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Help Defend Our Land and Communities
Against Large Mining!

Large-scale mining has been destroying our environment since the third quarter of the 19th century, when the Sociedad Minero-Metalurgica Cantabro-Filipina de Mancayan took over one of our traditional copper mining sites and logged the forests of northern Benguet for mine timber and smelter fuel. During the first and second quarters of the 20th century, large mining nearly wiped out the watersheds of southern Benguet, polluted surface water channels, and destroyed subsurface water systems, causing an abrubt halt to the development of wet-rice culture in this area. Then in the last quarter of the century, mechanized mining and blasting stripped, levelled, and caved entire mountains in Mankayan, on the boundary between Kibungan and Atok, and in Tublay, Itogon, and Tuba. By the time the century neared its end, large mining had ruined roughly 20,000 hectares of agricultural land in our province.

Many of us were thus relieved to see most of the large mining companies close shop at that time - even though they did so without rehabilitating the areas they had destroyed. Seventy-two year old Lepanto and 53-year old Philex have managed to remain in operation, though. And today, numerous others are trying to enter the scene. Each and every municipality of our province, including the city of Baguio, is now threatened by large mining.

Big Firms with Big Plans

Lepanto, which remains the Philippines' top gold producer, is expanding from Mankayan to Bakun and Buguias, and from these municipalities, aims to expand further: southward to Kibungan and Atok; westward to Cervantes in Ilocos Sur; eastward to Kabayan and Bokod, then to Tinoc, Hungduan, and Asipulo in Ifugao; northward to Bauko and Tadian then Sagada, Sabangan, Bontoc, and Sadanga in the Mountain Province; westward again to Tubo in Abra; northward and eastward again to Calanasan, Kabugao, Pudtol, and Luna in Apayao.

In 2005, Lepanto's capital for expansion was boosted by the sale of more than 12% of its stocks to Ivanhoe Mines, a major Canadian transnational. But Lepanto is still seeking more capital in order to get its ambitious expansion plans underway. This is one reason why it has been engaged in negotiations with the UK-based multinational Anglo American, one of the four largest mining companies in the world. Another reason is that Anglo has applied to mine a wide area which overlaps that targeted by Lepanto. Also, Lepanto is interested in getting Anglo involved in the revival of the Far Southeast Project that it had to suspend more than ten years ago due to lack in the resources necessary for profitably exploiting the peculiar type of gold and copper ore found in the project site. For the past several years, Lepanto has been seeking investors in this project. Last year, it was able to sell 20% of its equity in Far Southeast to a fairly new but rapidly growing Chinese transnational mining investment firm, Zijin.

Anglo American is currently involved with Philex. It owns half the equities in this big local firm's subsidiaries, Philex Gold and the Northern Luzon Exploration Company. Its partnership with Anglo has enabled Philex to undertake ambitious mineral exploration and mine development projects in the southern provinces of the country, and to extend the minelife and maximize the exploitation of its base in Padcal, along the Tuba-Itogon boundary. Now, Philex is rapidly expanding from Padcal to Camps 3 and 4, and to Ansagan in Tuba. Aside from this, Philex has applied to mine portions of La Trinidad, Tublay, and Atok - probably in the mountains surrounding the old Sto. Niño Mine which it used to operate. In addition, Philex and Anglo are negotiating with the national government for a contract to mine Nugget Hill within the Philippine Military Academy reservation in Baguio City.

A Profusion of Applications from Junior Players

In addition to the big local and giant global firms named above, 37 junior local and transnational corporations have been active in our province, undertaking preliminary physical and social preparations for their mineral exploration and mine development projects. Most of them do not yet hold all the permits or agreements required by law for the implementation of these projects. But two Australian firms are working mineral tenements already covered by the necessary licenses. One is Bezant Resources, which has acquired from the Crescent Mining Development Corporation a Mankayan tenement covered by a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the state. The other is Anvil Mining. An expert in the extraction of ore from abandoned but still mineable deposits, Anvil is conducting a detailed evaluation of the Itogon tenements it hopes to buy from Itogon-Suyoc Resources, Inc. (ISRI, formerly Itogon-Suyoc Mines, Inc. or ISMI). Although the biggest of these is only covered by an ISRI application for an Exploration Permit (EP), the core tenements are covered by American mineral patents, ISMI mining lease contracts, and an ISRI MPSA. A copper specialist, Anvil also hopes to acquire the Ampucao porphyry patented to Benguet Corporation.

