Dispossession and environmental destruction in Camarines Norte mining

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Mt. Labo Exploration and Development Corporation (MLEDC) is re-accelerating open-pit mining in the town of Labo in Camarines Norte. It is one of 11 mining operations in the province plundering land here. The company is jointly owned by Canadian and Australian companies and the Villar family.

MLEDC operates the Mabilo Project to mine gold and copper. It covers 3,484.2 hectares of land in Barangay Dumagmang. In addition, it has an exploration permit covering 165.9 hectares. The company has drilled 112 large boreholes for soil analysis here since 2011. It has been granted a license to operate until June 27, 2041.

The company drools over what it estimates to be 1.97 million ounces of gold and 472,000 tons of copper from these mines. It earmarked $17.4 million for operations which it estimates will bring them $52 million in annual profits.

It will scrape all minerals through open pit mining, the worst mining procedure, which will destroy mountains and poison rivers and the ocean. Using this method, poison and pollution will not be contained in areas covered by the operations, and will contaminate water and farms.

Dispossession and fascism

Roads are now being expanded in the barangays of Exciban and Dumagman for the unbridled passage of MLEDC’s huge mining machinery. An estimated 100 families fear eviction from this expansion. They fear of being driven away and sinking deeper into poverty. The company offers a meager ₱25,000 for those who will be evicted from their land.

Residents also fear the presence of military and police who act as MLEDC’s agents and protectors. They know it will target anyone expressing grievances and opposition.

Soldiers are currently stationed and encamped in the adjacent barangays of Exciban, Dumagmang, Malaya and Bagong Silang 1. Combat and psywar operations are relentlessly conducted by its troopers in these barangays.

Foreign ownership

The MLEDC is actually controlled by big foreign capital. On paper, it is a partnership of Filipino company SageCapital (60%) and foreign SRM Gold Limited (40%), a company based in the British Virgin Islands. SRM Gold Limited is owned by the Australian company RTG Mining Inc. Meanwhile, SageCapital is owned by the Filipino company TVI Resource Development Phils Inc in partnership with the Canadian company TVI Pacific Inc and the Villars.

Even before the current MLEDC arrangement, it was anomalously involved in violation of laws of reactionary government covering foreign company ownership. In August, the manipulation of former foreign companies invested in the MLEDC was revealed. From 2011 to 2015, company directors involved were charged.

Driving out destructive mining

Residents of Barangay Dumagmang and its neighboring barangays have long opposed foreign mining. In 2007, more than 3,000 families benefited from the successful campaign to evict MLEDC (then, the El Dore Mining Corporation) from 400 hectares of land it seized in the barangay.

Residents courageously built a barricade in front of the mine at Sitio Nalisbitan, Barangay Dumagman. Residents and peasants asserted their rights to the land. The mass campaign was prolonged and sustained. People ate, slept and constantly congregated at the barricades as a display of unity.

During this time the NPA-Camarines Norte struck at the company. The people’s army launched a raid on October 4, 2007 where it confiscated 30 weapons from guards securing the mine. The fighters burned all operating equipment and seized its weapons.

Due to the successful eviction of the El Dore foreign company in the area, the land was restored to the farmers. The masses benefitted from the gold of their land which they obtained through small mining operations, and developing their own corporation and cooperatives.

Dispossession and environmental destruction in Camarines Norte mining