Exploitation of miners exposed

Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter –

30 April 2012

MEMBERS of an international fact-finding mission on Monday reported
“rampant contractualization, very low wages and violation of workers’
rights” in large-scale mining areas in the Cordillera and Caraga regions.

A copy of the report of the International Solidarity Mission on Mining
(ISMM) was submitted to Party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, who
vowed to start a congressional inquiry into the findings of the ISMM.

Large-scale mining companies, according to the ISMM, are earning as much
as P36 million for a two-day work of skilled Filipino miners who receive
as low as P233 daily wage.

Mariano said the report would justify the passage of a proposed measure
seeking a P125 across-the-board wage increase and the People’s Mining
bill, which would replace the Philippine Mining Act of 1995; the law
allows foreign mining companies to operate large-scale mining in the

Members of the ISMM called for a moratorium on large-scale mining “until
a technology is developed to maximize and process the extracted minerals

Also, the ISMM said an in-depth research on the working conditions in
large-scale mining companies was needed to “expose mining’s astounding
negative footprint to the country’s environment and to the working class.”

Jonathan Zwart, an Australian representing the Australian Manufacturing
Workers’ Union told BusinessMirror the situation of miners at the
Lepanto Mining Consolidated Corporation was “not good,” considering the
risks that they are being exposed to every day in exchange for their
measly wages.

Zwart, one of the members of the ISMM team that visited the Lepanto
mines in Mankayan Benguet, said miners receive very low wages and most
of them are contractual workers who do not receive any benefit at all
from the company.

“Miners have died because of accidents such as falling rocks, and toxic
fumes. This is not good,” he said. At Lepanto Mines, Zwat observed the
miners suffered from poor ventilation, “although surprisingly, are
allowed to smoke cigarettes,” he said.

Also, Zwart said the on-going extraction of ores at Lepanto Mines was
“very dangerous,” as the company is now starting to extract soils from
what is supposed to be the pillars that hold the roof of the tunnels.

The ISSM reported that out of the 1,400 employees of the Lepanto Mining
Consolidated Corp., 800 are contractual workers. The minimum wage in the
region is pegged at P255, which is barely half of the estimated P570
daily cost of living in the region.

In the Caraga region, Philsaga and Medusa Mining Corporations in Agusan
del Sur employ only 700 regular workers out of its 4,000 workforce.

The ISMM also observed that mining companies in the Caraga region
account for only 3 percent of Caraga’s total employment.

In the three mines visited by ISMM, the members noted poor working
condition of the miners. Mining companies, they noted, provide
inadequate safety gears for their workers.

“They only provide boots and hard hats. Miners should be provided with a
complete set of protective gear, including gloves and masks,” Zwart said.

Chris Grayland, another member of the team, said mining companies in
Australia are very strict when it comes to implementing safety measures.
Apparently, mining companies lack the initiative to ensure the safety of
its workers, he said, obviously referring to the Lepanto Mines.

Justine Bergerem from Belgium said mining companies employ various
tactics—from bribing to harassing members of the communities—to force
them to accept the mining operation.

The presence of soldiers acting as security guards for mining companies,
she said, also failed to prevent human-rights violations committed
against people in the communities in the mining areas, particularly
women who are either raped, sexually molested, or are forced to engage
in sex. These happened when mining operations started in the area, she said.

Kyeongmin Rim from South Korea noted the adverse impact of mining
operations on the people and the environment, saying that since mining
began in their area, hazardous chemicals from the mines have
contaminated their water resources.

In its report, the ISMM said that by “simple ocular inspection,” it
could be deduced that large-scale mining evidently has caused
environmental destruction in mangrove areas, fishing grounds and these
places’ natural landscape.