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Governor Will Stop Norwegian Mine Project

Local authorities are preparing court action to stop the nickel projects planned by Crew Minerals ASA on the Philippine island of Mindoro. The partly Norwegian-owned Crew Minerals also lacks approval from an extremely critically disposed indigenous population in the area of operation.
Artikkelen er mer enn to år gammel. Ting kan ha endret seg.
Local authorities are preparing court action to stop the nickel projects planned by Crew Minerals ASA on the Philippine island of Mindoro. The partly Norwegian-owned Crew Minerals also lacks approval from an extremely critically disposed indigenous population in the area of operation.

First published in Norwegian 23 Sept 2007

By Knut-Erik Helle (text and photos)
>> Read full feature story

Crew Minerals ASA plans to produce 60,000 tonnes of valuable nickel yearly in the operating area in the mountains of Mindoro. The start-up, planned to take place in 2011, is expected to cost 1,7 billion USD.

But the giant adventure may now end before the company can start operations. The provincial governor of Mindoro, Arnan Panaligan, is preparing court action to put a stop to the mining project permanently. In 2002 the province instituted a 25-year moratorium against any kind of mining operation on the island, and Crew Minerals’ test drilling for nickel is thereby at variance with local legislation. The case is about to end up in the Philippine Supreme Court.

To the Supreme Court
“We are now working to take legal action against Crew Minerals ASA for breach of our moratorium against mining operations”, Arnan Panaligan told Norwatch. “The company will insist that the national authorities have given permission for the test drilling for nickel on Mindoro. We are prepared to take court action and feel sure that we can defend our legislation. We are fighting for our environment and the welfare of the local population here”, the governor established.

Hans Christian Qvist, managing director of Crew Minerals ASA, is not afraid that local moratoriums against mining operations or local opposition can stop the project. “Local moratoriums are disallowed by the state government. Previously we had to have a series of permissions from the local authorities, but not any more. Now everything takes place at the national level”, the mining director explained to Norwatch.
At present it is the Ministry of Justice in the Philippines that claims that the local moratoriums are in conflict with the country’s Constitution. It will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether the local moratoriums are legally binding.

Food Security
Food security and possible environmental damage are the main reasons that the local authorities now want the projects stopped. The area suggested for mining operations is located in an ecologically vulnerable area with watershed. Operations here can have large negative consequences.

“Mining operations in watersheds is prohibited according to Philippine legislation. If we get large-scale mining operations in this area, it will intensify the flooding problem in our province. It will create great problems for our population and for the important agricultural areas here”, Governor Arnan Panaligan claims.

Mindoro is known to be “Manila’s food granary”, and large floods have previously destroyed entire crops in the province.

Approval from the Indigenous Population
To receive final approval for mining operations, Crew Minerals is in addition dependent on approval from the local indigenous population, the Mangyans. Hans Christian Qvist, the managing director, admitted to Norwatch that these agreements are not ready yet but claimed that the company has a good dialogue with the indigenous population and that they are prepared to accept mining operations on the land areas where they live.

Several of the leaders of the indigenous population have, however, expressed to Norwatch that they will fight against Crew Minerals’s mining project, which will occupy approximately 100 km2 of jungle.

“No matter what happens, we will fight for the land we have inherited. We will not let anyone destroy our jungle. We are poor, and still they want to destroy the land we have inherited from our ancestors”, Ramil Baldo of the Alangan tribe told Norwatch.

His father is also worried: “If they continue with their plans for mining operations, what will happen to us? We did not invite them here to our jungle. They just came”, said Maximo Baldo.

Dependent on the Jungle
The Alangans of the Mangyan tribe are dependent on the jungle to carry out shifting cultivation, and the forest provides the indigenous population with much of what they need to maintain their traditions. In addition, the forest has an important spiritual significance.

“When I saw that the mining company had started working in the forest, I became frightened. I felt the forest’s own fear. That is how it is for us. This is not what our ancestors wanted for the forest. The mining operations will just make rich people richer”, tribal leader Ramil Baldo told Norwatch.

Not only the local authorities and parts of the indigenous population but also environmental organizations and the Catholic church in the Philippines are strongly opposed to the mining project on Mindoro.

Catastrophic Deforestation
Crew Minerals’s planned mining project involves approximately a fifth of the remaining forest on Mindoro. The previous deforestation of the island was catastrophic. In the fifties the forest covered a million hectares; today only 50,000 hectares remain for the unique and endemic biodiversity of the island.

The mining area is located in the heart of the suggested nature preserve Mangyan Heritage Park and is designated by the authorities as an “extremely high priority” area for plants, animals and birds.

“Opposition to our mining project is due to lack of information”, according to Qvist, the managing director. He believes that previous irresponsible mining operations have coloured the opinion of many on Mindoro. The company will use the time up until project start-up in 2011 to provide good information and show the big picture.

Norwegian Owners in Crew Minerals ASA
Of the 20 largest investors in Crew Minerals ASA, a total of 13 are Norwegian companies and funds. Altogether the 13 Norwegian investors control almost 29% of the company.