Lumad leader says gold or copper or zinc, mining “destroys our sacred ground”

Fernando Mudai, president of the Pigsalabukan Bangsa Subanen (PBS) said the mining firm "never stops telling us lies".

"Copper, zinc and other kinds of mining operations are all the same as they destroy our sacred ground and are a continuing violation of our human rights."

"Ang among altar gihimo ra nila nga huwaran sa makalanag nga hugaw (They turned our altar into dumpsites of their toxic wastes.)," he said.

The Canadian-backed mining firm, in a statement, announced that on April 9 the "two ball mills of the Canatuan gold-silver project which had been grinding ore continuously for nearly four years stopped turning."

The company is now focusing on extracting zinc and copper from the same pit, as it expects $3 million in monthly cash flow in the next four years, the statement read.

In 1996, TVI obtained a 25-year mineral production sharing agreement with the Philippine government. The deal gives the miner exclusive rights to explore gold, silver, copper, zinc and other minerals within a 508-hectare area.

TVI started its silver and gold mine in Siocon in 2005, and it was a year later when gold and silver production hit a record level, generating a cash flow of more than $17 million.

The mine achieved record production of 56,880 ounces, based on an average 1,620 dry metric tons of ore milled per day, for a total of 591,180 metric tons during the year.

Revenues reached more than $39 million, and the Canatuan project's contribution to net income amounted to almost $11 million, or about a quarter. But the company's profit from its gold-silver project started to hit the bottom last year.

But Mudai said the mining firm is "always telling us lies and not even a single instance that they tell the truth."

"The truth is that the indigenous people in the area are the real losers in the end," Mudai declared.

"We are bringing this to the attention of the international community for the violations of our rights and the posterity of our resources by the mining firm with the help of the government."

Early last month, Mudai, together with Tribal chieftain Jose Anoy, addressed the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Anoy told UN CERD: "We are here because we could not get justice in the Philippines. We have come here to explain what happened and seek justice and action."

Also addressing the UN CERD, Mudai said, "We have this response from the Philippine government, but whatever they answer, the reality is that our sacred mountain is already destroyed."

The UN CERD is responsible for monitoring all States obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). It held its 72nd session from February 18 to March 7 in Geneva.

"We are waiting for the result of the case we filed before the UN CERD against TVI and the government," Mudai said,

The UN CERD is their only hope to get justice, he said.

"We don't expect to get justice in the Philippines because there is no room for us indigenous peoples here," he lamented. (Antonio M. Manaytay/MindaNews contributor)