The Ugly Canadian; Globalizing Philippine Mining

Community Features News Philippines Feb 1, 2006 at 3:37 pm

(Last of a 3-part series of articles that first appeared in The Philippine News Today published in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

By Ted Alcuitas

Barrick Gold’s takeover of Placer Dome Inc., which will be finalized on Jan. 19, 2006, has thrown a monkey wrench to the civil suit filed in Nevada by the Province of Marinduque against the company for polluting the environment in its 30-year operation of the Marcopper mine that culminated in the 1996 disaster.

Reached by telephone from his Texas office, Marinduque’s lawyer, Walter Scott, Jr. of Diamond McCarthy Taylor Finley & Lee, expressed confidence that the litigation will continue despite the merger.
In this last series of a three-part article on Placer Dome, Ted Alcuitas looks at the merger as just another foray into the globalized mining industry in the Philippines and Canada’s role in it.

Going Global

The merger creating a much bigger Barrick , now the world’s largest gold producer, is an inevitable outcome of the globalization of the mining industry. With the acquisition of the Vancouver-based Placer Dome, Barrick, based in Toronto – , has now gained a foothold on the mineral- rich Asia Pacific region.

Although Barrick has a worldwide operation that includes mines in North and South America, Russia, Central Asia, Africa and Australia it has not been involved in the Philippines. After the Marcopper disaster, Placer Dome clandestinely left the Philippines in 2001 but still has important contacts in the country that could be utilized by Barrick .

In fact, Barrick has expressed its desire in the region when it attended both the Philippine Mining conference in Manila in February 2005 and the Asia Mining Conference in Singapore in March 2005.

No better than Placer

Barrick’s reputation in the mining industry is no better than that of Placer Dome’s. It currently faces stiff opposition in Chile and Argentina over its Pascua Lama mining project, which straddles the border of the two countries. Violent clashes erupted between police and environmentalists in Chile last November. Critics claim that the project could destroy three glaciers in the Andes Mountains despite Barrick’s announcement that it had modified its plans.

Barrick is linked to the unsavory international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi who was involved in the Iran-Contra arms deal and to the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In an extensive expose’-
posted at www.questionsquestions.net, author Alex Constantine details the role of gold in many world events including 911, including a number of personalities involved in the Philippines like John Singlaub, the Oklahoma bomber Terry Nichols who made frequent trips to the Philippines and married to a Filipina and Michael Meiring, a CIA operative who accidentally set off a bomb in his Davao hotel in May 2004. Meiring was whisked out of the country by the FBI before he could talk to Philippine police.

Constantine claims Barrick has roots in the American intelligence establishment especially the CIA. Founded by Canadian entrepreneur Peter Munk its incorporation is obscure. Ashnan Kahshoggi purchased the company in 1983 and installed Munk as its chairman.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush as well as former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney served on the board of Barrick. Mulroney still sits on the board of Barrick and was said to play a major role in trying to acquire the ill-fated Bre-X Busang property in Indonesia in 1997.

Selling Philippine sovereignty

The massive entry of foreign mining firms in the Philippines was facilitated by the passage of The Philippine Mining Act or Republic Act No. 7942 on March 6, 1995 during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos. Its passage formally opened the full-scale liberalization of the Philippine mining industry.
Critics call The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 the most neocolonial law since the granting of the sham Philippine independence by the U.S. in 1946. Reports say that before the bill was debated in the Philippine Congress, the chambers of commerce of the United States, Australia and Canada were first shown a draft of the bill for their approval.

The Philippines was one of 70 countries that ‘sold out’ to the Transnational Corporations (TNCs) by changing or repealing mining laws that were assertive of national sovereignty thus betraying their people’s national interest at the behest of the IMF-WB-WTO.

The Mining Act was sponsored by no less than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then a senator. When she became president in 2001 after the ouster of President Joseph Estrada, her first presidential act was to have an audience with the Philippine Chamber of Mines. Interestingly, Estrada wanted to scrap the Act before he was driven out in a People Power uprising that installed Arroyo, his vice-president.

Spurred by the recent Philippine Supreme Court decision, which uphelds the legality of foreign ownership of mining companies, the Arroyo government is now pushing aggressively for its revitalization. The government predicts investments in the industry to reach $581 million this year and $1.5 billion in 2007.

Canadian companies run head to head against Australian companies in taking advantage of the liberalized mining atmosphere of the country. In a primer issued in 1998 by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Canada outranked Australia with 16 Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) compared to Australia with nine and the U.S. with two applications.

Canada’s role

The Canadian government fully supports the exploitation and plunder of Third World mineral resources through the activities of its lending arm – the Canada Export Development Corporation (EDC), a secretive organization that operates on the full faith and credit of the government of Canada but has no legal obligation to let Canadians know which companies are being financed.

In a 2002 report by the Halifax Initiative documenting the negative impacts of several projects funded by EDC throughout the world, Placer Dome’s Marcopper Mine disaster was one of the case studies presented. EDC was also the subject of a campaign ‘This Land is not for Sale’ by Development and Peace, the Canadian Catholic Church’s international development agency.

According to Catherine Coumans of Mining Watch Canada, the Canadian government supports Placer Dome in its case against the Province of Marinduque filed in the United States. The government also sided with another Canadian company ,Talisman Energy, Inc. that is also being sued in the U.S. for its alleged genocide in the Sudan.

In a series on mining in last year, The Ottawa Citizen, critics claim Canada uses tax dollars to promote projects linked to some of the most notorious industrial catastrophes in the world as well as with allegations of human rights violations. In fact, the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) to the Philippines last August 2005 participated in by eight delegates from Canada, documented increased militarization and human rights violations in areas where mining is located.

People’s Resistance

In the face of what critics in the Philippines call ‘development aggression’, the Filipino people have not wavered in its opposition to the foreign mining onslaught. Despite the setback suffered by the reversal of the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the struggle continues – even more militantly.

The national outrage as a result of the Marcopper disaster in 1996 and the passage of the Mining Act have galvanized the people to fight against mining. From street protests to nationally and internationally coordinated campaigns and outright blockades as well as legal means like the Marinduque suit against Placer Dome, the people have been emboldened by their victories but tempered by their defeats.

Indeed, the people’s resistance has been likened to a ‘war’.

In a stirring address to delegates of the International Conference Against Mining TNCs in Manila on November 1998, Satur C. Ocampo (now a member of the Philippine Congress under the Partylist Bayan Muna) said that though it is not a shooting war it is war nonetheless. He said: -

“This is the war against the transnational mining corporations. For years, these modern behemoths have been wantonly devastating our lands, forests, water resources and the environment….”

“The lessons of our shared experience converge on this point: that plunder and domination by force and deceit spur popular resistance. And where the seeds of plunder and domination in each of our countries issue from the same source – from monopoly capital fueling the TNC offensive under the banner of globalization – there lies our common enemy. There lies the target of our collective attack.”

“Comrades and friends, by every way possible, through every means available, and for as long as it may take, let us resolve to militantly resist imperialist plunder and domination. Till we defeat the enemy.”
Words that Barrick Gold may well ponder.