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Vendetta from the Chamber of Mines

February 27, 2012 ·  By Bernie Lopez, Eastwind journals ­ Opinyon Magazine

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Vendetta from the Chamber of Mines

A two-day International Conference on Mining in Mindanao is held at Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) conducted by the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines with a theme “Mina para sa Nasudnong Interes sa Katawhang Pilipino.”

A few weeks ago. the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines attacked in a full page ad in the Inquirer the Ateneo de Davao mining conference for failing to invite them. But it seems now they are doing the same to the anti-mining advocates in their own recent affair at the Mariott, a case of ‘an eye for an eye’.

The Davao conference exposed the potentials for a mega-disaster in the Tampakan mining project of SMI-Xstrata. In reply, the Chamber conference invited four mayors from the project impact area, who had been awarded millions in ‘development funds’ by SMI, to root for the mining project.

An NGO spokesman said, “This war between a powerful multinational and Filipinos is a test if Noynoy is truly pro-Filipino, as he claimed, or pro-foreigner.” The President is set to issue a revised mining policy by the end of February.

The Chamber of Mines launched a conference for the embattled SMI-Xstrata (Sagittarius Mining Inc.), which is licking its wound from a DENR blow, the denial of the ECC for its Tampakan gold-copper open-pit mining project in South Cotabato. SMI admitted in their EIA that after 20 years of massive extraction, they will leave behind in perpetuity a mega-dam with a scary 1.35 billion-metric-ton of toxic mud atop a mountain below Central Mindanao’s bread basket.

At the Mariott, there were no anti-mining advocates around except the author, who came uninvited. They claimed they invited a few, but the governor who has the open-pit ban that triggered the ECC denial, and other SMI oppositors were nowhere to be found. The bishops and NGOs who are vocal against the Tampakan project were also nowhere to be found. It was purely a pro-mining affair more for the media than for the attendees.

In the mining area, anti-mining B’laans also reported that they were prevented from voting in the public consultations dominated by pro-mining advocates. This was long before the Chamber accused Ateneo of not inviting their side. The B’laans were made to sign a paper to be given lunch, and claimed this was used as evidence they agreed to the project.

The four mayors are from Malungon in Saranggani, Tampakan in South Cotabato, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur, and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat. They could see the funds for development projects, but could not see the risks which may negate those very developments, namely the possibility of inundating about half a million hectares of lush farmlands with toxic mud.

Three bishops have formed an alliance against the SMI project, the KIDMADI, short for the dioceses of Kidapawan, Marbel, and Digos. The bishops are asking for a five-year mining moratorium on top of the open-pit ban. Many feel the ban can easily be reverted by SMI ‘development funds’, which make local government officials blind to the dangers posed by the tailings dam to their people.

SMI admitted in their EIA that, after 20 years, they would leave behind a void of about 3.5 square kilometers 800 meters deep and a toxic rock pile of about 1.65 billion metric tons, which, when exposed to oxygen (air and rain water), would produce massive amounts of acid. This can easily leak into the aquifer (underground water system) if their containment and treatment facilities are too small to handle immense volumes of acid water during a Sendong-type typhoon. Poisoned aquifers, which are sources of vital drinking water and for agriculture, cannot be rehabilitated, says British environment expert Clive Wicks.

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