Philippine Province Bans Open Pit Mining – Affects TVI Pacific’s Operations

(Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Canada/Dipolog, Philippines) The government of Zamboanga del Norte in the Philippines has issued an ordinance prohibiting new open pit mines in the province.

The ordinance took effect on November 6, 2011 and also requires closure of Canadian mining company TVI Pacific’s Canatuan copper-zinc project by November 2012. Future expansion plans may also be impacted.

“An Ordinance Protecting and Conserving the Integrity of the Land and Water Resources in Zamboanga del Norte” references the need to “protect and conserve” the province's “land and water resources” in order to “promote [its] agri-base economy” and to “protect and advance the right of the people to healthy survival and food security.”

This ban reflects growing concern by local communities and government units in the Philippines about the negative impacts of mining on existing food security and future development potential. These concerns are also expressed in a growing number of mining moratoriums issued by municipalities and by provincial governments.

“The destruction of our land and natural resources through open pit mining is irreversible and the forced displacement of communities contradicts the real meaning of development, or should we ask 'development for whom?'” says Daniel Castillo, Director of the Dipolog Committee on Mining Initiatives, a Church-based support group in Zamboanga del Norte.

“We applaud the provincial government for listening to the clamour of the people, particularly the mining affected communities, to protect their land, water and food resources,” says Ricky Esguerra of the Toronto-based Philippine Network for Justice and Peace.

TVI Pacific has issued a release stating it will pursue legal action to prevent the implementation of the ordinance.

“This ordinance has to be read as a clear statement of local opposition to the operations of TVI Pacific,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “The Government of Canada has endorsed guidelines for Canadian extractive companies that mandate that companies should only operate with broad community consent, which is clearly lacking here and will not be remedied by TVI Pacific’s litigious response.”

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace said that this case illustrates yet again why the Canadian government cannot leave it to Southern host governments to ensure that Canadian companies act responsibly in countries where governance is weak. The Zamboanga del Norte government’s attempts to protect the local population are laudable, it said, but that government now needs strong support to implement this ordinance, in the face of opposition from TVI Pacific.

Development and Peace carried out a three-year campaign in Canada from 2005 to 2008, calling for an accountability mechanism in Ottawa for Canadian mining, oil and gas companies in their overseas operations. This new case shows yet again how necessary such a measure is, the organization said.

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