‘Expose SMI-Xstratas lies of responsible mining’

Oct. 06, 2007

Panalipdan! Mindanao, a network of church and sectoral organizations and NGOs, issued a statement in support of the outburst of community resistance taking place in Tampakan, South Cotabato this week. The current community actions center on the refusal of the company to regularize more than two hundred of its workers despite its obligation under Philippine Labor Code.

Big mining companies storm into local communities promising social and economic development to the residents. Yet, the experience of SMI workers from Tampakan has shown what kind of shallow development these large mining companies bring our communities: low-paid work without job security, not to mention the massive environmental destruction, said Sr. Diane Cabasagan, RGS, spokesperson of Panalipdan! The group chided SMI for steadily doling out money for socio-economic projects to appease local leaders, buying their passive consent to the mining project, promising thousands of jobs and other benefits.

Tampakan is host to the multi-national mining giant Sagittarius Mines, Inc. Xstrata. SMI-Xstrata is spearheading the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project that is one of the Macapagal-Arroyo governments priority mining projects and said to be the largest undeveloped copper reserve in Southeast Asia. The project formerly involved the controversial Western Mining Corporation that was the center of the Supreme Courts decision declaring the Mining Act of 1995 as unconstitutional in January 2004. The Courts decision was later totally reversed in December 2004.

Workers barricades in Tampakan this week shut down SMIs main office in Tampakan, its core farm, and Competence Center. Gasoline trucks have not been able to pass through to fuel ongoing drilling operations. SMI-Xstrata refuses to engage in dialogue with the workers and the local government while the barricades are ongoing. Meanwhile, the company boasts of a community relations program founded on community dialogue that is the core of its program for sustainable and responsible mining.

The disrespect SMI-Xstrata has shown the local government of Tampakan, the workers, and land owners by not honoring previous agreements and not engaging in constructive dialogue is an omen of what should be expected if the mine is ever fully operational, Cabasagan said. The Mining Act of 1995 has been a wholesale sell out of our environment, farmlands, labor power, and local government authority.

The group lauded the recent statement of the SMI Workers Association which called on all effected sectors and read: [The management] of SMI-Xstrata just wants to grab up minerals and get rich while Tampakan will eventually become a ghost city, like a cemetery without life.

Panalipdan! said that the recent rash of protest actions and incidents around large-scale mining projects throughout the country indicates why the Mining Act of 1995 should be repealed. The group was referring to the blockades set up in Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya in July preventing exploration by Oxiana Philippines, and the killing of Armin R. Marin in Sibuyan Island on October 3 at a protest against Sibuyan Nickel Property Development Corp. Only concerted action by various sectors can effectively push pro-people and environmentally responsible mining based on a program of national industrialization and mineral use for our peoples benefit.

Panalipdan also called on communities in Colombio, Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur to join in solidarity protest actions with the people in Tampakan. SMIs Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement covers areas of these three municipalities. SMI-Xstrata is now in extended exploration despite its permit expiring on August 17, 2007.

Panalipdan! Mindanao was formed at a Mindanao-wide gathering of environmental advocates, church people, and indigenous people in January 2006. Panalipdan! promotes a peoples mining policy that lobbies for a mining industry that benefits the Filipino nation and the industrialization of the country. ###

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