eastwind journals 43 – COMPARING APPLES TO MANGOES canadian open pits vs tampakan

eastwind journals 43
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Canadian open pits vs Tampakan
Xstrate-SMI’s PR writers are getting better and better these days. Jess Dureza was once a GMA boy. He asks, “Who’s afraid of open pit mines?” His answer is, “Definitely not me.” My answer is – Definitely me, the same answer from the Church, farmers, tribal communities, and 95% of stakeholders in Tampakan. The only people who are not scared are those who will not be affected, like Dureza and Xstrate-SMI, or those who are blinded by ‘development funds’ from the SMI Santa Claus.


The junket to Canada organized by Xstrata-SMI, where Dureza was invited, had the goal of churning up media articles written by invitees to sanctify its controversial Tampakan open pit project. International environmentalist Clive Wicks replies to Dureza, “Canada does not have the tropical storms that the Philippines has (15 to 20 average typhoons a year) nor does it have the level of Seismic activity that occurs in the Philippines. Finally, what area of agricultural production depends upon water from the mine sites in Canada and how does that compare with the Philippines?”


In truth, it is comparing open-pit apples to open-pit mangoes. Lately, due to climate change, these typhoons have been veering towards Mindanao. Remember the Cagayan de Oro disaster?


Dureza said, “Quite interesting is the fact that Canadian companies are expected by their home government to adhere to those best practices in their business operations even if their mines are outside of Canada.”


Clive Wicks replies to Dureza, “The Canadian Government has refused to force Canadian companies to meet Canadian standards when working overseas. They refused to support a proposal by a senator that would have forced all Canadian companies to have one standard world wide”. In other words, , there seems to be a partnership between the Canadian government and the multinationals to look the other way, since Canadians are not affected, only Filipinos.


Clive adds, “The Canadian Government has excellent mine regulations and good control systems but these were put in place as a result of terrible mistakes by mining companies who caused massive damage.” They learned their lesson only after massive damage? We have not learned our lesson.


Dureza said the two open pits he visited ‘adhered’ to strict Canadian rules. Can we expect the same here? Remember, it is only now, two long decades after the dam leaked did people accuse Philex of violating safety standards, and not having a business permit for the leaked dam. Can we really ‘adhere’, when DENR-MGB-EMB admits it has no funds and lack personnel for monitoring?


Dureza says Canadian companies here like TVI in Canatuan, Zamboanga del Sur adhere to Canadian standards, when its track record is the exact opposite – the hiring of mercenaries as private army, partnership with the military, human rights violations, Santa Claus funds for local governments and tribal communities, not to mention environmental disasters.


Dureza then explains why we are so rich in resources, namely, being near the collision of tectonic plates, to justify that mine sites are necessarily near fault areas, like Tampakan but tailings dam are built “to withstand the strongest earthquakes ever recorded within the vicinity”. The 32 tailings dam that have collapsed worldwide in the last few years were built at world-class standards but collapsed anyway.


Dureza should be careful what he writes. He may be biting the hand that feeds him. He admitted ‘horror stories’, “Mining’s past history is replete with horror stories. It was in the previous  past  that big  mining companies dump their  mining wastes called “tailings” laden with harmful and toxic substances  into the seabeds or rivers. Or just piled them  up on mountaintops  that pollute the waterways and eventually the downstream inhabitants  when rains came.  The use of mercury, cyanide and other dangerous substances  in extracting gold, copper or other precious minerals  brought devastating effects on the environment and the people”.


And here is his clincher, “No, not anymore for those big, world-class mining giants. The rules of the game have radically changed.” This radical change however have failed to stop the collapse of the 32 ‘World Class’ tailings dams.” Junkets can boomerang.


Dureza then admits that the toxic “wastes are dumped for eternity”. In the Philippines, it is not for eternity. It will sit there until the next earthquake or a typhoon. Finally, Dureza uses a strange word that Philex is now to justify that it is not responsible for the dam collapse, namely force majeure, an act of Nature. It is a new mining term to blame Nature for environment crimes. Philex says it should not pay any damage due to force majeure. They call heavy rains force majeure. So they admit they build dams in a typhoon corridor that cannot stand rain.


Dureza visited two open pit sites, Highland Valley and Brenda, which he pedestalled to the high heavens as models for the Philippines. His rosy picture does not match a report from Ramsey Hart of MiningWatch Canada that Highland Valley was sued by Indigenous People across the US border ‘for pollution of the Columbia River watershed’. Dam spills in Canadian world-class mining is plentiful. Ramsey cites recent dam spills at Pinchi Lake in British Columbia, Chapais in Quebec, and 5 spills in 18 months from a single US firm, Cliffs, also in Quebec. www.miningwatch.ca. Why bother going to Canada if, right here, we see the damage wrought by mining, as in Marcopper and Philex. Marcopper was allowed to run away from the mess. Let us hope it does not happen to Philex, which has a powerful influence on government and media.


The Tampakan open pit and its 1.35-billion toxic tailings dam will sit beneath a seismic fault on top of the mountain of Central Mindano, hosting 6 rivers of 4 provinces flowing to hundreds of thousands of farmlands in Koronadal Valley and Davao del Sur, the major bread basket of Mindanao. Our agricultural economy, which supports millions, must have primacy over one foreign firm.


I keep saying this in all my articles, but Xstrata SMI is silent because they have no answer. They know it is true. Their dam sits in perpetuity until an earthquake or storm destroys it, 1,350 times bigger (1.35 billion metric tons) than the Philex dam (10.1 million metric tons) that recently collapsed. (Philex has failed to stop the leak, which is still ongoing now, and may drain the entire dam into Agno River across Pangasinan to the China Sea. A news blackout by powerful forces has failed to inform and alert the public of dire consequences.) After Philex, are we giving away Tampakan?


Advance copy, eastwind journals column
Opinyon Magazine, Oct. 15, 2012
bernie lopez – eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com


let me sing to You, Lord
until I am nothing but a song
a sufi’s prayer


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