Green groups protest open pit mine ban reversal

Kalikasan PNE press release

6 November 2017

Environmental network Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
(Kalikasan PNE) led peasant and indigenous people’s organizations in a
protest action outside the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR), calling on the agency to uphold its national ban on
prospective open-pit mining projects.

“The reversal of the national open pit mining ban would lead to the
commencement of new open-pit mines without the necessary regulatory
rigor. This would lead to the wholesale destruction of agricultural
lands, watersheds, and other critical ecosystems as we have experienced
in abandoned mines from Marinduque to Rapu-Rapu,” said Clemente
Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu recently announced that he will accept the
recommendation of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, a
multi-stakeholder body mandated to review mining policies and programs,
to reverse the ban imposed during the stint of former environment
secretary Gina Lopez. Cimatu is set to endorse the MICC’s recommendation
in the earliest possible Cabinet meeting of Duterte set this week.

“The past 22 years under the policy framework of the Mining Act of 1995
did nothing to ensure that high-risk projects such as open pit mines are
effectively regulated. The fact that the DENR’s national mining audit
found 68 percent of commercially operating mines means the country’s
mining industry is in no position to safely manage additional open pit
mines,” said Bautista.

In August 1996, a year after the Mining Act was passed, the open-pit
mine of the Marcopper mining company, now owned by Canadian miner
Barrick Gold, caused a massive mine spill that poured 1.6 million metric
tons of toxic mine tailings into the Boac River. Water samples in
affected river tributaries exhibited heavy metal contamination 1,300
percent above human tolerable levels. A legal case was filed against the
company in 2005, but no resolution is still in sight 12 years after.

In 2015, an environmental investigation mission by scientist group AGHAM
revealed that the Rapu-Rapu open pit mine in Albay, a flagship project
of the previous Arroyo administration, was left unrehabilitated even as
its South Korean owner KORES spending all of its P158 million Mining
Rehabilitation Fund. Water tests demonstrated continuing toxic acid mine
drainage generation in one of the creeks downstream from the abandoned
mine, registering extreme acidity with pH levels of 3.25 to 3.42 far
exceeding the DENR standards for irrigation.

“Prospective open pit mines also have the bloodiest track records in
securing their corporate interests. The Tampakan mining project, the
largest mining project in Asia, is also the bloodiest with at least 12
extrajudicial killings of its critics and opponents monitored since
2001. The Tampakan mine is one of the projects that will benefit from
the reversal of the open-pit mine ban,” said Bautista.

The groups demanded the Duterte government to reinstitute the open pit
mine ban as a moratorium on all new projects using this technology until
new mining policy reforms are put in place. They said a comprehensive
mining policy proposal, House Bill 2715 or the People’s Mining Bill, is
currently pending in Congress and should be prioritized by the
government to ensure stronger environmental and socio-economic
regulations over open-pit and other large-scale mines.

“No new open pit mine should commence until a new mining policy is put
in place. As long as open-pit mining is framed in promoting foreign
investments through lax regulations and allowing land and other natural
resource grabs, it will always be a destructive endeavor detrimental to
our national interest to protect national patrimony and the
environment,” ended Bautista.#

National Secretariat
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 356 21 66 | E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net | Site:
www.kalikasan.net