By Morten Rønning
On January 31 Crew Development Corporation announced that they had received a Mineral Production Agreement (MPSA) for its main concession in its wholly owned Mindoro Nickel Project in the Philippines. The agreement with the Government gave Crew an exclusive right to develop and operate mines in the area for twenty-five years with a possible extension for another twenty-five years.
The MPSA is awarded Crew's subsidiary Aglubang Mining Corporation (AMC) and covers an area of 2,291 hectares (see NorWatch 4/2001). The Estrada Administration played a central role in giving Crew a "green light" at Mindoro, despite the fact that the process of making an environmental impact assessment was not finished.
Ned de Guzman of the organisation ALAMIN says that their battle is not yet over, since they do not know what will happen with the rest of the project. He names the controversies over the planned processing unit in Pili and the plans for dumping mining and processing wastes in the sea, as issues that has not yet been solved. This plant will receive and treat ore from both Mindoro and the neighbouring island of Palawan.
According to Crew, the agreement was signed by Secretary Antonio Cerilles in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the December 7. Gloria M. Arroyo overthrew President Joseph Estrada on January 20. He was later imprisoned and charged for corruption. Secretary Alvarez visited the area recently, and he held an open hearing about the proposed mining project. His reasons for re-calling the MPSA was that
- the area is part of the Mag-asawang Tubig Watershed, a vulnerable area supplying two river systems in Oriental Mindoro,
- the project is likely to be stopped by local opposition,
- the project area includes to escarpments, the Aglubang Fault and the Central Mindoro Fault Lines,
- environmental impacts, such as erosion, siltation, flooding, and impacts on biodiversity have not been studied,
- the MPSA has been criticised by several indigenous groups for overlapping their traditional areas
Secretary Alvarez is currently put under hard pressure by anti-mining activists in the Philippines, especially in relation with the proposed dumping of mining wastes in the sea (Submarine Tailings Disposal - STD). On May 31, one hundred protestors, all dressed up to communicate their sorrow, marched to DENR's Manila offices with the message that all mining leases should be stopped. This group of protestors represented three different conflict areas; Crew at Mindoro, Marcopper-Placer Dome in Marinduque, and La Fayette at Rapu-Rapu.
Alvarez said in this regard that it was not very likely that the Department would withdraw Placer Domes' permission to dump waste from its mine in the Boac river of Marinduque. Alvarez did not comment on the demands regarding Crew or La Fayette, since he had not had the time to learn about those conflicts.
Norwatch Newsletter 7/01