In September MiningWatch received numerous urgent reports and pictures from the Philippines about a struggle between a local tribal group and a Canadian mining company, TVI Pacific. Calgary-based TVI (Toronto Ventures Incorporated) is accused of harassment and intimidation of indigenous Subanen people in the Philippines who are trying to stop the company from conducting exploratory drilling in preparation for opening a mine on their ancestral land. Local NGOs and six local Catholic bishops have documented violent dispersal, physical assault and harassment, illegal entry, food and economic blockades, and illegal/warrantless arrests and detention of Subanen people and of small-scale miners in the area.
The Subanen and the small-scale miners, with whom they have a good relationship, have been struggling to stop the incursion of TVI on their area since 1995. TVI now holds mining rights over 508 hectares of land within the 6,557 hectares that makes up part of Subanen ancestral domain in the municipality of Siocon, in the province of Zamboanga del Norte on the southern island of Mindanao. The Subanen filed an indigenous land claim in 1992. Their claim was only recognised in 1998, one year after TVI acquired the rights to mine in the area — making it difficult for the Subanen to exercise their right, under the Indigenous People's Rights Act, to deny access to the company.
TVI has recently reported financial backing by "Japanese investors" and has resumed test drills after aborting mineral production in 1998 due in part to strong opposition from both the Subanen tribe and the small-scale miners. Osino Mato, Secretary of the Siocon Subanen Association, protests: "We made an ancestral land claim in 1992 before TVI were ever here but the company has been allowed to go ahead and our claim has been blocked. This is our land. We have always lived here." He says, "I don't believe the Government in Canada know what is going on in our place. I do not believe TVI give an honest report."
MiningWatch Canada issued a press release on September 15 and is following up with several reporters and NGOs.