Indigenous Peoples’ Rights versus Large-scale Mining Interest

Case from Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

Tuesday 16 November 2010 by Bernardo D. Larin - PhilRights , Héloise Squelbut

The Philippines is a country rich in metal resources (gold, copper and chromium) and non-metal because it is in the area called "Pacific Ring of Fire". The Philippine Congress with the Mining Act of 1995 has decided to accelerate industrialization and to encourage economic growth. TheMining Act of 1995 is a law on large scale mining and it completely liberalized the mining industry in the Philippines by allowing 100% foreign economic projects. This is contrary to the Constitution of 1987 which prohibits it.

Specifically on the island of Luzon in the region of Kasibu, the province of Nueva Vizcaya is divided into three zones, "89.86% of forest, 8.52% of agricultural land and 0.59% of homes, roads and infrastructure " (excerpts from the report Large-scale mining projects in Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines, PhilRights). The province has a population of 28 300 inhabitants, distributed in 30 barangays (smallest administrative unit of the Philippines). Today, only 5% of the population of this region are not indigenous. In 2005, under the 1995 Act, the government wanted to move from a traditional operating to a large-scale mining, with more elaborate techniques but less environmentally friendly. Residents of barangays Pao and Didipio are victims of the installation of Australian companies (Royalco Resources Limited and OceanaGold) that operate mines through local subsidiaries.

The Philippines didn’t ratified Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, but adopted in 1997 a law on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) that recognizes the right of these peoples to their ancestral lands. Philippine law requires to hold a consultation process (requirement not satisfied in Pao) and if the project is accepted, that people are compensated (requirement not satisfied in Didipio).


  • Private Actors
  • OceanaGold (main Australian company in the region) has a 100% stake in the company Australian Philippines Mining Project. Since 2006 Austral-asian Philippines Mining Project is the project operator Didipio Copper Gold Project. Before it was managed by Climax Arimco Mining Corporation but it was bought by OceanaGold.
  • Royalco Resources Limited is an Australian company. She holds a majority stake in the company Oxiana Phil. Inc which is the operator of the project Yabi Pao-Pao in the Project. Oxiana Phil. Inc. has previously acquired Dalton Pacific.
  • Victim population

Residents of barangays Pao and Didipio are victims of the installation of Australian companies.


1992 :

First attempts at exploration and exploitation

1994 :

Licensed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to draft OceanaGold. This contract entitles the company to operate for the next 50 years this area of 35,000 hectares which includes the Didipio.

1997 :

Didipio: Climax Arimco Mining Corporation has completed its exploration activities. Meanwhile the company is expecting its license, some preparatory work on the mining begins (building roads, etc.)

Pao: Referendum on mining activities Dalton Pacific. Refusal of the project by the population. In 1999 Dalton Pacific froze its plans because of opposition from local residents.

2001 :

Based on the referendum of 1997, the municipality proposes a resolution that rejects the legal operations of the project Austral-asian Philippines Mining Project in Didipio.

2003 :

Oxiana Phil Inc. receives its exploration license for the project, "Pao-Yabi" which should be valid until March 2007 but was extended by 20 months. Application to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the 1995 Act and the legality of the license granted to Climax Arimco Mining Corporation allowing 100% foreign ownership that violates the constitutional protection of national heritage. Oxiana Phil. Inc. has started informal meetings with the communities without consulting local officials.

2005 :

June: Residents of Pao and Kakidungen made a complaint against Oxiana Phil Inc. before the (National Commission on Indigenous People). The request is based on the fact that the consent process was not conducted before work begins. While both are covered by the Barangay Act rights of indigenous peoples to their land (Certificate of Ancestral Domain ).

July 12: injunction to stop or slow down mining activities for 20 days

August 8: The municipality of Didipio vote against the project.

August: order to lead the procedure checking the consent of the population. To conduct this consultation, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples asked the two chiefs of districts to sign the Work & Financial Plan (WFP) . Both leaders have denied plans for large-scale mining. In response, the company Oxiana Phil Inc. looks for another legal strategy to complete its consultation process and thus to continue its economic project. It uses the legal order No. 5 of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples which ruled that only the original indigenous people need to be consulted, it puts out all the rest of the community.

October: The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources issued a construction permit for the project Didipio Copper Gold Project. (It did work pre-operation)

2006 :

March 30: Supreme Court answered negatively to the request Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association (DESAMA)

April: DESAMA appealed again to the Supreme Court DESAMA involves the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and Australasian Philippines Mining Project before the Regional Court because they did not meet the requirements of environmental compliance certificate.

May: Acquisition of Oxiana Phil Inc. (IPO) by Royalco Resources Limited(BCR) (IPO becomes a subsidiary of BCR).

2007 :

January: Didipio residents receive an order from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and from the company escorting by the military. That order said that the government no longer recognizes residents as the legal owners of their land.

February: First consultation on the agenda; this consultation leads to a favorable response to the project. The leaders say it does not reflect the real sense of community. They denounce the fraudulent and deceptive ways implemented in this consultation (the signatures of the attendance sheets were considered as signatures that would valid the project; distribution of food to draw people and alcoholic beverages during consultations; spreading false information about the size and impacts of projects, withholding information)

May: local and national elections.

July: Local population set up barricades to prevent the work of the company. Numerous attempts to enforce the decision of the Court authorizing the drilling and installation of equipment have failed due to the barricades.

© from Philippine human rights and anti-mining groups


June: Phil.Inc Oxianareceives its license


  • Directe Action (set up barricades)
    In 2007, when opposition to the continuing mining exploration, people took turns to barricade the roads. Likely to be accused of criminal acts, they transferred their barricades on private property that belongs to an owner himself against the mining project.
  • Raising people’s awareness of the situation of mining
    PhilRights advised NGOs and associations mobilized to increase the awareness to the population before the elections so that voters include the issue in their electoral choice. PhilRights held many discussions on human rights and the potential effects of mining on local residents.
  • Strong alliance with local officials.
    Cultivating good relations with people in local government is important because as shown by the Philippine case, the "allies" in this government were useful because they were able to obtain information on plans of the mining project in the short and long term . These are normally available to the public but is very difficult to obtain because of all the bureaucratic steps, or simply because the company pushed for not making them public.
  • Capacity ability of advocates and activists for human rights of affected communities / Monitoring and Data Collection on violations of human rights
    PhilRights has trained communities to collect evidence that will support the denunciations of violations of rights and left them tools such as cameras. PhilRights sent to the National Commission for Human Rights a film taken by the people during the destruction of the houses and barricades. Negotiations and engagement with government agencies and other independent entities: National Commission for Indigenous Peoples Congress; Commission for Human Rights
  • Campaign / Lobbying
    There is a Philippine network anti-mining project called "Mining Advocacy Philippines-Australia. Some members have purchased tiny shares of the Australian company with the aim of becoming small shareholders of the mining company and to be present at general meetings. They are responsible for organizing lobbying like inviting a representative of an Aboriginal community at the general meeting of the company so he could expose human rights violations perpetrated by the company. This is possible because the shareholder gives his time to the guest. These shareholders anti-mining activists also expose violations by the company before the general public and also before the potential investors of the project at public forums, photo exhibitions showing the negligence of the parent company in the Philippines. Networking with other groups / communities which are also affected by this issue.
  • Strong support from NGOs, local officials, and church.
    The Church as an institution widely respected in this predominantly Catholic country, can be very effective. When there is conflict, for example in our case between residents and non-mining project in the mining business district of Pao, the Church can intervene and put pressure on government authorities like the Department of Environment and natural resources. On several occasions, violence was averted by the intervention of the Church.


Today the community is still waiting for the dissemination of the recommendations of the National Commission for Human Rights to feed his advocacy. The population is still in danger because the government continues to encourage large-scale mining companies and pursue their respective plans. The authorities were alerted - the fight continues.

The solution to the struggle for human rights violations is located in:

  • The determination and unity to fight under the banner of solidarity organizations and support groups.
  • A good combination of legal approaches and para-legal.

Attached documents

16 November 2010
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