Monday, August 14, 2006

British MP "enormously shocked" by mining operations in Philippines

Clare Short MP has vowed to take a stand against destructive mining practices following a 10-day fact-finding trip to the Philippines. The MP for Birmingham Ladywood said she was shocked and appalled by the level of environmental, social and cultural damage mining companies have caused in the country.

Clare Short said: “I have never seen anything so systematically destructive as the mining programme in the Philippines. The environmental effects are catastrophic as are the effects on people’s livelihoods.”

Short met with communities affected by mining, particularly gold mining, and heard how they had been moved off their lands and indigenous peoples’ legal right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent ignored. She saw polluted rivers, destroyed mangrove forests, damaged coral and damaged agriculture. She felt that “a decent strategy is needed for mining which takes in the criteria for sustainable development”.

She said both the Philippines Government and the mining companies are failing to comply with national laws and international standards and the country is in danger of losing its rich biodiversity as well as destroying indigenous cultures.

The World Bank in the Philippines has supported large scale mining and the Philippines Government is actively promoting mining as a means to address poverty in the country. Some of the companies involved are based in the UK, and increasingly money from the City of London is being used to fund these disastrous projects. However, Short says she found scant evidence of mining benefiting local people or the country’s economy as a whole. She said she had seen how mining is destroying people’s livelihoods and also that it is difficult to find accurate figures on how much of the mining companies’ money remains in the country.

Short travelled with representatives from the Columban Fathers, the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy and the Irish Centre for Human Rights. She expressed support for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which has been vocal in public opposition to the country’s Mining Act and local mining practices.

A recent CAFOD report, “Unearth Justice: Counting the cost of gold”, exposed the negative impacts of gold mining internationally. CAFOD’s Unearth Justice campaign aims to raise awareness of the effects of gold mining on developing countries, such as the Philippines, and is calling on people in the UK to press key players in the mining industry for higher environmental and social standards in the mining industry worldwide.

The facting finding team is preparing a report on the visit which will be available in January 2007. Photos taken during the fact finding trip (July / August 2006) are posted below. In light of the alarming number of extrajudicial killings of activists in the Philippines, the identify of some individuals has been concealed for their safety.

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