20 September 2018
Protesters led by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) stormed the International Conference of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), decrying what they called “a whitewash” by government and big business over the recent mining disaster in Itogon, Benguet. Police violently blocked the peaceful protest. Some 9 of the protesters were arrested and detained at the Pasay City Hall.
“We vehemently reject the chorus of the Chamber of Mines and the Duterte government in victim-blaming the small-scale miners that died in the Itogon disaster. Benguet Corporation has criminally neglected its obligation to rehabilitate their abandoned mine site and has sabotaged attempts by small-scale miners to self-regulate. The Duterte government is complicit for derailing the suspension order that would have compelled Benguet Corp. to rehabilitate their abandoned mine,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The massive landslide in the mining town triggered by Typhoon Ompong resulted in casualties feared to number up to over 100 people, mostly small-scale miners.
The environment group said BC’s abandoned mine has a track record of geological risks. In 2015, their abandoned mine caused a sinkhole that swallowed six houses and displaced 166. In November 2016, its unrehabilitated Antamok open pit mine also figured in a 50,000 metric-ton tailings leak.
“Small-scale miners actually attempted to apply for regulations through an application for a ‘Minahang Bayan.’ Benguet Corp., as tenement holder over the area, opposed this effort likely to maintain their control over the area’s mineral resources,” Dulce explained.
“This is just one mine site that was supposed to have been suspended. There are mining closure or suspension orders for 28 big mines found violating environmental and socio-economic regulations that were stayed by the Office of the President itself. Is Duterte going to wait for another disaster to happen in any of these sites before he starts walking his talk?,” he furthered.
The protesters also raised that harassments, illegal arrests and detentions, trumped-up charges, and extrajudicial killings are replete in at least 20 of these 28 mines.
“Major sponsors of the Chamber’s conference such as Filminera in Masbate and OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya have a plethora of human rights violations monitored in their mine sites. At least nine killings involved peasants in Masbate who were from communities that mobilized against Filminera’s destructive operations,” Dulce said.
“These big mines have blood all over their hands. Duterte’s inaction over these mining atrocities makes him as guilty as these plunderers,” he concluded.#