma ti panangikaradap ko kadagiti
ubbing a makaeskuwela".
Official data from the LCMC reports that only from
January to March this year, there are 21 underground accidents from
drilling, blasting, and charging explosives, and 39 surface accidents
from operating machines through fabrications, among others.
The Lepanto Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU had recently
won its hard-earned victory in its Certification Election (CE) to
represent the 1,600-strong workforce of the LCMCo in the next Collective
Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations with the management for
2007 to 2010. The workers' salaries were deliberately delayed at
the start of the petition for CE. This was ploy to further repress
the union that had worked for the recognition of the miners' basic
rights and welfare, and risked life and limb in the 2003 and 2005
strikes to have their just wages and compensation against the profit-driven,
exploitative and capitalist LCMCo. The protest against the LEU after
their victory in the CE by the LRFEU (Lepanto Rank and File Employees
Union)-NAMAWU could be another delaying tactic towards the CBA negotiations.
Damages to local agriculture
Residents of Malideg in Quirino, Ilocos Sur reported a 30% decrease
in the yield of traditional rice varieties especially since the
accumulation of industrial mining and pollution. For a community
previously known to be the rice granary for a much larger sub-region,
the yield drops are attributed to several reasons: siltation of
rivers, deterioration of soil quality, stunted growth, and diseased
plant varieties. The cropping area has been reduced by as much as
50% as the sediment of thick, black, or cement-like soil continuously
piles up in the middle of riverways, forcing water to flow into
the cropped sections of the flatlands.
The drop in rice yields was first observed in the
1980s as a result of the typhoons between 1988 to 1989, which led
to the destruction of LCMCo's Tailings Dams 1,2, and 3. It was reported
that LCMCo was made liable for the destruction of the rice fields
due to siltation and hardening of the soil because of the sediments,
thus making the land unfit for agricultural purposes. Before LCMCo's
establishment in 1936, residents of surrounding localities reported
high yields of indigenous crops.
The indigenous peasants in Mankayan, Benguet, downstream
Quirino in Ilocos Sur no longer look upon their ricefields with
hope for bountiful harvests, only dejection with the knowledge that
the soil that has sustained them for years will no longer bear life
for coming generations. Aside from its pollution, the mechanization
of large scale corporate mining is bound to displace some 20,000
indigenous peasants from traditional small-scale mining and about
130,000 peasant households from agriculture.
The Arroyo regime's mining liberalization program identifies 23
priority mining projects nationwide, five of which are located in
the Cordillera region: The Batong Buhay Project in Kalinga, the
Far Southeast, Teresa Gold, Itogon Gold and Pacdal Extension Projects
in Benguet. In the 1980s, around 21,000 hectares of ricefields were
destroyed as a result of Batong Buhay Mines' mine wastes. Massive
protest from indigenous peasants forced Batong Buhay to close then.
Current mining operations and various pending applications (125
pending applications as of 2007) total 66% or 1.2 million hectares
of the region's total land area of 1.8 million hectares.
Nine Mineral Sharing and Production Agreements (MPSAs)
and four Exploration Permits (EPs) were approved. Large scale corporate
mining has ravaged the Cordillera region with 81 years of LCMCo's
operations, 49 years of operation of Philex Mines and almost a hundred
years of Benguet Corporation's mining operations.
Violations to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent
(FPIC) and indigenous peoples' collective rights
Large scale mining is a clear form of development aggression, imperialist
plunder and oppression of indigenous peoples, and sectors such as
the workers and peasants. Contrary to claims of its development
contribution and economic progress, affected indigenous communities
and others have become impoverished and deprived of their land and
resources, which is a material base of their existence.
The aggressive entry of large scale corporate mining
operations without the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous
communities is a blatant disregard and violation to the territorial
integrity and self determination of indigenous peoples. Of recent,
violations to the FPIC of indigenous communities took place in Itogon
(Anvil Mining), Kalinga and Apayao (UK-based Anglo-American's Cordillera
Exploration Inc. or CEXI), and in Mankayan, Benguet (Crescent Mining
Anvil still has plans to embark on drilling in Ampucao
even with the firm and strong opposition of the people therein.
In February 2006, CEXI has managed to acquire a certification of
compliance to FPIC process from the National Commission Indigenous
Peoples (NCIP) and that the communities have given there consent
despite the opposition the Apayao communities have registered as
early as May 2005. CMDC's exploration permit in Mankayan was approved
in August 2006 and will expire this 2008. Even with Mankayan Mayor
Galuten's order to stop the exploration, the company continued after
3 days and is even convincing local residents to join the workforce.
Promises are also allegedly being made by CMDC management to affected
Large scale, corporate mining has only bled our
indigenous communities dry of their resources. It has violated and
disrespected the collective rights of indigenous peoples in the
name of development that benefits the government, local and foreign
capitalists. It has never given back to the indigenous communities
it has robbed of its life.
Large-scale mining also violates the rights of indigenous peoples
to freely determine their economic and socio-cultural development
with the ownership, management and development of their natural
resources. Likewise, the destruction of their subsistence economies
and particular livelihood activities by large scale mining is a
direct threat to their food security. With the Arroyo regime's imposition
of large-scale mining through its mining liberalization policies,
indigenous peoples' socio-cultural and political systems are outrightly
disrespected and disregarded. In cahoots with the government, corporate
and transnational companies have heightened the national oppression
of indigenous peoples.
Capitalist mining is not safe
The very nature and basic character of large-scale corporate mining
is it's being capitalist-oriented for corporate greed and profit
driven. The safety, social accountability and responsibility it
harps on remain a myth, an illusion, and a deception. Large-scale
corporate mining systematically violates the collective rights of
indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands, territories and livelihood
resources. It does not care about the irreversible environmental
impacts and disasters and it puts the safety, working conditions
and just and living wages of workers as secondary. It has no concern
on national development and sustainable livelihood of the people.
As long as mining is based in the context of the
Mining Act of 1995 and GMA's priority agenda in the sellout of our
national mineral resources and patrimony towards mining capitalist
plunder, large mining in the Philippines will never be safe as it
is destructive, oppressive and exploitative. It greatly contributes
to global warming and climate change, to the destruction of our
Our experience in the Cordillera, the rest of the
country and the world proves beyond doubt how terribly unsafe and
destructive, oppressive and exploitative and destructive is the
global mining and Philippine large mining. Benguet and the Cordillera
region have always been regarded by the State and national government
as a resource base for plunder and historically sacrificing the
true owners of the land, the Cordillera indigenous peoples. Several
decades and hundred years of corporate mining did not improve the
widespread poverty and underdevelopment of the communities which
long hosted these destructive large-corporate mines.
The urgency of the situation necessitates our collective
action against large-scale corporate mining before we end up a phenomenon
of mining destruction and have no future. We must resist corporate
mining; heighten environmental defense and collective struggle to
defend our ancestral land, life and resources as we build upon a
sustainable mining alternative that is truly environment-friendly,
safe and community beneficial; that will serve as great potential
for self reliance and national development.
We must continue to demand for the scrapping of
the Mining Act of 1995, and work together towards a safe and people-oriented
The workers must continue strengthening its unity
and class struggle with the peasants and broader society against
the oppressive, destructive and exploitative mining in the Philippines.
We must not be deceived by the misinformation and deception of big
mining capitalists and the corrupt government, which benefits from
this system of mining. ***