The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) strongly disagrees with the ISO 14001 award given to the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC). This award is a complete insult and an attempt to cover up the long list of environmental crimes committed by the LCMC in Mankayan, Benguet and to the downstream communities along the Abra River. In fact, LCMC deserves to be awarded as one of the worst mining companies in the country.

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ISO must be reminded that LCMC is guilty of environmental crimes since it started its operation in 1936. Upon its operations, LCMC dumped mine tailings and waste straight into the Abra River. It was only in the 1960’s that the first tailings dam was built. The dam was abandoned after less than 10 years and the land became unsuitable for agriculture. Tailings Dam 2 was constructed in the 1970s. Its collapse caused the contamination of nearby rice fields. Tailings Dam 3 and a diversion tunnel gave way in 1986 during a strong typhoon. Another spillway collapsed after a typhoon in 1993. The spilled tailings encroached on riverbanks and destroyed rice fields downstream. LCMC also caused the riverbed to rise and the polluted water to backflow into other tributaries of the Abra River. [1]

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In September 2002, an Environmental Investigative Mission was conducted by the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM) and indicated that heavy metal content (lead, cadmium and copper) was elevated in the soil and waters downstream from the Lepanto mine. The downstream impact of tailings disposal is that along a 25-kilometer stretch of the Abra River, some 465 hectares of rice land have been washed out.[2] And in July 1999, Pablo Gomez, a villager in Mankayan, Benguet was killed when he was suddenly swept away in a landslide along with the Colalo Primary School building. In 2009 and 2013, Poblacion, Mankayan experienced sinking and ground subsidence.

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In addition, experiences also show that LCMC as a company uses State Security forces to defend its interest. And with militarization, this resulted to human rights violations committed against the people. In 2012, a minor in Mankayan was raped by Capt. Danilo Lalin of the 86th IBPA. Up to date, Capt. Lalin is not arrested and brought to justice. For a long time, large scale mining operations is always coupled with militarization.

On the other hand, this is not the first time ISO awarded a mining company known for their environmental crimes. In March this year, Benguet Corporation received the same award. Like LCMC, Benguet Corporation as the oldest mining in the country is responsible for the irreversible environmental destruction in Itogon, Benguet and its nearby communities.

With these two awards given by ISO, the institution is revealing a reputation of being bias to big mining companies and against the people. CPA sees these awards as deceptive and covers up the worst environmental track record of LCMC and Benguet Corporation.

CPA firmly believes that it is not ISO that defines what a world class environmental management system by mining companies should be. It is the people and the communities affected by the impacts of large scale mining. ISO should listen to the people of Mankayan, Benguet and the communities along the Abra River in their call for LCMC to stop its operation and compensate the affected areas due to its environmental destruction. And if ISO is really looking for a world class environmental management system, it should award each community that continues to practice sustainable stewardship of the Earth and asserts their rights against the operation and entry of large scale mining companies into their territories. ***

 

 

 

For reference:

 

Abigail Anongos

Secretary General

 

[1] Save the Abra River Movement (STARM). What is Happening to the Abra River? A Primer on the Effects of Corporate Mining on the Abra River System. September 2003.

[2] APIT TAKO.

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