Thu, Sep 07, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Manila mining conference sees protests

GAINING MOMENTUM:Protesters have the backing of the president, who said he supports a ban on open-pit mining, which the government has sought to restrict

Reuters, MANILA

An anti-mining protester speaks during a rally outside the Sofitel Philippine Plaza hotel, where an annual mining conference is being held in Pasay, Metro Manila, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

About 300 protesters yesterday clashed with security at Manila’s Sofitel Philippine Plaza hotel where an annual mining conference was being held, demanding that mineral extraction be halted due to the environmental destruction caused.

The rally came a day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared he supported a ban on open-pit mining in the Southeast Asian nation, a move that could constrict supply from the world’s top nickel ore exporters.

“Words are not enough, he must act on it,” said lawyer Aaron Pedrosa of Sanlakas (One Force), an activist political group that was among the protesters. “We are here to express our opposition to mining in our country and the failure of mining companies to rehabilitate mining areas.”

Anti-mining protests are a fixture at mining industry events in the Philippines. Some of the protesters, clad in business suits, managed to get past hotel security and into the lobby, where they held up placards denouncing mining.

Outside the hotel, other protesters, including those from indigenous communities, chanted and held streamers reading “stop mining plunder” and “no to large-scale mining.” The hotel was locked down for at least an hour.

Mining is a contentious issue in the largely underexplored Philippines, following past examples of environmental mismanagement.

In 1996, a tailings leak at Canadian-owned Marcopper Mining Corp’s copper mine in Marinduque contaminated rivers.

The sector contributes less than 1 percent to the economy and only 3 percent of the 9 million hectares the state has identified as having high mineral reserves are being mined, government data show.

Last month, lawmakers allied with Duterte filed a bill seeking to ban mining in watershed areas, as well as exports of unprocessed ores. The bill would also require miners to get legislative approval before operating.

The move came after a 10-month mining crackdown led by former interim Philippine Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Regina Lopez, who ordered the closure or suspension of 26 of the country’s 41 mines and banned open-pit mining.

Lopez failed to be confirmed in her post by lawmakers and was in May replaced by Roy Cimatu, a former soldier who has so far not reversed any of her previous measures.

Gerard Brimo, president of Nickel Asia Corp, one of the Philippine’s largest nickel ore producers, said the industry would like to show Duterte old mines that have been rehabilitated, including open pits.

Open-pit extraction is allowed under Philippine mining law and is widely used, as most ore is near the surface and low-grade.

“If you want minerals and metals ... that’s the reality. That’s the case in the Philippines as it is all over the world. But the other reality is that it can be rehabilitated,” Brimo said.

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