In early October, Catherine Coumans visited the Philippines to work with three partner communities. We report on two issues — Placer Dome's responsibility for the perilous situation in Marinduque, and Crew Development Corporation's efforts to establish a nickel mine in Mindoro despite determined local opposition.
Placer Dome Subject of Congressional Inquiry: Ordered to Fix Dams at Former Operations
On October 3, Catherine went with a delegation of elected officials from mining-affected municipalities in Marinduque to visit Ian Lewis, President of Placer Dome's subsidiary (PDTS) in Manila. The three main topics of discussion were: 1) lack of progress on the clean-up of the 1996 tailings spill into the Boac River, 2) another request for a copy of a report by consultants Klohn Crippen on the status of dams and structures at the Marcopper mine site, and 3) the need for compensation for fishermen from the municipality of Mogpog who were affected by the 1996 spill of mine tailings into the Boac River and nearby coastal areas.
Lewis told the delegation that despite strong opposition by Marinduqueños to Placer Dome's plan to dump the spilled tailings into the sea as "Submarine Tailings Disposal" (STD), PDI is again considering using this option. An Environmental Compliance Certificate for STD, which had been cancelled in January by the new Arroyo administration, had mysteriously been hand-delivered to the PDTS office.
Lewis agreed that Placer Dome had commissioned and paid for the Klohn Crippen report, but again refused to provide a copy. Lewis also stated that no compensation would be given to fishermen affected by the 1996 spill outside the municipality of Boac.
On October 9, 2001, Congressman Edmund Reyes of the Island of Marinduque called a Congressional Inquiry to address these and other ongoing concerns related to Placer Dome's history of mining on the island.
The evening before the Congressional Inquiry, a letter by Vancouver engineering firm Klohn Crippen was leaked to Congressman Reyes. This letter warns of imminent danger of collapse of two of four mine structures, and notes the need for extensive repairs to two other structures. The letter expresses concern for potential loss of life when the mine top structures collapse releasing tons of toxic waste on to nearby lower-lying villages.
On October 18 the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources threatened Placer Dome, PDTS and Marcopper (the firm Placer Dome divested to in 1997) with criminal prosecution if they do not carry out the 35 recommendations in the Klohn Crippen report. The work was to start November 1. To date Placer Dome has not acted on this order.
Crew Development Corporation's Mining Permit Revoked for Environmental and Social Reasons
On October 5, Catherine spoke at a symposium organized by local villagers, NGOs, government officials and clergy on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. These Mindoreños oppose the plans of Canada's Crew Development Corporation to mine nickel high in the mountains on their island, and to dump the waste into the sea ("Submarine Tailings Disposal").
Earlier this year the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had revoked Crew's permit to mine on the basis of social unacceptability and the need to protect critical watersheds, among other reasons. This is believed to be the first time a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement has been revoked in the Philippines.
Supported in person by the Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines, Crew appealed directly to the Office of the Philippine President. On November 1, however, President Macapagal Arroyo upheld the decision of the DENR saying, among other things, that mining should only proceed if it is supported by the local community.