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Massive new mine will harm thousands, say NGOs

New report says indigenous rights are at stake

Bong Fabe, Cagayan de Oro City

June 24, 2013

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Asia’s biggest copper and gold open-pit mining project run by Glencore-Xstrata of Switzerland threatens the livelihoods and rights of thousands of indigenous people in restive Mindanao, according to a new report.

The study by Swiss and German aid agencies MISEREOR, the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund and Bread for All found that the contentious Tampakan mining project will lead to the destruction of large pristine forests, threaten the local water supply and lead to the resettlement of about 5,000 indigenous people.

"[The] human rights to self-determination of indigenous peoples, to food, water, health, life and physical integrity are at stake," the study said.

Sagittarious Mines Inc (SMI), the Glencore-Xstrata subsidiary which operates the mine, has contravened its obligation to due diligence and shown “insufficient respect for the rights of the affected populations,” it added.

There was no immediate response from Glencore-Xstrata or its Australian subsidiary Xstrata Copper which holds a 62.5-percent stake in SMI.

The $5.9-billion investment spanning 9,500 hectares and four provinces around General Santos City is scheduled to begin operations in 2019 amid years of disagreements and a ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato, one of the provinces of the concession.

The five tribal communities who live in the area have accused Xstrata of employing militias backed by state forces to commit atrocities including murder against opponents of the mine.

In September, Human Rights Watch issued a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as part of a periodic review of the Philippines over rights violations allegedly inflicted by paramilitary units on indigenous groups including concerns related to the Tampakan project.

A month later, soldiers allegedly opened fire on the house of Daniel Capion, a B’laan tribal leader and opponent of the mine, killing his pregnant wife and two sons. Soldiers have been charged over the killings.

Lenten Fund human rights expert Daniel Hostettler said in a statement that "a mix of government failure, a poor and marginalized population and armed conflicts are the worst possible preconditions for operating an open-cast mine of these dimensions."

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