Xstrata-SMI’s Tampakan 10,000-hectare gold-mine project, biggest in Asia 3.5 billion-metric-ton tailings dam, one of the largest-to-be worldwide Sitting at the core of Mindanao’s bread basket atop a seismic fault line Scene of escalating human rights violation. Recently acquired by super-giant Glencore.
_______________________________________HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT RATTLES XSTRATA-SMI Admits funding the military By Bernie Lopez email@example.com This article reflects the personal views only of the author. MEDIA OUTLETS HAVE PERMISSION TO REPRINT.
The Tampakan Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) is an international study, which was triggered mainly by two factors. First was the escalating violence and killings in the Tampakan proposed mine site area after Xstrata-SMI began exploration, and after the massacre by military elements of the wife and two sons of Daguil Capion, an anti-mining leader (see Youtube links at the end). The suspects are now facing a protracted military court trial. The second factor was the indirect complicity of Xstrata-SMI in human rights violations due to admittance by the Kiblawan Mayor during a congressional hearing that Xstrata-SMI was funding military elements. In fact, SMI openly and casually admits it gave a million pesos to Task Force KITACO, the military group overseeing the proposed mine area.
The pathetic replies of Xstrata-SMI to the HRIA are a rehash of old obsolete retorts of the mining industry already proven wrong. And what was strange is the copy emailed to this author by SMI Public Affairs, did not have a letterhead, and was unsigned. Were they indeed rattled by the report? Did they have an utter fear of coming out in the open, if they indeed felt they had something substantial to say. The preliminary reply on the draft HRIA was signed by Callow.
(Author’s note. This article is a bit lengthy because it gives a historical overview. Readers can go direct to Part 2, if they know the overview. Part 1. Overview. Part 2. SMI Response to the HRIA.)
Part 1. Overview.
The 10,000-hectare Tampakan Gold Mine project in South Cotabato, reputed to be the biggest in Asia, which the Glencore-Xstrata-SMI consortium is applying for, is being stalled by a defective Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC). First, it lacked the consent of the resident B’laan tribe required by law. Second, it did not have a satisfactory plan in case the 1.35-billion-metric-ton mega-dam above the vast surrounding agricultural lands in four provinces, would break down. The Tampakan dam would be almost ten times or 1,000% larger than the 140 million metric-ton Philex dam no. 3, which collapsed in 2011, the largest dam disaster ever in Philippine history (see Youtube links at the end).
Third, it did not have a satisfactory study on water management in the prime watershed area composed of six major rivers, where agriculture could be denied water on a massive scale, triggering a localized famine. Fourth, the province of South Cotabato imposed a ban on open-pit mining. Finally, due to mismanaged exploration and consultation activities, the project triggered a violent human rights flashpoint, which is the focus of this article.
Ironically, the government, influenced by a powerful mining lobby group with insiders within Malacanang’s Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), approved the ECC anyway. Earlier, the mining lobby group succeeded in making Noynoy sign EO 79, which centralized mining decisions to the all-powerful MICC, which the lobby group now controls.
However, the Mines and Geodetic Bureau (MGB), in fear of a repeat of the Philex disaster 900-fold, added a provision to the ECC approval that the mining firm had to maintain the tailings mega-dam IN PERPETUITY. The mining firm, after spending millions of dollars for many years for the ECC, instantly rejecting it. Right now, the insiders are trying to have the provision deleted. Even though the MGB would not budge, it can easily and quietly be overturned by the DENR and the MICC. Like the Wall Street-Pentagon tandem having Obama as a puppet, the miners are running the government, and Noynoy is their puppet.
There are four major actors who are the ingredients to escalation in the Tampakan human rights cauldron – the local government, the communist NPA, the military, and Xstrata-SMI. Violence began as a small affair. The rule of local government is ignition. The Tampakan mayor, who leased heavy equipment to SMI for exploration, was accused of not paying rent to landlord Daguil Capion, a B’laan leader. When Capion tried to collect, the son of the mayor reportedly brandished a gun on him. In retaliation, Capion staged an ambush where several of the mayor’s men were killed. The mayor launched a food blockade to flush out Capion, which was stopped by a Church-military fact-finding mission.
