Villars rush to open King-king Mining in Davao de Oro

This article is available in Pilipino

The Villar oligarchs are actively seeking “foreign partners” to open the King-king Copper-Gold Project, a mining site in Davao de Oro, a province declared dangerous for mining and vulnerable to landslides. This February alone, over 100 were killed when the ground collapsed in Masara, Maco caused by Apex Mining Corporation Inc.’s long and extensive mining in the area.

The Villars currently run the St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd. (SAGCL) which now holds the title and license to mine the King-king tenements in Pantukan, Davao de Oro (formely Compostela Valley). This is the second largest mining project, next only to the Tampakan Gold Mining Project in Far South Mindanao. The Lumad people and environmental groups have a long and bloody history of resistance against the same project.

The Villars drool over the mine’s estimated production of 3.1 billion pounds of copper, 5 million ounces of gold and an estimated 10 million ounces of silver. They use “climate change response” to hide the dangerous, harmful and dirty open-pit copper mining operations. There is great demand for copper mined here for the manufacture of electric batteries for electric vehicles.

Certain abuse and disasters

Residents, Lumads, environmental and human rights groups have historically opposed mining operations once under the then Nadecor and St. Augustine in Pantukan. Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao says the mining project threatens the ecology, communities, lives and livelihoods of residents in the area. Even before operations began, it already chalked up a long record of killings, arrests and evictions in an attempt to suppress opposition to the opening of the mine.

Nationwide Development Corporation (NADECOR) claims to have “discovered” mineral potential in King-king as early as 1966. Between then and 1997, Mitsubishi Corporation (Japan), Benguet Corporation, and Echo Bay Mining (Canada) mined in the area. In 2009, Russell Mining and Minerals, Inc. (RMMI), an American company that then owned SAGCL, acquired the right, title and interest to pursue mining in King-king.

In 2011, RMMI awarded the entire project to its subsidiary St. Augustine Gold and Copper Limited, and registered the company in Canada. The Villars bought the shares of the company which they later acquired. Under the Villars, the mine operation will further expand to cover an additional 1,656 hectares of Mansaka ancestral land in the province.

In 2016, the supposed onset of mining operations was blocked when then DENR secretary Gina Lopez banned open-pit mining nationwide. Its opening was met with widespread opposition after Lopez was fired from the DENR and the Duterte regime unleashed mining in all parts of the Philippines. The anti-mining movement was met with unprecedented state violence.

The same year, soldiers (then 46th IB) defending mining interests murdered 60-year-old Teresita Navacilla. Navacilla is a member of the Save Pantukan Movement, a network of Lumads in Compostela Valley struggling against Nadecor and St. Augustine’s seizure of their ancestral land. She was one of the leaders who led the fight against the entry of foreign mining companies in the area and for stricter mining laws, especially in the case of King-king Mining.

The Save Pantukan Movement enumerated the damage that large-scale mining will cause the forests of Compostela Valley. According to a 2013 study (Technical Report and Preliminary Feasibility Study of M3 Engineering & Technology), SAGCL’s mining will destroy 12 “vulnerable or critically endangered” plants (and trees), 74 species or types of birds, 17 species of mammals, 10 species of reptiles, all thriving in the area. The mining waste’s damage to coastal and aquatic ecosystems is also significant. Among those migrating to the nearby ocean are dugongs and sea turtles, which are also considered endangered.

AB: Villars rush to open King-king Mining in Davao de Oro