De Lima alarmed at higher prevalence of human rights abuses in mining projects

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed concern over the apparent gaps in the country’s environmental laws that compound the higher prevalence of human rights abuses in communities where there are large-scale mining in the area.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 778 which seeks an appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the implementation of various environmental protection laws by concerned government agencies.

“Despite stringent regulations under our laws to mitigate environmental degradation, mining operations continue to pollute rivers, cause soil erosion, and destroy forests and vegetation,” she said.

De Lima pointed to reports about children as young as 13 years old are working in mining industries in violations of Republic Act No. 9231, also known as “Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.”

In 2010, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), acting on complaints, has found clear violations of human rights committed by Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. in Didipio, Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya against its own workers.

Sometime in June 2013, Sagitarrius Mines, Inc., in Tampakan, South Cotabato has been accused of funding the operations of the military and paramilitary groups which have been harassing and killing of indigenous peoples within the mining areas.

CHR has also found human rights abuses and violations in four other large-scale nickel mining operations in Zambales by Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc.

The Senator from Bicol noted that in these large-scale nickel mining operations, there were reported cases of land grabbing and other human rights violations, including the right to health, to a clean environment, and the right to livelihood, among others. She said the proposed Senate investigation should take an in-depth inquiry into the continuing negative impact of mining operations on the environment and human rights of local communities.

She also added it should also probe the continued use of instruments of State repression, such as the police and military, in protecting mining operations against local communities and people’s organizations due to their active opposition.

“It is imperative to fully implement laws and utilize mechanisms to protect our environment as well as uphold the human rights of local communities who are vulnerable and exposed to the dangers of mining,” she said.

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