Canadian Mining Firm Pulls Out Its Operations Amid People Power Protests

by Filipino Post

Romblon, PHILIPPINES — People power has chased away Canadian mining giant, Ivanhoe, from the Philippines –  a move analysts say will impact future exploration projects in the cash strapped Southeast Asian nation.

Ivanhoe Philippines, a subsidiary of Canada-based Ivanhoe Mines, cited low priority exploration target in withdrawing its applications for its project on Tablas Island.

Leo Deiparine, the firm’s president, in a letter sent to the Philippines Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).said there was a consensus decision by the company to withdraw its applications based on Tablas as a low priority exploration target, and the strong opposition of local politicians for the approval of the applications.

Tablas is the largest of the islands that comprise the province of Romblon in the Philippines.

“The power of the people and the political will of the leaders with the help of the civil society and religious sector clearly manifest the strong position of the province. We will continue to defend the right of our people to a balanced and healthy ecology,” said Romblon Governor Eduardo Firmalo.

The Romblon Ecumenical Forum against Mining has now called for the scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the passage of a new mining law to rationalize the minerals industry, protect and promote human rights and establish so-called “no-go zones”.

Its conveners, Catholic priest Nonato Ernie Fetalino and Philippine Independent Church Bishop Ronelio Fabriquer said in a joint statement: “This victory of the people is just the beginning; the challenge to protect our islands is a life-long commitment. We are in the middle of a spiritual battle against greed and corruption. We shall continue to defend the integrity of creation and human rights.”

“If the province of Romblon can do it, the local government units and communities in other parts of the country resisting this destructive industry can now stand up more proudly to assert their power to decide.”

Ivanhoe’s departure sends a signal to the Canadian mining industry that Philippines may not be the best place to do business, said a Vancouver-based analyst.

“The company has spent millions on this project but in the long run if you do not get local support, this may have been the best thing to do,” he told the Filipino Post.

Philippines has vast amounts of gold, nickel, copper and other valuable minerals. The government estimates the Philippines has 83 billion tonnes of mineral ore deposits.

The country’s estimated gold ore reserves of four billion tonnes is the world’s third largest, its 7.9 billion tonnes of copper the fourth largest and the 815 million tonnes of nickel ore the fifth biggest in the world, it says.It said the country’s mineral reserves are estimated to be worth about $800 billion, and the industry could raise about $2.2 billion annually, enough to wipe out the country’s fiscal deficit.

This has attracted many Canadian companies to the Philippines who hold dozens of permits. They include  Altai Resources Inc, Canada Resources Corporation, Crazy Horse Resources Inc, MBMI Resources Inc, Metallum Resources Inc, Mindoro Resources Ltd, Panoro Minerals Ltd, Philex Gold Inc, Philippine Metals Inc, Rugby Mining Ltd, and Tiger International Resources Ltd, and 6 Toronto Stock Exchange mining companies with 28 properties in the Philippines, namely, CGA Mining Ltd, Crew Gold Corporation, Medusa Mining Ltd, Oceana Gold Corporation, Olympus Pacific Minerals Inc, TVI Pacific Inc.
Mining opponents have been highly critical of  Canadian investment in the Philippine mining sector saying it aids in alleged human rights violations.

Ivanhoe’s pullout comes in the wake of communist rebels in the Philippines warning of  attacks on mining companies that allegedly degrade the environment and abuse workers.

They have already raided three mines in the country’s south.

Equipment and infrastructure worth up to 1.5 billion dollars were damaged in the attacks on three mines in Claver town in Surigao del Norte province, 780 kilometres south of Manila, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said.

The communist National Democratic Front said the raids were punishment for the environmental degradation the companies cause.

“We warn other giant mining companies that the revolutionary movement is determined to defend the interest of people, including that of the environment,” it said in a statement.

“We also warn contractors who are working for these abusive giant companies that we will not hesitate to disable their mining equipment if they refuse to terminate their contracts with said companies,” it said.

The rebels also accused the three mining companies of not paying correct taxes to the government and repressing workers’ rights.

About 300 guerrillas barged into the facilities of the Taganito Mining Corp, Platinum Gold Metal Corp and Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp. They set fire to at least 132 dump trucks, seven backhoes, four barges, one generator set, other heavy equipment, and several office and housing structures.

The guerillas also seized dozens of guns from security guards.

No casualties were reported among the employees, including 20 Japanese, police said.

The three companies immediately suspended their operations.

Teresita Quintos-Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process with the communist rebels, said the attacks set back efforts to revive stalled negotiations with the leftist guerrillas.

“Peace talks are more difficult when there is no accompanying ceasefire on the ground,” she said, adding the attacks “undermine people’s confidence in the peace process.”

Communist rebels have been fighting the government since the late 1960s, making the movement one of the longest-running leftist insurgencies in Asia. It entered negotiations with the government in 1987.

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