In recent weeks, another Australian firm, Royalco Resources, received approval for one of the EP applications that it had acquired from its takeover of Oxiana, which had been targeting ore deposits in Mankayan, Bakun, Buguias, and Kibungan. The approved EP is for Gambang, Bakun. The other junior firms already active in our province include: Wolfland, which holds a contract to explore Bakun, Kibungan, Kapangan, and Atok for Atlas Consolidated but is also applying to explore Itogon on its own; Al Magan, which is exploring Bokod but has also entered into a partnership with Boneng Mining Ventures for exploration in Kibungan, Kapangan, and Atok - probably in the mountains surrounding the old Boneng mine; Metals Exploration (or MTL Philippines), which is targeting ore deposits in Atok, Tublay, and Bokod; Columbus Minerals in Bokod; Magellan Metals also in Bokod; Alcorn Gold Resources in Itogon. Including those filed by individuals and corporations who have not yet engaged in any activity, mining claims and applications currently cover close to 117 thousand hectares in all 13 of our province's municipalities plus the city of Baguio. The figure represents more than 43% of the total land area of Benguet including Baguio.

Their Approach to Our Communities

Informed by our province's past experiences with large mining, many of our communities in Mankayan, Bakun, Kibungan, Kapangan, Atok, Tublay, Bokod, and Itogon have reacted negatively to the activities of the aforementioned companies. Local government units (LGUs) in some of these municipalities have endorsed community positions against large mining projects; a few have even passed resolutions of their own, outrightly rejecting the projects. In at least two cases, officers of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have accepted community petitions against the projects as sufficient basis for recognizing that these projects do not have the free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) of affected peoples.

Lacking LGU endorsement and FPIC certification, project proponents are thus faced with legal obstacles. Yet they persist in pursuing their plans. They refuse to accept a simple no to their projects from our communities and repeatedly try to persuade us to change our minds. Where consensus against a project appears solid, they try to break this through various means. In some cases, they promise our communities such things as road improvement; financial assistance for livelihood projects that will help us cope with the economic displacement we will suffer as a result of their mining activities; prioritization of locals in the hiring of mine workers; educational, health, and other social services supplemental to those provided by government; etc.

In other cases, they identify and approach our leaders, and offer them good-paying jobs or contracts. They also offer attractively large sums of money to land owners or occupants as compensation for the loss of property and income. Where they are unable to break community resistance through bribery, some companies resort to legal circumventions, in which some officers of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and even the NCIP, connive. Other companies turn to intimidation and coercion by means of violence, which is often perpetrated with the knowledge and toleration, concurrence, or collusion of the police and the military. Large mining companies are able to do these things with impunity because it is the policy of the President of the Republic to promote the development of their industry at all costs.

What We Must Do

Another reason why the large mining companies are able to get away with unethical, illegal, or even criminal actions is that we have not been able to monitor them constantly, document and expose what they do, and make our stand against them heard by government officials and the public at large. We do not even have a reliable mechanism for communicating with one another. Often, we feel isolated. And believing that we each have to deal with our respective situations on our own, many of us feel small and vulnerable - powerless. It is time we develop our capacity for communication and concerted action. Together, we can act upon our similar situations more effectively. Together, we can make our voices heard more loudly by the wider public. Together, we can become a political force strong enough to pressure local government officials, national government agencies, and the large mining companies into heeding our will.


Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
Copyright © 2004 website content by Cordillera Peoples Alliance,
Copyright © 2004 website design by Borky Perida