Research group IBON said that the plan of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) to adopt a Canadian mining organization’s sustainable mining measures indicates that it is trying to greenwash the Philippine mining industry’s negative image. But Canadian mining corporations are notorious for their dirty operations globally, IBON pointed out, which have led to several incidents of social and environmental devastation.
COMP recently announced that it will study and adopt the Mining Association of Canada (MAC)’s Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative. It will also form an oversight committee to investigate its member-companies accused of mining law violations. This comes after former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Gina Lopez ordered the suspension of several mining operations based on findings of environmental destruction.
Under the TSM, MAC member-companies self-assess or self-regulate in key areas such as operations, biodiversity, indigenous people initiatives and crisis management to ensure socially, economically and environmentally responsible mining.
IBON said, however, that COMP is trying to greenwash or superficially implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives like TSM to clean up the Philippine mining industry’s worsening reputation. Mining companies in the Philippines will use this to avoid answering for their long records of environmental and social abuses, and to evade mandatory requirements and regulation. Industry watchdogs report that this has long been the practice of Canadian mining firms.
IBON noted that MAC member-companies have been lukewarm or outright opposed to government attempts to regulate and apply mandatory requirements on the Canadian mining industry. MAC participated in a multistakeholder roundtable that came up with recommendations to improve environmental practices and possibly impose sanctions, to which it reluctantly agreed. Some mining firms like Barrick Gold, a MAC member and controversial mine operator, successfully lobbied for the rejection of the recommendations.
IBON also observed that so-called sustainable mining measures like the TSM has done little to curb MAC member-companies’ dirty or environmentally and socially destructive mining practices. In 2014, Rio Tinto was accused of landgrabbing and environmental destruction from its majority-owned operations at a highly endangered coastal forest in Madagascar. The tailings dam of the Samarco mine, a joint-venture of BHP Billiton and Vale in Brazil, collapsed reportedly due to lax safety regulations. This resulted in 12 deaths, 11 missing, and 500 homeless people, and the killing of fish and aquatic life.
Some of the MAC member-companies like B2Gold and BHP Billiton are linked to mining operations in the Philippines, said the group. Meanwhile, Barrick Gold is the current owner of Placerdome, the mining company responsible for the Marcopper mining disaster, which destroyed the Boac River in Marinduque.
IBON said that the Duterte administration should not be fooled by COMP’s greenwashing maneuvers. It should stand firm on measures that genuinely protect the environment and public interest such as the suspension of destructive mining operations and ban on open-pit mining.###