The role of the AFP-NPA follows. Continued harassment and oppression of the helpless B’laans by the SMI exploration team led to the NPA burning heavy equipment. This was a big blunder, because it became the excuse for the AFP for militarization. Rapid escalation of human rights violations (HRV) followed, when the soldiers came.
In the entire Mindanao, there is now a trend towards ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. Mining areas are militarized. Indigenous people or Lumads like the B’laans are seduced by both the NPA and AFP to their sides. They end up killing each other. The role of Xstrata-SMI in human rights violations is in financing military elements against the protesting residents in the mining site. The solution is actually so simple. Demilitarization will save the Lumads of Mindanao. Continued militarization, especially of mining areas, will make them an endangered species.
The super-giant Glencore, which acquired the giant Xstrata, is set to take over the management of the Tampakan project, which may see radical changes in the approach to bridge insurmountable hurdles. Glencore sent feelers that it was for total demilitarization of the mine site area to seduce protestors to their side. Demilitarization does not solve the problem of the threat from a mega-disaster to our agricultural economy. It is better for Glencore to look for other gold mine sites because famine is non-negotiable, and food security is crucial.
Part 2. SMI Response to the HRIA
Xstrata-SMI normally does not reply to criticisms because this would only fan issues where they are on the defensive. In spite of their vast resources in tapping and controlling media, they have an inherent fear of media. But, for the first time, they decided to reply to the HRIA, because the United Nations and international community are looking on, and there are vast diplomatic and geopolitical ramifications if they ignore the HRIA.
The SMI reply to the HRIA had the gall to say that it adheres to the UN Principles and Guiding Principles of Human Rights, which the HRIA invokes as a framework. This adherence is questionable if we recall 1) how SMI bulldozed cornfields and sacred burial grounds of the B’laans, and when they complained and asked for promised compensation, they were showered with more harassments, 2) how SMI turned a blind eye to soldiers inhibiting B’laans access to their prayer houses, their cornfields, the forest for gathering food, on the pretext of insurgency. There are dozens more to recall.
The SMI reply further says it “promotes stakeholder inclusiveness” when they ignored in their many consultations the potentially affected farmers and irrigators, until included them much later only when there were protests. The same was true for the Department of Agriculture, ignored and included only much later when it complained.
They say “There are no foes or enemies but rather there are partners aiming for the common good”. Whose common good? Theirs? If you abandon a tailings dam that may cause a mega-disaster on the agricultural economy after getting your gold, is that ‘partners for common good’? It is bad rhetoric if you can see through it.
They say ‘responsible and sustainable development’. So many academic and scientific studies have proven mining is never sustainable. The track record of responsible miners are practically nil. Many tailings dam here and abroad have cracked or crumbled, yet they proclaim that they are responsible, including Manny Pangilinan before the Philex Mining disaster.
“At the same time protecting the environment and upholding human rights”. This should read ‘upholding human rights violations’. Before SMI came, there was peace in the project area. The SMI reply to the HRIA had the gall to quote CHR Commissioner Loretta Rosales, “the government aims to foster economic development”. How, by risking our food security for the benefit of foreign multinationals?
SMI disagrees with the HRIA statement that “a responsible open pit mine of this magnitude does not seem feasible”. Even mining multinationals worldwide have admitted that open-pit is the most destructive form of mining, and here is SMI claiming that its staggering 3- to 4-cubic kilometer open-pit, one of the largest in the world is ‘safe’.
SMI says the CHR “believes that the Project may have significant human rights risks but at the same time it ‘holds chances to improve the economic situation in the area’”. Are they justifying the killings of B’laans to improve the economic situation? Whose economic situation?
