By: Kahel Dime

Cordillera has been a major part of the long history of mining in the Philippines. The landlocked area has the country’s richest mineral deposits such as gold, copper and other non-metallic mining minerals. The commercial destructive mining here in Benguet started since the Spanish colonial times.

Mainly, there are two mining companies operating in Benguet. The Lepanto Consolidated who have been operating for more than 70 years and the Philex Ifugao ElderMining Co. operating since 1950’s. For decades of unrelenting operation, these two Mining corporations offer nothing but ruin ontogeny to the lives of the people of Cordillera and its environment.

This article aims to describe the brief description of the mining operations and the corrosive upshots it brings to land and people of Cordillera.

In the midst of the Cordillera Valley

The Land of Cordillera which measure for about 1.8 million hectares is the home of more than 1,676,266 people with rich and diverse cultures collectively known as Igorots. There are six provinces that sit in the mountainous grounds of Cordillera these are the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and Benguet. The regions innate rich soil, water, forest and mineral resources have sustained its residing communities’ daily needs since then. Since 900 AD, Igorots were mining gold and trading these products to the other merchants such as Chinese, Arabs, and other merchants in the Asia Pacific region. These track the country’s richest mineral deposit of gold, copper and other non-metallic minerals. By this, many colonizers become widely interested of the plenteous mining mineral that can be extracted from Cordillera region.

The Biotic Community of Cordillera

The word Cordillera is derived from the spanish word Cordilla which means a flyspeck of cord. Because of the panoptic chain of mountains of Cordillera, it serves as the keystone to the main island of Luzon. Specifically, the eight ethno-linguistic groups situated here are the Ibaloy, Kankanaey, Bontok, Kalinga, Isneg, Itneg, Ifugao, Kalanguya, Iwak and Ga’dang. Two of these ethnic groups are situated within the Province of Benguet. Along the mountain ranges of the southeastern part are the Ibaloys and on the northern part are the Kankanaeys. It is estimated that by only these two tribal groups, they have occupied 265,538 hectares of the land of Cordillera and as of November 2011, the current population count of the area is over 1,676,266.

Cordillera Wildlife

The fertile land with major rivers in northern Luzon allowed these groups to engage in multiple activities such as rice growing, temperate vegetable gardening and small scale mining. These communities share the access to the plenteous resources and respect the rights of each to make use of it. Base on the study, 11% of the total area is for the agricultural rice fields, 60% is for the vegetable farming and 80% of the whole Philippine gold produced is from the Cordillera region. No wonder why many mining corporations are endeavoring to pursue their egoistic motives no matter what.

The corporate upheaval that this mining corporation creates is the biggest challenge that the Cordillera community ever confronted. Until now many locals expresses their unending opposition to the negative gestures that these corporations convey to the environment and to their great chain of being.

Mining Corporation Misery Grounds

There are apparently no mining corporations that exist anywhere in the world that thinks its inhabiting and impending destruction to the people and its terra firma. Wholly, the only direction they are running into is the motive of earning more profits from the mining minerals they get from where they maneuver. There are numerous mining corporations that exist and uncoveringly exploit the Cordillera’s grounds. These are the Lepanto Consolidated Inc. and the Philex Mining Company. Another is the temporarily closed down mining corporation yet currently eyeing for new investors, the Benguet Mining Corporation.

Benguet Corporation

To the pursuit for land ownership and for the American businessmen to take advantage of the robust mineral land of Cordillera they impulsively passed the Philippine Bill in 1902. This bill requires registration and titling of all lands in Philippines.

Over century of devastation, the Benguet Consolidated Mining Corporation later become Benguet Corporation utterly invites more investors even if they have caused horrendous outcome in Itogon, Benguet. It was during the American colonial years in 1903 that they started processing their control over the land and in the year 1906, they have move forward for their mining operations.

It is widely understood that this mining company took advantage of the colonial laws and aggressively play their sense of dominance by taking over mining claims in Itogon.

