Don’t lift open-pit mine ban
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment strongly condemns the recommendation to revoke the landmark ban on open-pit mining by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC). While President Duterte and his Cabinet still have a chance to not heed this recommendation, the unanimous decision of his handpicked henchmen Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, cochairs of the MICC, is as good as a stamp of approval from Mr. Duterte himself.
All the bluster about holding large-scale mines accountable has just been hot air.
Let us recall that the premise of Mr. Duterte’s appointment of ex-general Cimatu to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is his supposed military firmness in holding big mines and destructive projects accountable. This is far from Cimatu’s actual subservience to mining oligarchs by repudiating the open-pit mining ban and other remarkable regulations instituted by his predecessor, the bold and fiery Gina Lopez.
Prohibiting open-pit mining in the context of the Mining Act of 1995 promoting the impunity of land-grabbing, plunder, and pollution should have been one of the clearest expressions of Mr. Duterte’s promise of social justice — his promise that change is coming.
We have seen numerous open-pit mines left abandoned and unrehabilitated, leaking toxics and slowly murdering surrounding ecosystems. The argument that only pre-Mining Act open-pit mines are abandoned is belied by one of the earliest “flagship” large-scale mines under former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s mining revitalization program, the Rapu-Rapu polymetallic mine in Albay.
A 2015 environmental investigation mission by scientist group Agham revealed that the Rapu-Rapu mine was left unrehabilitated even after its South Korean owner, Kores, spent P158 million. 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 below the DENR standards for irrigation.
Various frontline communities in the country are struggling against open-pit mine projects to avert the risk of mine disasters and to take back the lands and forests in which their villages thrived. In Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, the indigenous Ifugao are protesting Australian-Canadian miner OceanaGold’s Didipio mine. Across four provinces in Mindanao, indigenous lumad communities have succeeded in delaying the Tampakan mining project.
We call on the Filipino people to stand firm in the principle that destructive mining is not welcome in our lands, and to fight tooth and nail against the Duterte regime’s attempt to sneak the country’s mining crisis past the public’s vigilance.
CLEMENTE BAUTISTA, national coordinator, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
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