International mission to probe impacts of mining in Negros Occidental

ALARMED by persistent reports from the rural folk of Negros Occidental on the environmental and socio-economic impacts of various mining operations in their areas, a 150-member fact-finding and environmental mission kicked off today.

Organized by the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), an Asia-wide network of peasant organizations, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), KMP-Negros and the Action Solidarite Tiers Monde (ASTM), the mission left Bacolod City after the press conference to visit Sipalay and Hinoba-an towns where mining operations occur.

According to Mines and Geosciences Bureau, mining claims in the province cover almost 380,000 hectares, affecting agricultural and coastal areas. Among the biggest mining companies in Negros are the Philex Mining Corporation, Maricalum Mining Corporation, MariColet Mines, Philmet Corporation, Vulcan Mining Corporation,  Asturias Chemical Industries,  Massart  Mining and Development Corporation among others.

“Contrary to Aquino administration’s claims that mining will improve the lives of the local residents, our experience in Negros Occidental proves otherwise,” Greg Ratin, secretary general of KMP-Negros, said. “We welcome this solidarity mission that will bolster the struggle of the Negrenses against destructive mining.”

Seven foreign delegates from India, Indonesia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Nepal and Sri Lanka joined the two teams of the fact-finding mission. Those from other Asian countries also confront land conflicts brought about by large scale mining operations by multinational corporations.

Other delegates from national organizations include scientists, members of the academe, peasant leaders and human rights activists.

Rahmat Ajiguna, APC deputy secretary general, said that farmers and other rural poor in Asian countries need to link arms against so-called development projects that serve the interest of landlords and big businesses. Ajiguna is also the secretary general of the Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) based in Indonesia.

“Mining operations evict farmers from their land,” Rahmat said. “In the name of profit, thousands across Asia are deprived of the right to decent life, right to food and livelihood.”

The mission aims to document the concrete impacts of mining in the communities; to formulate proposals to concerned government agencies; and to build international support for the campaign against destructive mining.

The two teams will go back to Bacolod City on November 12 to present the findings of the mission.

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