By Harald Eraker
During Edwin A Gariguez and Evelyn Cachas' visit to Norway in October last year, a meeting was arranged between the two representatives of the alliance ALAMIN and the Oslo bishop Gunnar Stålsett. During the meeting, at which NorWatch was also present, information about the extensive local opposition against Mindex' planned nickel project in Mindoro was presented to Stålsett (NB! Mindex merged with the Canadian company Crew at New Year, see below).
Later on, the bishop wrote to Mindex, referring to the information he had been given by ALAMIN and NorWatch. The bishop ended his letter by expressing concerns about ethical aspects of the nickel project, and a wish to have the company's views on the matter.
The company presented its reply to Stålsett shortly after New Year. In a four pages long letter, the vice president of the company's exploration activity, Jon Steen Pedersen, explains that they follow the laws and regulations of the host country, that their plans include modern mining methods which will be socially and environmentally acceptable, and that the problem consists of ALAMIN and other opponents being unwilling to wait for the environmental impact assesment (EIA) before making up their minds about the project.
The Mindex letter is characterised by disappointment and surprise that "the bishop has adopted a set of serious allegations" from ALAMIN and NorWatch, without trying to have the information verified by Mindex. Pedersen also finds it "strange" that the bishop has written in English to a Norwegian company, fully owned by Norwegian shareholders, and fears that the bishop's name and institution will be misused.
The "serious allegations" concern, among other things, bribery. Pedersen denies that the gifts which Mindex has given to politicians and other people are dubious, and refers to the culture in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia:
"We feel that the amount of money (we have) spent on gifts is relatively insignificant, and (that the gifts) are a cultural way of showing gratefulness for help and hard work which we have experienced from many parts of the local community."
Letter from Mindex to bishop Stålsett dated 10.01.00
Finally, Pedersen claims that many environmental activists are against mining in general, "in spite of the fact that minerals are as necessary in our lives today as food and wood,...". The letter continues with the following reasoning:
One of the founders of the environmental organisation Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, has recently warned against an organisation called "Operation Underground" (Probably a misspelling, the organisation is called "Project Underground"), because this is a leftist, extremist coalition working against mining world-wide.
On the web site of this "underground organisation", Pedersen continues, NorWatch and Friends of the Earth are listed as "affiliated members (links)". Not only that: Even the organisation Earth First, which according to Pedersen has sacrificed human lives in the name of environmental protection, is listed on the same home page.
Pedersen concludes with the following: "We fear that the bishop's letter to us, through copies to among others NorWatch, may be misused in an unwanted way."
Mindex ASA has merged with the Canadian mining company Crew Development Corp. Over 91% of the Mindex shareholders voted in favour of the merger agreement on 27 December last year, and on 21 January Crew Development Corp., which is the name of the new company, was listed on the main list at the Oslo Stock Exchange. As a result of this, Mindex will be taken off the list at Oslo Stock Exchange and become a fully owned Crew subsidiary. About 40% of the shares in the merged company are owned by Norwegian shareholders, and 2 out of the 8 board members are previously from the Mindex managment, among them former managing director Anders Hvide.
Norwatch Newsletter 1/00