Subsequently, the Mining act of 1905 manipulated the rights of all Igorots over their inherited homeland. By this, all untitled lands of the Philippines are open to all who have the influence to purchase and quest after their egoistical motives to indulge into mining, may it be Filipino or American.

Acquiring enormously large areas in Itogon, the company had begun their operation from tunneling and later changed to open pit mining in 1981 that enforce more chemical producing technology to draw out gold. In 1989, their depriving motives for extracting more minerals allow them to open another project called the Grand Antamok Project (GAP).

Due to the low pricing of metal the company’s revenue faced its decline but still charging the search for new areas for exploration and agitates more mining initiatives in different areas in the Philippines. In 1997, the Benguet Corporation stopped its operations in Itogon and yet pursuing its initiative by establishing a limestone quarry in Barangay Alaminos. In addition, they build agreements with Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining and Nissho Iwai Corporation to engross another exploration in Zambales for nickel laterite.  Later in its 100th year of victimizing character, in 2003, the company pursues earning interest for its mining business by inviting more partners and investors for future destruction.

Lepanto Consolidated Inc.

Situated in the municipality of Mankayan, province of Benguet is Lepanto Consolidated Mining Companythe colossal demolisher of Kankanaey tribe, the Lepanto Consolidated Inc. Since the early Ming Dynasty(between 1368 to 1644), Mankayan become widely known especially to the Chinese traders who visit the country trading copper minerals in exchange for wares and goods.

Upon the arrival of Spanish conquerors in the Philippines in 16th century, they were arbitrarily invoked with the broad utilization of copper by the Igorots. Stating in their imperialistic minds the agility to exploit the resources, later the Spanish didn’t fail their goals. It was in year 1864 when they started to take advantage of the copper deposits under the Cantabro-Filipino Company. In 1874, the Spanish ended their mining operation after the death of Jose Maria Santos – the company director.

And in the 19th century, when the Americans pursue their unambiguously selfish motives to occupy the area of Mankayan, all the capitalist prospects invested their holdings to make Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company come in to exercise its threat. Then during the 2nd World War, the Japanese company – Mitsui Company of Japan took over the mining operations of Lepanto. Later in 1947, all facilities and operations under the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) recommenced.

In the search for porphyry copper deposits, the main target area of the company is to acquire the 80 hectare land of Mankayan which in fact a communal forest reserve. Initially the copper being produced were all transported to ASARCO (American Smelting And Refining Company) based in Tucson, Arizona that process mainly copper. Before the ASARCO’s closure in 1985, the LCMC put up a Roaster Plant in 1982, which is intended to reduce the arsenic in the copper they produce. Now PASAR (Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation) where its facilities are sited in Isabel, Leyte, have replaced the deal of ASARCO in buying the copper produced by LCMC.

During the time when copper’s price started to decline around the year 1995, the company didn’t fail to discover a huge body of gold deposits or Victoria deposits. In that case, they discontinued the copper production by shutting down all its copper flotation circuit in January 31, 1997.

In year 2000, lurking in the grounds of Lepanto is the P125 million worth of a flotation circuit that is intended to handle copper-gold ore.  It was in year June 2000 that they totally suspended its copper production due to the declining price of copper in the mineral market and when the copper price come to raise the company resumed its operation for copper production, which was in 2007.

Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. is now the only major gold producer that has aggressively mines the Victoria 1 and Victoria 2 high -grade gold deposits in Mankayan. They are continually moving and exhibiting their withering force towards the innocent indigenous of Benguet.

Philex Mining Corporation

History can define the debasing act that Philex Mining Corporation put forward to its host community in Pacdal, Tuba, Benguet. Also known as Pacdal Mine, Philex Mining Corporation is a parent company with four main subsidiaries. This mining corporation was launched in 1955 and begun its operations in Philex Mining Corporation1958. Today, Philex Mining Corporation is one of the largest mining business firms in the country and conceitedly proud to say that they are the first mining company in the Philippines that earned the International Standard Organization (ISO) certificate.

