The Mining Act has violated constitutional provisions restricting foreign participation in key sectors, and allowed big local and foreign business to cover up the plunder of the country’s resources
Research group IBON reiterated the call for government to junk the 20-year-old Philippine Mining Act after a portion of the mining pit collapsed and buried miners in the country’s largest coal-producing Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) in Antique.
At least five miners, mostly vehicle and machine operators, were buried alive when a northern wall of the SMPC Panian mining pit collapsed the other day. Three others remain missing. This would be the second major accident at the Consunji-owned SMPC. Five miners died while another five went missing when a portion of the same pit’s western wall collapsed in February 2013.
IBON said that the recent mining disasters bring to fore not only safety issues in the workplace but moreover the dangers that large-scale mining poses on the people’s lives and livelihood. This should compel government to repeal Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The law has allowed the operation of big local and foreign corporations in large scale mining nationwide, undermining farming and indigenous communities and compromising the Philippine environment.
The last two Semirara accidents add to a string of mining disasters since the enactment of Republic Act 7942 in 1995. Aside from human deaths, large-scale mining operations have damaged dams, caused soil and water pollution due to excessive tailings, caused siltation, contamination and damage to agricultural lands, caused fish kill and other damages to marine life, buried or damaged houses in tailings and flash floods, isolated villages, caused dust fallout and air pollution, triggered massive evacuation and various illnesses.
For example, at least twelve people were killed when the dam foundation at the tailings pond of the Manila Mining Corporation’s copper-gold project in Placer, Surigao del Norte collapsed in September 1995. The following year, the controversial Marcopper Mining Corporation spilled an estimated 2-3 million cubic meters of tailings causing the evacuation of 1,200 residents, filling with tailings and rendering unusable the Makulaquit and Boac River systems, and isolating five villages with flashfloods. Lafayette Philippines Inc. saw consecutive mining disasters in Rapu-Rapu, Albay from 2005 through 2007 involving excessive toxic cyanide levels that led to fish kills, contamination of coastal waters and heavy metal substances appearing in soil, water and sediment samples as well as in the urine and blood of some community residents. Mine tailings from Philex Mining Corp in Itogon, Benguet (2012) and Citinickel Mines and Development Corp in Palawan (2012 and 2014) contaminated the Balog and Agno Rivers and the Pinagduguan, Pasi and Pulot Rivers respectively, followed by reports of decreased harvest and fish kills in the said areas.
The research group added that large-scale mining has otherwise not contributed to the economy. For instance, some 98% of Philippine mineral production is exported for use by other countries’ steel industries while the country has none despite its being one of the world’s top producers of gold, copper and nickel.
The Mining Act has allowed foreign control of mining operations and granted incentives and rights to foreign investors. According to IBON, this has violated constitutional provisions restricting foreign participation in key sectors, and allowed big local and foreign business to cover up the plunder of the country’s resources. (end)