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Philippine green groups launch ‘Mining Hell Week,’ hit plan to lift ban on open-pit mines

The activists said the Philippine government should not rely on mining for the country’s economic recovery

Anti-mining and human rights activists denounced the reported plan of the government to lift the ban on open-pit mining in the country as they launched on Monday what they described as Mining Hell Week.”

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of the group Alyansa Tigil Mina, said “allowing open-pit mining is another act of betrayal” by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Various pro-environment groups and human rights activists declared their resistance against mining policies that cater to large mining corporations at the online launch of weeklong activities on October 25.

“Duterte has absolutely reversed the gains toward rational mining and the protection of the country’s natural resources,” said Garganera in a statement.

“By declaring mining as an essential industry, issuing EO 130, and now lifting the ban on open-pit mining, Duterte gives a go-signal for large corporations to plunder our natural resources,” he added.

In April, Duterte issued Executive Order 130, which lifted the moratorium on mining applications; reduced the role of local government units in accepting or rejecting mining projects; reversed the administrative orders to suspend or cancel mining contracts that violated environmental laws.

Melody Asia of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc, meanwhile, said “the government should not rely on mining for the country’s economic recovery.”

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She said the country’s mining industry “does not even significantly contribute to the country’s GDP.”

Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau shows that mining’s contribution to the annual GDP is less than 1%.

Asia said “mining neither significantly contributes to the provision of jobs as annual employment is only 190,000.”

Church leaders and representatives of the Dioceses of Marbel in the southern Philippines march to the provincial capitol in the province of South Cotabato to submit a petition opposing the operation of open-pit mines in the province on Oct. 4, 2021. (Photo supplied by the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel)

Judy Pasimio of the group In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement said people have been paying a steep price due to large-scale mining.

“While the government encourages firms to profit from mining, it tolerates infractions and injustices against communities,” she said.

“We will never forget the human rights violations from one administration to the next, and will hold accountable these ‘leaders,’ especially in the coming elections,” she said.

Garganera said that in the run-up to the May 2022 elections, “we will continue to raise our voice against mining and the leaders who promote the agenda of the extractives industry.”

“We will push for the election of candidates who have a clear pro-people and pro-environment agenda and who will put communities and the environment above the profiteering mining sector,” he said.

A diocese in the southern Philippines has earlier launched a signature campaign to oppose moves to lift a ban on open-pit mining in the province of South Cotabato.

Open-pit mining, also known as open-cast or open-cut mining and in larger contexts mega-mining, is a surface mining technique of extracting rock or minerals from the earth from an open-air pit.

It is opposed by pro-environment groups because the process causes changes to vegetation, soil, and bedrock, which ultimately contributes to changes in surface hydrology and groundwater levels.

In 2013, the Diocese of Marbel launched a campaign aimed at educating voters on the stand of candidates on the mining issue in the province.

In March, the municipal council of Tampakan passed a resolution seeking the lifting of the provincial ban on open-pit mining.

The existing ban is reported to be the reason behind the delay of the development of the Tampakan Mining Project, Southeast Asia’s largest known undeveloped copper and gold minefield.

The Tampakan copper-gold mine in Mindanao is the single largest foreign direct investment in the Philippines. It has the potential of yielding an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold per year.

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