SMI boasts of having “129 resolutions supporting the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project from various stakeholder groups”. How come they never got the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) in the mine site area, without which their ECC is illegal? How did they get these resolutions? SMI was accused by irrigators of dividing their ranks by secretly giving ‘benefits’ to some irrigators if they reverse their stand against SMI. SMI has caused a war within irrigators’ associations. They even got a ex-priest as consultant to convince parishioners to support SMI. SMI hires anti-mining professionals as consultants. How were the SMI resolutions achieved?
SMI dares to quote the known mining agent in the MICC, Cesar Purisima, “we need to harness the wealth that has been endowed to our country…to alleviate poverty”. This should read “to cause poverty” if we are to talk of destruction of sustainable agriculture in favor of unsustainable mining.
It quotes half a dozen bishops saying in a pastoral letter that they are open to supporting open-pit mining as long as they are given “incontrovertible proof that open-pit mining is not destructive”. They were not given any proof by SMI. By simply stating “we agree”, SMI thinks it has proven so.
“SMI provides training and support”. But it is sometimes selective. They ask their scholars, as a ‘favor’, to man barricades against visiting journalists, who were to talk to B’laans about human rights violations. They use people they educate as pawns to suppress opposition.
SMI talks of “the culture of dependency as a myth” by making B’laans capable through education, when they induce dependency by converting sustainable subsistence farmers to short term minimum wage workers for the mining firm. The farmers are seduced by the cash, spend it on karaoke and beer, and abandon farming, some losing their lands permanently. This is the greatest social crime of mining, inducing poverty and dependence by destroying subsistence and fostering cash economy.
SMI openly admits “contribution of PhP1 million annually to the KITACO Secretariat … “as an important strategy in … the maintenance of peace and order.” When these resources are used against the people opposing the mining firm, the financing of the military by a mining firm becomes immoral and illegal because it polarizes the military to its side against the interests of locals the military is mandated to protect, inducing further human rights violations. Funding by mining firms of the military is a very dangerous and unacceptable immoral practice.
If you overlay a map of mining projects in the Philippines with a map of military presence, you note that they sit side by side. You will realize how the government has permitted the multinationals to use the military to suppress resident in their project areas. Mining multinationals use guns and bread. With their vast financial resources, they work on the premise that ‘everybody has his price’, whether you are a senator or a farmer. This is how SMI’s ECC application has cost millions of dollars, and they want their investment back by hook or by crook. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tampakan HRIA was released by the Institut für Entwicklung und Frieden (INEF), (Institute for Development and Peace, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany) in June 2013. It was commissioned by a triumvirate of European Catholic Institutions – Bischöfl iches Hilfswerk MISEREOR e.V. (German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation, Katholisches Hilfswerk FASTENOPFER (Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund), and Evangelische Entwicklungsorganisation Brot für alle (Bread for All, Swiss).
This article is being sent to government – President Aquino, TWG members – presidential advisers Neric Acosta and Bebet Gozun, DENR, DILG, PMS, DTI, DOT, DOST, DAR, DA, DOE, CCC, NEDA, LPP, PCSD, PLLO; non-members DBM, NICA, NCIP, CHR, MGB; private sector – MVP-Philex; ngo-Church-academe Misereor, CBCP-NASSA, AMRSP, the funders and authors of the HRIA, CCCP, CPA-led consortium, Ateneo de Davao and de Manila, local and international green ngos; selected media outlets; global public – 10,000 mine-watchers here and abroad.
***************** Important links –
Implications of a collapsed Tampakan mega-dam – KILLER DAM, Part 1. Environmental impact. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoYTNEli8gA Part 2. Socio-economic impact. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYKlv2mV78c Part 3. Rebuttals against miners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASnONalr4Fo The Tampakan Massacre. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIyoAFCHRUk The complete text of the HRIA.
The complete text of the SMI reply to the HRIA.