| Post Office Box 975 Baguio City 2600 Philippines

“Mine Safety”, an oxymoron under corporate greed and government corruption; Enough of mining plunder! Enough of unsafe, irresponsible large-scale mining in our ancestral lands!

November 24, 2019

“In times of tyranny and injustice, when law oppresses the people, the ‘outlawed’ takes his place in history.”

Mining corporations in the Philippines, in collusion with the government, try in vain to convince the people of the concept of “mine safety” despite historical facts that clearly speak of massive environmental destruction, displacement of indigenous communities from ancestral lands, dangerous working conditions and countless loss of lives. “Mine safety” remains an oxymoron, a myth, in a society where corporate greed and government corruption lord over the people’s welfare.

History of mining plunder and disasters

Through the enforcement of Duterte’s Executive Order 70 or the “whole-of-nation approach to end insurgency”, combined elements of the AFP and PNP have been using brute force to intimidate, harass, vilify and even kill defenders of human rights, environment and land rights.

Here are some historical facts about large-scale mining in Cordillera:

  1. In July 1999 in Mankayan, Benguet, a public school in Colalo was destroyed and a villager, Pablo Gomez, died after a massive landslide swept the ground surface. The community was just above the tailings dam 5A of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC) which also produced chemical leaks that are hazardous to the health of the residents and miners. Poblacion Mankayan also experienced sinking and ground subsidence in In 2009 and 2013.
  2. In September 2008, fourteen miners (14) were trapped in a flooded mining tunnel in Beda, Antamok, Itogon, Benguet of the Benguet Corporation Inc. (BCI) during the onslaught of typhoon Nina.
  3. Also in Itogon, during the onslaught of Typhoon Pepeng in 2009, residents of Loakan claimed that a BCI diversion tunnel caused a rupture on the surface which resulted in the massive landslides and land subsidence in Sitio Luneta forcing the communities to evacuate and leave their homes. Land subsidence also occurred in nearby Ampucao caused by the abandoned BCI mining tunnels.
  4. The BCI is also blamed for flushing out its mine wastes in the Ambalanga and Liang rivers. Heavy rains brought by Typhoon Lawin in 2016 caused a breach in the drain tunnel and a leak in BCI’s Liang Tailings Dam where 50,000 metric tons of leakage flowed and further contaminated the Agno River.
  5. An enormous sinkhole, caused by the BCI twin tunnel, swallowed 7 homes including a 3-storey house in 2015.
  6. The heavy monsoon rains in August of last year caused the tailings in Gold Creek Phase 3 to leak affecting the waters passing through the Poblacion towards the Agno River.
  7. Just last year (2018) during the onslaught of typhoon Ompong, at least 78 fatalities were reported in Itogon – 50 of which were found dead in Level 070 while 27 were declared missing in Ucab, Itogon. The failure of BCI to comply with the rehabilitation of the mined-out areas caused the almost yearly deaths during disasters in the province.
  8. What was described as the biggest environmental disaster in the Philippines due to mining occurred in 2012 when Philex’s Padcal mine tailings storage facility no. 3 spilled over 20 million metric tons of mine wastes into our river system, more than 10 times greater than the mine wastes released by Marcopper Mines in Boac, Marinduque in 1996. Philex continued the operation of the unstable tailings dam which should have been decommissioned in 2010. The government placed a fine PhP 1.034 billion on Philex but allowed the company to resume its operations after less than two years of suspension.

The biggest disasters brought about by large-scale mining operations are caused by the collapse of tailings dams that hold mine wastes and toxic chemicals. Our water sources and agricultural lands are being poisoned affecting the health and well-being of indigenous communities, as well as, residents of nearby low-lying provinces.

The Cordillera’s mountainous terrain and its vast river systems is very vulnerable during massive rains and other natural calamities. In the advent of climate change, large-scale mining operations cause greater risks of disasters and loss of life.

Corporate greed and government connivance

We are never safe under the current mining system especially with the Philippine Mining Act 0f 1995. Mine workers and mining communities alike gained very little compared to the massive devastation and exploitation brought about by large-scale mining operations.

Mining corporations have always put primacy on profit over the people’s interest. Mine workers have long suffered from unsafe working conditions, unjust wages, denial of benefits and trade union rights. For instance, the LCMC workers condemned the management for its failure to implement their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which led to the union strike in 2005. In 2010, around 452 union officers and members were illegally dismissed.

Despite the recent termination of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of OceanaGold gold and copper mines in Nueva Vizcaya in June 2019, the company continues to operate in the ancestral domain of the Tuwali-Ifugao. Amid strong opposition of the affected communities, local government and environmental advocates, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources callously supported the continuation of the mining operations up to present.

The government, through its armed forces, protects the mining corporations through militarization of communities and quelling any form of resistance from the people. Our right to self-determination in our ancestral land territories are being violated through the manipulation of the process of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). State terrorism in the form of human rights violations, indiscriminate bombing, trumped-up charges and military operations targeting civilians aim to deny the people of their right to decide freely and coerce them into allowing extractive industries into our ancestral lands. These actual threat to the lives of indigenous peoples is an outright manifestation that large-scale mining operations are unsafe.

More disasters await with AFTA 08 of CEXCI-Nickel Asia Corporation-Sumitomo and other mining applications

The mineral-rich Cordillera mountains, our ancestral domain, remain as one of the primary targets of greedy corporate interests. The Cordillera Exploration Company Inc. (CExCI), a subsidiary of the notorious Nickel-Asia Corporation (NAC) owned by the Zamoras in partnership with the Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. (SMM) based in Japan, plans to extract gold and other minerals in 72,958.82 hectares of land in Cordillera and parts of Ilocos Sur through its Application for Financial and Technical Assistance No. 08 (AFTA 08), and Exploration Permit Applications (EXPA) No. 116, 037 and 014.

The people of Cordillera will not allow the entry of more greedy mining corporations in our ancestral lands that will destroy our land, life and resources. In August, more than 300 delegates from the provinces of Cordillera and Ilocos Sur had gathered in Sagada, Mountain Province for the AYWANAN Environment and Mining Summit to reiterate our opposition to the AFTA-08 and exploration applications of CExCI. We initiated a petition to be signed by the people of Cordillera especially the affected communities that manifest our strong stance to never allow CExCI to plunder our lands. Members of the academe, clergy, local government units, farmers’ groups, youth, women, environmental advocates and other sectors affirm the Cordillera people’s unity to fight the entry of CExCI in our ancestral land territories.

Aywanan ti Cordillera!

Amid the unceasing corporate greed and foreign interests that salivate over the wealth of our lands, the mining corporations, energy projects, corrupt politicians, coupled with the unrelenting attacks on our right to self-determination and basic human rights, it is our duty to unite and defend our lands for our future generations. Our rallying call remains -- Aywanan ti Cordillera! Nurture the Cordillera! This is our home, our life, our environment, which our forefathers have courageously defended and even laid their lives for.

Mine safety is a myth! Enough of mining disasters, irresponsible and unsafe mining!

Enough of mining plunder and landgrabbing in the Cordillera!

Respect our right to our ancestral land territories and resources!

Respect our right to free, prior and informed consent and self-determination!

Share this: