Wednesday, 19 August 2015

People’s scientists and communities are using science to make mining companies and governments accountable.

Dr.Mark Muller of the London Mining Network at the IPCM press conference (Photo by D.Ayroso/
Dr.Mark Muller of the London Mining Network at the IPCM press conference (Photo by D.Ayroso/

MANILA – Mining-affected communities and environmentalists are finding ways to make mining TNCs and colluding governments account for environmental crimes, using that which had been largely accessible only to the latter: science.

At the recently-concluded International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM), activists from mining-affected communities and people’s scientists discussed community-based scientific tools and methods to help people investigate corporate mining accountability.

The IPCM, held in Quezon City on July 30 to Aug.1, gathered more than 140 delegates from 29 countries to discuss international response to the impacts on people and the environment brought on by global mining liberalization.

“People’s scientists will challenge the failing science of the mining industry,” said Dr. Mark Muller, a geophysicist and member of the London Mining Network with over 20 years experience in the mining industry. He added that mining TNCs “continue to pollute the world” even with their use of science.

“The mining industry believes that they have complete monopoly of scientific knowledge and methods,” Muller said, adding that 95 percent of scientists in the world are employed by mining and oil companies.

The IPCM, however, paves the way for the formation of a global network of scientists that will provide technical information to communities and movements confronting mining TNCs.
“I’m confident that one of the outcomes of the conference is that we will identify tools and strategies that will allow community people to use good, robust science to use as evidence to hold companies accountable and hold them to their responsibility to mine, if they are allowed to mine, without polluting the environment,” Muller said.

How communities can monitor mining pollution
“Mining pollution comes from companies’ failure to monitor their mining during operations,” he said. Because of the failure of corporate mining to fulfil their responsibility, the burden of monitoring environmental impact falls on mining-affected communities.

“There is terrible irony here, that these expensive tests, mining companies can afford to use them, and yet, they don’t use them effectively,” he said. When mining-affected communities approach these companies with the results of their own investigation, they reject it “because they were not recorded using expensive methodology.”

In his presentation at an IPCM workshop, Muller said communities should monitor for possible pollution at different stages of mining, namely: in the water, during the exploration stage; in the soil, during the construction of the mines; and in the air, during operation and production. A biodiversity survey should also be conducted to measure degradation during the closure and rehabilitation of the mine.

In spite of their limited resources, Muller said, community residents can still do a lot to understand what is about to happen or what has happened in their environment.
Even only in the exploration stage, community residents should be made aware of what to expect. One such activity during exploration is trenching, which could cause scarring of landscape, loss of vegetation, and possible erosion. Trenches should also be properly rehabilitated.

The residents could take photos and video documentation of the company’s drilling rigs and other survey equipment, and trenching, Muller said.
A biologist from AGHAM testing the physico-chemical charactertics of the massively polluted Didipio River. (Photo by AGHAM/Kalikasan PNE/
A biologist from AGHAM testing the physico-chemical charactertics of the massively polluted Didipio River. (Photo by AGHAM/Kalikasan PNE/

Depending on what ore body or mineral will be mined, scientists aiding the community can help estimate mining depth, what methods, equipment and processing will be used by the company, for an early indication of potential risks and impact, he said.

When the mining company begins drilling, at the mid- to late-stage of the exploration, it will also build a mud-pit or mud tank, which will contain drilling “mud” – a combination of fine rock materials, and chemical additives required for the drilling fluid. This is toxic in varying degrees, depending on the chemical additives, said Muller.

“Drilling mud poses an environmental risk: rivers and soils will become contaminated if the mud-pit overflows in heavy rains or if the pit-lining fails,” said a slide from Muller’s presentation.

During mine operation, Muller said there should be monitoring to check if waste materials are “turning acid” in the disposal areas – the waste-rock disposal, or rock dumps, and the mine tailings dams. Acid mine drainage (AMD) can contaminate ground water. He said that if sulphide materials are present in the waste dumps, it is likely that AMD will occur.

He said that mining companies are duty-bound to monitor pollution threats at different stages. Companies should:
• Take a baseline sample of water quality a year prior to mine operation;
• Regularly monitor the water quality according to their environmental impact management plan;
• Conduct a laboratory chemical analysis of water samples from upstream and downstream the mines;
• And submit a report of the results regularly to mining regulatory bodies.

Tools for the people
“To understand the problems caused by mining companies in the environment, communities can do these, too, but tools are expensive,” Muller said.

There are many tools available for community to monitor the water quality, but these vary in accuracy, he added.

These range from the cheaper-priced litmus paper and testing strips, ph checkers used by aquarium hobbyists, to the more expensive but also more accurate digital probes for long-term testing used by the hydroponic industry.

Aside from the expensive cost of tools and laboratory tests, Muller said communities also face legal defensibility, as there are strict protocols in getting samples for testing. Companies can also reject the test results, on grounds that the community used the cheaper, therefore, less accurate tools. Communities must consider these factors in their monitoring.

“When doing analysis, ask what the result will be,” advised Australian Prof. Ron Watkins, of the Environmental Inorganic Geochemistry Group, who spoke at the IPCM. He said it is not meant to pre-empt the results, but to effectively choose what instrument to use, to ensure the test will yield needed answers.

Science as basis of unity
The group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), which led the workshop, said science may also be a tool to unite the people, to fight back against destructive mining companies and a government that tolerates them.

Feny Cosico, Agham secretary general, said the environmental investigation mission (EIM) combines local community experience with the field investigation led by scientists and technologists.

The EIM is a participatory process which investigates the biophysical, social, political and economic impact of the project on the people, said Cosico in her presentation.
Investigation includes testing the soil and water quality around the mining area, using physical, chemical and biological parameters. It also studies the effects on the health, livelihood, and perception of the population on the impact of the project. After the data collection and laboratory analysis, the experts return to the community to validate the results with the people.

“We use the EIM as a transformative tool, to raise awareness of communities,” said Cosico.
“Sometimes we use it to unite a divided community, through expert findings,” she said. There are cases where some community members buy the line of the mining company that there is no pollution, or doubt that they could make a case about environmental degradation. The conduct of an EIM, which involves community participation, helps remove all doubt.
Agham had joined in the conduct of EIM in the Citinickel project in Española, Palawan island, in the Philex tailings dam breach in Benguet, in the Cordillera region, and in Nueva Vizcaya where the OceanGold is mining, and the FCF is conducting exploration.
She said the EIM helps countercheck government regulation and compliance of the companies to environmental laws and policies. These were also valuable in lobbying with government regulatory bodies and even the legislative, to investigate the violations of companies.

Most of all, it serves as “a tool for mobilizing, in uniting the people to fight back,” Cosico said.

Cosico said through the EIM, communities are able to “identify the exploited and the exploiter.”

She said among the limitations in conducting the EIM are budget constraints, lack of baseline data, and government confidentiality for the environmental impact statement (EIS) by the mining company. She said there were also questions on the credibility and accuracy of the EIM.

“We stand by our result, because we know it’s scientific, and with community participation,” Cosico said.

Cosico said with the support mechanism among people’s scientists from the IPCM, she is hopeful that “we can make use of tools to pursue cases against destructive mining companies.”
(File photo courtesy of Katribu /
(File photo courtesy of Katribu /

People’s action as primary
Having the tools and training to monitor the effects of mining will bring light on the extent of destruction and violations by the company, but these are not the only weapons to hold them accountable, the delegates said.

The people’s determined, collective action is still more decisive.

In the case of OceanaGold Corp. in Nueva Vizcaya province, the result of an EIM in April 2014, led by the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (Annvik) along with Agham, helped spur residents to action. But even years before, the affected communities have been putting up barricades and protests.

In April this year, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno proposed a multi-disciplinary team to investigate OceanaGold. This was in response to a position paper submitted by Annvik, Agham and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and other groups, calling for the suspension of OceanaGold and for compensation to the affected communities.

