The Supreme Court of the Philippines on July 23 issued a "temporary environment protection order" against 94 "small-scale mines" that extract nickel in Zambales, Central Luzon region. Activists who brought the petition claim that among the "small" mines are at least five fronts for giant nickel miners from China. The mines are operating under small-scale mining permits (SSMPs) that can be granted by provincial authorities in special minahang bayan, or People's Mining Areas, under a new policy instated by the Benigno Aquino administration. But local peasants charge that the mines are operating outside the designated areas, and go essentially unregulated, causing grave pollution to local waters. The Chinese parent companies, said to really be a single coordinated venture, are identified as Jiangxi Rare Earth & Metals Tungsten Group, Wei-Wei Group, and Nihao Mineral Resources Inc. They set up the five "small mines" through Filipino dummy companies, bribing officials to look the other way. The SSMP policy, enacted by executive order last year, has sparked a new mineral rush in the Philippines. (Philippine Star, July 24; Inquirer Mindanao, July 15, 2012)
Last month, authorities in Ghana cracked down on Chinese-owned small-scale gold mines operating on the margins of the law. More than 200 Chinese mine operators were arrested, accused of polluting lands and waters, and abusing local workers. Some 4,000 more fled the country, as local residents armed with guns and machetes attacked the camps, robbing miners of their possessions and killing some who fought back. Of those arrested, some have since been released, with the cases still being heard in the country's courts. (Ghana Business News, July 22; AFP, July 12; NYT, June 30)
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