Large-scale Mining: Why local level resistance and International Solidarity is needed

Large-scale Mining:
Why local level resistance and International Solidarity is needed

By Nicole Oliver

It was a cool and misty morning the day I set out with Innabuyog-Gabriela for Mankayan. As our van wound its way through Benguet Province, oddly I felt at home amid the familiar landscapes of jagged rock faces and majestic towering pines. The scenic route barring a welcoming resemblance to areas that I have explored in my home nation of Canada along with the four hour drive gave me space to reflect upon the differences and similarities that both Canada and the Philippines are facing regarding large-scale mining.

On the weekend of September 22, 2012 Innabuyog-GABRIELA along with an international intern from Spain and I camped out at the barricade site constructed by local indigenous peoples against the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s drilling expansion project in Barangay Tabeo in the Municipality of Mankayan of Benguet Province. In February of 2012, the community of Barangay Tabeo sets a barricade to block access to the newly inserted and heavily contested diamond-tip drilling site of Lepanto. The site is set to advance the ever expanding Lepanto exploration and extraction of gold and other precious metals in the area. For nearly nine months, the community has sustained the Save Mankayan Movement (SMM) engaging in many protests actions, lobby,dialogues, petitions, pickets, and has held their deposits are found primarily under Alberta’s Boreal dialogues, petitions, pickets, and has held their deposits are found primarily under Alberta’s Boreal ground at the erected barricade site. They have received much support and messages of solidarity from other indigenous groups in the Cordillera region and people’s organizations in the Philippines.

On the flip side, the persons involved in this prolonged campaign have experienced harassment from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippines National Police (PNP), Barangay officials, Lepanto workers, and private security personnel hired by Lepanto that act mercenaries.

At this time, there have been three-failed dispersal attempts made at the barricade site in Tabeo. The local residents of Mankayan, who for multiple generations have relied on farming for subsistence and livelihood erected the barricade in February of 2012. The protesting community members claim that the site was given the green light for exploration without undergoing the necessary Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process as stipulated in the Republic Act No. 8371, which states that no ancestral land shall be opened for mining operations without undergoing the said process and gaining the consent of the indigenous cultural community concerned.

Tar Sand mining Canada

Meanwhile back in my home nation of Canada, the debate is raging regarding the Federal Government’s tar sands expansion project and the West-to-East oil pipeline. The Canadian tar sands forest and wetlands covering an area about the size of Florida. In order to extract synthetic crude oil from the tar sands, millions of acres of pristine forests and wildlife habitat have been clear cut, strip-mined, and drilled. To produce what is often referred to as “dirty oil”, tremendous amount of water is needed for the refining process.

Additionally, the complex extraction and refining process of tar sand crude oil requires extraordinary amounts of energy in comparison to the production of conventional crude oil. It is estimated that tar sand oil production releases at least three times the greenhouse gas emissions per barrel to that of the conventional stuff.