Enviros claim victory as Glencore leaves Mindanao

Environmentalists and indigenous leaders in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao are hailing the exit of Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore from the $5.9 billion Tampakan mega-project as a "victory for the people." Said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE): "Glencore, potentially the largest mining project in the country to date, ultimately failed in the face of massive people's resistance against foreign and large-scale mining." The project area covers 10,000 hectares in the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur. But Glencore is accused of "grabbing" a further 24,000 hectares of adjacent lands, including forest and farms, causing the displacement of some 5,000 residents—with the complicity of the central government.

In a June 24 statement, Glencore said it had signed a share sale agreement with an affiliate of Australian company Indophil Resources NL for divestment of its remaining interest in the Tampakan project. Earlier this year, Glencore had already divested part of its share to Alsons Prime Investments Corporation. Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI), the Philippine government's contractor for the project, was 40% controlled by a joint venture of Glencore-Xstrata Copper and Indophil, with Glencore as the serior partner. Production was slated to begin next year. Exploration had met fierce resistance from the surrounding B'laan indigenous communities, peasants, environmentalists, clergy and human rights groups.

"Glencore-SMI has been eager to plunder the estimated 2.4 billion metric tons of copper-gold deposits in Mindanao since 1992, but has been stopped time and again even as it is currently supported by the [Benigno] Aquino administration," Bautista said. At least 10 people have been killed by state security forces and paramilitary groups in conflicts over the project over the past five years, Bautista charged. These include the 2012 slaying of B'laan woman Juvy Capion, and her two children, aged 8 and 13, by the army's special Task Force Kitacom. 

Glencore inherited its stake in the project with its 2013 takeover of Xstrata. The original 1992 find was made by Australia's Western Mining Corporation, but the project has been stalled by complicated ownership changes, as well as local opposition and security problems.

Last December, indigenous residents held a 100-mile cross-country march or "Lakbayan" (People’s Journey) to oppose the project. Bautista pledged to keep up the pressure to assure that the project not move ahead, even without Glencore.  "We will never stop defending our lands, rights and natural resources. Indophil, SMI, and other large-scale foreign mining giants should completely abandon the Tampakan mining project and leave Mindanao." Bautista said the new mining company in Tampakan "will face the same stiff resistance from the Filipino people." (Bulatlat, June 28; The Australian, June 25; Earth Law Center, May 8; Seattle Globalist, Dec. 22, 2014; International Examiner, March 6, 2013)