The four subsidiaries of Philex Mining Corporation also known as the Philex Group are the following:

–          Philex Gold Philippines, Inc. that use its hideous strings in pulling out minerals in Negros Occidental’s land, has a joint venture with the Anglo American Exploration Philippines that since in year 2001, placed their focus in the northern part of Mindanao in Surigao del Norte where major copper – gold deposits can be extracted.
–          Brixton Energy and Mining Corporation that cannons the Zamboanga del Norte’s affluent locale by owning a coal property.
–          Philex Petroleum Corporation and FECR (FEC Resources Inc.)are both employing their wickedness in oil and gas production and other operations of mining explorations.

For 53 years of devastating procedures, the drawback of the operation goes directly to the host community of Tuba in exchange for the production of copper, gold and silver that are shipped to L.D. Metals, Ltd. in United Kingdom and a portion of its copper concentrates goes to PASAR (Philippine Associated Smelter and Refinery) in Leyte owned by Glencore a Swiss commodities firm and an arm of World Bank group – the IFC (International Finance Corporation). It is stated that the foreign revenue from copper concentrates that are extracted from Benguet alone are divided on a 50-50 basis between the countries of England and Japan.

The trajectory used by Philex to extract all these mining minerals is block Cordillera womencaving-load/haul/dump or LHD and the milling method to create a copper concentrates is flotation. Still not contented  with their corrosive state of mind in destroying the earth’s ecosphere, Philex Mining Co. have various facilities such as the milling and mining site in Tuba that covers a 14,256 hectares of land, tailing ponds located in Itogon, Benguet and also in Poro Point, San Fernando, La Union.

Among the billions of pesos earned each year, the taxes paid by the company are so diminutive to cover up their formed damnation to the community. Whilst the residents of Tuba suffer from it, roughly the amount o f money given by Philex only goes to the fat bellies of the Philippine government officials and its crooked administration so they can pursue their combined schema.

Seeing The Whole Image of Mining’s Withering Aftermath

Mordant by its nature, mining corporations continuously create massive socio-environmental damages to all. Maneuvering its negative upshots to its host community, these corporate monsters showers its rhetoric behavior by providing community livelihood and rehabilitation program (part of their corporate social responsibility plan) to cover up their shit and maintain their chin up posture while preying the nature’s upbringing.The three mining companies who extracted and pursue its aim in digging more holes in Cordillera region use the mining methodology that drives tremendously negative effects since its operation started. There are many cases that these mining companies ignored the communities’ welfare for food, health and shelter and brought tedious threat to their lives. Horrified and desensitized Anti Mining in Benguetis what these mining companies would like to happen to its host. Once they have exhausted all the valuable minerals from where they occupy, they will never hesitate to abandon the poison they puke and polish a brand new wasteland.

The mining horror in Cordillera started since 1903. By means of its megamachinery, it pursue its exploration and operations that caused detrimental damage to the region where in the present its watershed are contaminated with highly toxic chemicals, the water sources for irrigation are drained, built siltation of rivers, entail aquatic and terrestrial species extinction, induced sinking land surface and landslide, and displaced so many indigenous people from their ancestral lands.

There are many instances that the tailings dam built by these mining companies were abandoned and collapsed. Tailings dam contained various mineral compounds resulted from the mineral extraction. The most common elements and minerals found in tailings are:

–          Arseniccontaminated water

–          Mercury

–          Sulfur

–          Cyanide

–          Sulfuric acid

–          Cadmium

The following elements mentioned are highly toxic which any ecosystem and its inhabitants can ingest leaving without an option of having a negative impact. In the years of Lepanto operations, there tailings dam 2 and 3 have collapsed due to the strong typhoon in year 1970’s, 1986 and 1993. They also abandoned the first tailings dam constructed in year 1960’s. Benguet Corporation cannot hide its harms by abandoning the mining site inducing acid mine drainage and siltation to Agno River. In 1992, Philex tailings dam also collapsed that resulted to a heavy siltation affecting many farmlands. Another one was in year 2001; it was a meter deep highly toxic silt that destroyed many agricultural lands in San Manuel and Binalonan, Pangasinan.

