Aquino regime using landslide tragedy to justify foreign takeover of Compostela gold and copper mines — CPP

By CPP Information Bureau

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the Aquino regime for taking advantage of the 5 January landslide in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, to justify the forcible removal of poor small-scale miners and mine workers from their communities, and pave the way for the takeover of foreign mining firms of the gold- and copper-rich mountains of Compostela Valley.

Close to 30 people died after being buried in a landslide that hit Barangay (village) Napnapan, Pantukan town, early morning Thursday. Dozens more remain missing. Most of the victims are small-scale miners and workers who reside in the area.

The mountainous area of Pantukan town is host to small-scale miners who eke out a living by digging small tunnels in search of gold and copper.

The CPP slammed officials of the Aquino regime for putting sole responsibility on small-scale mining operations for the landslides, and for blaming local residents and small miners for not heeding warnings about landslides. Yesterday, the Aquino regime ordered the forced evaucation of small-scale mining residents from areas categorized as “danger areas” by government agencies.

“The order to remove the small-scale miners from their communities is being issued by the Aquino regime more in the interest of large mining firms than the people’s safety,” said the CPP. “Furthermore, the order completely ignores the long-standing claims of small-scale mining communities over the land.”

“The Aquino regime hypocritically claims to have the interests of the small miners and the environment in mind but allows foreign mining companies unhampered access to the resource-rich mountains of Compostela Valley,” said the CPP. “The Aquino regime blames the victims and their small-scale mining operations for the landslides yet turns a blind eye to the massive destruction wrought by large-scale mining operations in the area, as well as by commercial timber operations in the past.”

“Small-scale mining is not the only cause, and is not even the biggest cause, of the destruction of Pantukan’s erstwhile forest lands,” said the CPP. It pointed out that large-scale commercial logging operations from the 1950s to the 1990s, and large-scale mining operations of the past 30 years have resulted in the massive denudation of the mountains of Compostela Valley.

The CPP cited large mining firms such as the Nationwide Development Corporation (NADECOR) and the Napnapan Mineral Resources Inc. that have been carrying out large-scale operations in Pantukan within a government concession of more than 4,900 hectares.

The US-owned Russel Mining and Minerals Inc. (an affiliate of the US global mining company St. Augustine) has also been operating a 4,000-hectare concession in the areas of Lumanggang, Chogdan, Gumayan, Biasung, Panganasun and Diat, also in Pantukan.

The Compostela Valley mountains are considered to be among the biggest repositories of untapped gold and copper ore.

“Long before the 5 January tragedy, the Aquino regime and the mining firms operating in Compostela Valley have been pushing the workers and operators of small-scale mines away from the area,” said the CPP. “A large armed contingent is being maintained by Russel Mining to ensure its exclusive control over its concession area. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has also deployed troops belonging to the 71st Infantry Battalion in Pantukan town to drive away small-scale miners.”

The CPP recalled that on 12 April 2011, Santos “Ricky” Manrique, 49, president of the Federation of Miners’ Association in Pantukan (FEDMAP), was killed by suspected 71st IB elements at his residence in Napnapan.

Manrique was actively opposing the entry of foreign mining firms in the area. Small-scale mining communities in Pantukan have been subjected to “peace and development” operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under (the Aquino government counter-insurgency program) Oplan Bayanihan.