“The case of OceanaGold’s Didipio mine, widely acclaimed within the large-scale mining industry as ‘the overall safest mining operation in the Philippines’, is illustrative of the pollutive, destructive, and dangerous brand of ‘responsible mining’ permitted and encouraged by our mining laws and other related policies,” the groups said in their position paper.

The paper was supported with the EIM report which showed that affected rivers have unsafe levels of metal concentration.

The groups still await government action. Meanwhile, the campaign against OceanaGold and other destructive, large-scale mining in the Cagayan Valley region continues to gain support from various sectors, including the Catholic church.

At the IPCM, a South African delegate described a rapid assessment kit that they developed to monitor the effects of mining.

“It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a solution that empowers,” he said.
And an empowered people may just be the best tool to take on mining giants. In various parts of the world, communities will be facing TNCs like OceanaGold, both with their strength in numbers, and their science. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

It encouraged us to seek redress, to pursue justice, and to construct a global order founded on full respect for the rights of all peoples, everywhere.

ICHRP Statement on SONA
July 27, 2015

On the occasion of President BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III’s last State of the Nation (SONA) address, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) will be highlighting the outcome of the The International Peoples' Tribunal on Crimes of the US-Aquino Regime Against the Filipino People (IPT2015) to counter the false claims about economic and social progress that President Aquino is expected to deliver. 

The International Peoples' Tribunal on Crimes Against the Filipino People was convened by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, IBON International, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the National Lawyers Guild. IPT2015 was held in Washington D.C. on July 16-18, 2015, and the Verdict was delivered to the Philippines Embassy, who refused to accept the document, as well as the White House on July 20, 2015, by rallies of participants in the IPT2015.

The distinguished international panel of Jurors that presided over the IPT2015 - Attorney Azadeh Shahshahani, Attorney Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, Prof Pao-yu Ching, Rev Michael Yoshii, Ms Mary Boyd, Rev Molefe Tsele, and Rev Malcolm Damon - ultimately found defendant Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and defendant Government of the United States of America, represented by President Barack Hussein Obama II:

1. GUILTY of gross human rights violations involving the civil and political rights of the Filipino People, for committing extrajudicial killings, disappearances, massacres, torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions as well as other vicious, brutal and systematic abuses and attacks on the basic democratic rights of the people;

2. GUILTY of gross and systematic violations of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino people through the imposition of neoliberal “free market” globalization to exploit the people; transgression of their economic sovereignty and plunder of their national patrimony and economy; and attacks on the people’s livelihoods  and the destruction of the environment; and

3. GUILTY of gross and systematic violations of the rights of the people to national self-determination and liberation through the imposition of the US war of terror and US military intervention; as well as the perpetration of crimes against humanity and war crimes; misrepresentations of the people’s right to national liberation and self-determination as “terrorism” and the baseless “terrorist” listing of individuals, organizations and other entities by the US and other governments.

The verdict was reached after 32 witnesses, made up of survivors, family, friends, and experts, presented a compelling case of complicity, collusion, responsibility, and liability for gross, massive, and systematic human rights violations against the Defendants. The 17 witnesses in Washington D.C., 10 in Manila, 5 via video depositions, represented 34 cases. Documents on 29 additional cases were also submitted.

Although ultimately a political mechanism, the Tribunal was conducted consistent with established judicial procedure. The Defendants - President Benigno S. Aquino III, the Philippines Government and the Government of the United States of America, represented by President Barack Hussein Obama II of the United States Government, the IMF, World Bank, WTO, multinational corporations and foreign banks doing business in the Philippines - were duly notified of the indictment to provide a defense. This option was not taken up.

The Prosecution team was led by Ramsey Clark and supported by a team of lawyers from the Philippines National Union of People’s Lawyers, the USA and Canada.

The Jurors agreed that the Prosecution satisfied the burden of proving that the Defendants, in concert with each other, wilfully and feloniously committed gross and systematic violations of Filipino people’s basic human rights.

