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#SupportGina: DENR unionists, environmental activists unite to support Gina Lopez’s big mining campaign


24 February 2017


#SupportGina: DENR unionists, environmental activists unite to support Gina Lopez’s big mining campaign

QUEZON CITY—Around 100 environmental activists under the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and members of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Employees Union (DENR-EU) held a joint action at the DENR Central Office to express their support for Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s crackdown on erring large-scale mines.


“We oppose the moves of big mining lobbyists to sabotage Sec. Lopez’s closure and suspension of 28 large-scale mines by blocking her confirmation. Where is the due process long denied from farmers and fisher folk suffering from displacement and environmental destruction if you sabotage the public servant who finally heeds their calls?,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.


Worsening Impunity

The environment group said the decision of Sec. Lopez to close down large-scale mining operations can be scientifically corroborated, noting that some of these closed or suspended mines were subjected to rapid independent scientific investigations by their network’s experts and were found to have caused adverse environmental and socio-economic impacts years prior to the audit.


The Didipio mine of Australian-Canadian mining transnational corporation OceanaGold, a large-scale mine suspended by Sec. Lopez’s mining audit, was found in a 2014 environmental investigation mission (EIM) to have caused massive water pollution in the river systems that flowed through the mine site.


Sediment samples gathered had copper concentrations that were 6.5 to 7.4 times greater than the severe-effect level for riverbed organisms. Water samples, meanwhile, had copper concentrations two times over safety levels for irrigation use and eight times greater than the maximum level for the survival of organisms.


A 2015 EIM in Zambales, meanwhile, a flood mapping revealed that five out of six observed river systems were main sources of massive flooding for the municipality of Sta. Cruz, including three that were directly affected by massive siltation from the four big mines up for closure.


“The mining audit actually establishes a pattern of impunity by big mines since it found big mining operations still violating environmental and social standards years after our independent scientific investigations found them guilty of environmental pollution and community displacement,” explained Bautista.


The groups also said majority of the closed and suspended mines were in areas where anti-mining activists and communities have been subjected to extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations (HRVs). At least 20 of the mines are in areas where activists and communities were harassed, intimidated, slapped with harassment lawsuits, subjected to militarization, and other HRVs. Six companies are associated with killings of environment defenders. A total of 85 killings involving anti-mining activists and community members have been monitored by Kalikasan PNE since 2001.


“The killings, militarization and other human rights violations in mining-affected areas should also be a strong basis for suspension and closure of big mines,” Bautista added.


Bolder Steps

The groups said the closure and suspension of large-scale mines should be upheld and followed through with further scientific investigation into these mines’ long-term impacts.


“The DENR should uphold the closure and suspension of these mines and take bolder steps to hold these mines accountable. They should cooperate with social movements and the academe to study the far-reaching effects of these mines to the people’s livelihood, health, and environment. This would be the basis of the damages that companies must compensate to the people and the environment,” said Bautista.


“The audit results also fully demonstrated the many gaping holes in our mining policy that is being abused by the big mining companies to sabotage their closure and suspension. Sec. Lopez should work with progressive legislators in Congress to push for a new mining policy that ensures a policy of national industrialization, environment safety, and respect of people’s rights in the mining industry,” ended Bautista.#