Dead rivers and washed out farmlands are only the few after effects of corporate mining. Health problems will surely arise once a mining company will begin its operation and it really did happen. Mostly the common illnesses that the residents of Cordillera are complaining about are asthma and other respiratory diseases, skin rashes and allergies, diarrhea, headache, dizziness and eye irritation that will occur if a person inhaled chemical fumes emanated Anti-mining rallyto the air.

The rich biodiversity of the region are not exempted with the ravaging mining procedures. Fishkill always happen during rainy season. Many aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals are rarely seen and worst disappeared.

The operation of these behemoth companies attacks the ancestral land of the indigenous people who lived quietly and abundantly are now displaced and treated as illegal occupants in their own land. Their hunting grounds and other traditional source of economic stability are lost like fishing, farming and vegetable gardening since the rivers and the lands are all polluted. The displacement of the natives is an assault for their rights to self-determination and cultural integrity.

Major changes to the ecosystem and to the lives of the people of Cordillera will always continue if these ransacking companies will prolong and expand their tyrannical execution for mining operations.

Unending Blockade against the Capitalist Mad Crisis

Like the long occupancy of the mining companies in the Cordillera is the same with long history of their resistance and struggle against the hungry capitalist aggression. The people of the region showed opposition against the prevailing tyranny started before the feudal encomienda system spring up in the hands of Spanish regime up to present centralized government of the President Benigno Aquino III.

The myriad struggle faced by the inhabitants of Cordillera never exhausts their fueled hearts in protecting their land and their right for self-determination.  Truly violated and marginalized by the unjust state, the Cordillera people fully emitted their angst towards the corporate rulers in the late 1970’s under Marcos’ dictatorship upon the proposed construction of the World Bank-funded Chico River Dam Project. Thousand of tribal groups protested and impart their grievances most especially when the assassination of Macliing Dulag the Kalinga’s tribal leader on April 24, 1980 happen. The death of Machining Cordillera heightened the spirit of the communities towards the tyranny of Marcos regime that successfully ceased the construction of the proposed project followed by the thwarted logging operations of the Cellophil Resources Corporation owned by Herminio Disini, Marcos colleague.

After 4 years of Macliing’s assassination in 1984, in commemoration of his death, and the resistance towards any development plans in Cordillera, Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) was established in June 1984 and in the 24th of April 24, annually the region celebrates the Cordillera day where the people pronounce the rights of the indigenous tribes over their native lands and showing solidarity from inside and outside the Philippine archipelago.

Today, the CPA (Cordillera People Alliance) committed their lives in continuing the struggle against any corporation that malignantly savage the abundance of Cordillera.

Sketching Their Egoistic Motives

Demonstrated apathy have really nothing to do good in our future, many dominant factors in the current capitalistic world manipulated by the filthy government with its fascistic troops, the stakeholder of the mining corporation psychopaths, all the imperialistic financial institutions that deceives like no one is exempted along with the rampant distortion of the real situation by the mass media throughout national and international level.

In the present, mining companies are not hesitant to continue their operations sending-off the community of Cordillera the unending stance and retaliation. The rigor of this situation has resulted to numerous protest and demonstration against the evil proceedings of the mining corporation who like to annihilate them.

Rhetorically the government and its combined forces with the mining corporation have instilled in their stupid propaganda the sustainability and economic benefit that the Philippines may achieve in the upcoming years. To them, more mining operation will start to operate means more foreign investors will move towards their horrifying goals. These stupendous individuals will never understand that no mining host community benefited their promised economic stability and no host community was able to avoid the environmental, socio-political damages that these corporate mining operations landed them. The benefits they keep on stating in their proposals are indeed real to the few individuals who only own a large amount of shareholding in the company.  They are not the ones who are being displaced, poisoned and cages in this trap; in fact they are situated outside the country living a life with no touch of weary ready to exhibit their imperialistically tyrannical motives in any part in the planet where valuable mining minerals are thick and voluminous.

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