The Jurors found it undoubtedly proven that state security forces were involved in the spate of extrajudicial killings, massacres, and enforced disappearances in the Philippines. The pieces of evidence singly, and independently, confirm that these incidents are not isolated but state-sponsored, part of a policy deliberately adopted to silence the critics of the government.

Additionally, the Jurors found Defendant Aquino and the Philippine government disempower the people with faulty and failed economic policy. Opportunities in the Philippines are shrinking, the prices of goods are ballooning, social services are eluding the reach of the ordinary Filipino. The Philippines government unabashedly surrendered its national patrimony and sovereignty to corporate entities in important industries, particularly and most especially in mining. Agricultural and industrial development are marginalised.

Lastly, the Prosecutors convinced the International Peoples' Tribunal of the interventionist policies in the Philippines and in Asia by the defendant United States government. Various military operations under Defendant President Aquino have resulted in crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The nexus between the culpability of Defendant Aquino and the role and participation of Defendant United States government for gross and serious violations of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights and the right of the Filipino people to national self-determination and liberation is borne by the facts and the evidence fully established during the Tribunal.

The Verdict called on the Defendants to undertake, and the People to pursue proper remedial measures to prevent the commission or continuance of such illegal and criminal acts, to repair the damages done to the Filipino people and their environment, compensate the victims and their families for their atrocities, and to rehabilitate the communities, especially indigenous communities that have been destroyed by the criminal acts of the Defendants.

It encouraged us to seek redress, to pursue justice, and to construct a global order founded on full respect for the rights of all peoples, everywhere.

The IPT truly enlivened the movement for human rights in the Philippines and aided in a strong projection of this concern into the international community.

A complete version of this Verdict is available on 

Peter Murphy (Australia), General Secretary, ICHRP Global Council, IPT 2015 Co-convenor
Canon Barry Naylor (UK), Chairperson, Global Council, IPT 2015 Co-convenor

Katrina Abarcar (US), ICHRP Global Council, IPT 2015 International Coordinating Secretariat (ICS)
Bern Jagunos (Canada), Deputy Secretary, ICHRP Global Council, IPT 2015 ICS
Angie M. Gonzales (the Netherlands), Coordinator, ICHRP, IPT 2015 ICS

Thursday, 23 July 2015

International Peoples' Tribunal 2015: A VICTORY OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE

International Release

ILPS-Philippines Statement on the IPT 2015
19 July 2015
The Philippines Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) hails the conclusion the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT 2015) in Washington, D.C. as it finds the US and Aquino governments guilty beyond doubt of rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The 32 witnesses and several experts braved all odds amid the intensifying crisis and political repression in the Philippines to testify on record before the tribunal.
The wealth of data, information, facts, analyses and other evidence clearly established the factual basis of the indictment, and the culpability of respondents Defendant Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Defendant Government of the United States of America.
We laud the panel of international jurors, prosecutors and staff of the tribunal as well as the militant and progressive peoples of the world who showed solidarity with the Filipino people in the fight for righteousness, justice and freedom.
The blood of our martyrs and victims of rights violations in the Philippines are not lost with the resounding success of the tribunal.
The guilty verdict on Pres. Aquino and the US government goes into the annals of the historic fight of the Filipino people against US imperialism and local reaction.
We are one with the IPT 2015 in calling “to seek redress, to pursue justice, and to transform this oppressive, exploitative and repressive global state of affairs exemplified by the experience and plight of the Filipino people, to challenge the international “rule of law”, and to construct a global order founded on full respect for the rights of all peoples, everywhere.”
We intend to pursue cases of rights abuses and violations as copies of the verdict reach the Prosecutor´s Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Inter-American, European, African, and Asian regional courts or systems, as well as lawyers associations, human rights defenders, law schools, and human rights programs of study throughout the world.
A significant stride has been made with IPT 2015 as we march forward ever more resolutely to punish the perpetrators, render justice for the victims and end impunity in the country.