Surigao mining firms punished for destroying environment, says NDF

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/05 October) — The simultaneous raids on three large-scale mining firms in Claver town, Surigao del Norte on Monday, should serve as a stern warning to extractive industries, especially foreign-owned mining companies, that continue to “plunder our patrimony and destroy ecosystems,” the National Democratic Front spokesperson for Northeastern Mindanao Region said Wednesday.

Maria Malaya, in an emailed statement, admitted to launching the attack on Nickel Asia Corporation, Taganito High-Pressure Acid Leaching Mining Company (THPAL-Sumitomo) and Platinum Metals Group, which the rebel group accused of damaging the environment and violating the rights of Lumads, peasants and workers.

Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division said about 200 New People’s Army fighters of guerrilla front 16 led by a certain Artem or Doming staged the attack.

Rows of burnt dump trucks littered the pier of Taganito Mining Corporation in Claver town, Surigao del Norte a day after the firm was attacked by Communist rebels. New People's Army rebels attacked three mining firms in Claver on Oct. 3, destroying millions of pesos worth of heavy equipment. MindaNews photo by Roel Catoto Osias said the rebels torched 90 dump trucks, three barges, seven backhoes, two road graders and two wheel loaders. He added that the rebels also carted away 28 9mm pistols, eight shotguns and 32 VHF hand-held radios.

“The NDFP-NEMR confirms the steps taken on October 3, 2011 to destroy the mining facilities and equipment of three giant mining companies in Claver, Surigao del Norte…in the implementation of the policy of the revolutionary movement related to the protection of the environment and natural resources and the defense of the rights of the Lumad people, peasants and workers,” Malaya’s statement said.

Malaya alleged the three mining firms have ruined both freshwater and marine sources, devastated mountains, violated the rights of the Lumad people and displaced the livelihood of peasants in the province.

She claimed that Taganito Mining Corporation, one of the three mining companies of Nickel Asia Corporation reportedly owned by Manuel B. Zamora Jr., has exploited and repressed the rights of its workers for nearly 30 years.

“Instead of remitting P400 million in taxes to the LGU (local government unit), through sheer bribery, the company is now only paying the local government P40 million. It is only right to punish this company,” said Malaya.

The Platinum Metals Group, the statement said, have plundered the province’s nickel ore and shipped to “imperialist countries, which has resulted in the total effacement of forest and mountains within its concession.” Almost all of the company’s workers are under contractual basis, it added.

“The company is brazenly violating even basic bourgeois labor laws. It has violated the rights of the Lumads,” the statement said.

As for THPAL-Sumitomo, the rebel group alleged that the company’s nickel processing plant is a gross air pollutant in the province.

“Contrary to its claim that the processing plant is not a hazard, the truth is, it is a menace to the population and the environment. First, it uses, in massive quantities, sulfuric acid that is highly toxic to both humans and the environment. Second, this is a coal-fired plant that spews out tons upon tons of highly toxic fumes into the atmosphere,” the statement said.

“The big bourgeois compradors and the imperialists have already denuded our forests and mountains, and now they are out to totally wreak havoc on what has remained of our environment with their indiscriminate mining operations,” it further said.

In a statement issued Monday night, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said government was taking the attack seriously and was monitoring the situation in Claver.

“The situation in the area has been contained and we are now exerting efforts to ensure that those responsible for these attacks are brought to justice,” Ochoa said.

“At present, all foreign nationals working at the sites have been accounted for and are unharmed, while local employees are now out of harm’s way,” he added.

The statement downplayed the incident as “an isolated case” and assured the business community and the public that government “is on top of the situation”. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)