BAGUIO CITY: Mining-affected communities in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Zambales have claimed that large-scale mining companies, which had been shut down by the government, are defying the mine closure and suspension orders by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“The closure and suspension of big mining companies remain standing and in force but these notorious offenders are still operating with impunity. These corporations should be penalized for stonewalling against the government’s regulations and prolonging the suffering of affected communities,” Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), said.
Indigenous Ifugaos under the Samahang Pang-Karapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa (Sapakkmmi) and the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Inang Kalikasan (Annvik) from Nueva Vizcaya picketed the offices of Australian-Canadian transnational mining corporation OceanaGold on Thursday, demanding the gold and copper mine’s compliance with the suspension of their operations.
“OceanaGold should be reinvestigated for its continued defiance of the mining suspension order of the DENR and business-as-usual operations that continue to pollute our environment and displace our livelihood,” Celia Bahag, board member of Sapakkmmi, said.
“Just recently, local state forces have heightened their harassment of our leaders to intimidate us from persisting with our opposition. This seems to be part of a recent wave of human rights violations against environment defenders to quell the resistance to environmentally destructive projects such as OceanaGold’s Didipio mine,” Bahag added.
Dulce of Kalikasan-PNE said they and other groups are exploring actions to be taken to help uphold the DENR’s decision suspending the operation of these mines, including possible legal or legislative interventions to help hasten the process.
The Movement for the Protection of the Environment in Zambales (MOVE Now! Zambales), which also picketed the offices of Benguet Corp., one of four large-scale nickel mines closed down in Zambales, has expressed alarmed over an imminent shipping out of raw ore stockpiles from the mine sites despite the firm’s supposed closure.
According to Cristeta Sison, a peasant leader and spokesman for MOVE Now! Zambales, “the big mines are trying to justify their last-ditch effort to plunder their stockpiles by [saying]it is a supposed rehabilitation measure. They should be paying for the burgeoning damages that our farmlands and fisheries have sustained through the years [without us getting]a single centavo out of our mineral wealth anymore.”
“If anything, the government should confiscate these stockpiles and ensure that their value will be used for the restoration of our agricultural lands, rivers and seas,” Sison said.
“An important step forward is to hasten the passage of House Bill 2715 or the People’s Mining Bill. This will remove the various legal impediments that big miners like Benguet Corporation and OceanaGold are exploiting to continue plundering our mineralized lands,” Dulce said.
Similarly, a suspended small-scale mining company – Westchinamin –allegedly continues extracting fresh nickel laterite and hauling stockpiles and loading these on a ships docked in the towns of Candelaria and Santa Cruz in Zambales.
Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz (CCOS) chairman Benito Molino has described the extraction activities of Westchinamin as illegal because it is using heavy equipment under a rehabilitation permit, not a mining permit.
A memorandum of agreement was signed between Westchinamin and the provincial government of Zambales in November “to bring down abandoned old stockpiles in the guise of environmental rehabilitation.”