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Mining in Philippines behind times, say labor groups


02:11 AM May 1st, 2012

By: Kristine L. Alave, May 1st, 2012 02:11 AM

Filipino miners still work under conditions that are a throwback to the previous century, a report by local and international labor groups has said.

Aside from enduring primitive working conditions, Filipino miners in the Cordilleras and the Caraga region—two of the highly mineralized regions in the country—use old technologies that aggravate environmental problems and put them in danger, the International Solidarity Mission on Mining (ISMM) said in its report released ahead of Labor Day.

The report noted “rampant contractualization, depressed wages and workers’ rights violations” in the mining areas.

“[Mining] companies do not only extract the natural resources of the country, but also gravely exploit Filipino laborers with very low wages and rampant contractualization in mining companies,” the ISMM report said.

An ISMM delegation, which includes representatives from mining and labor groups in Germany, Australia, Belgium, South Korea and Japan, visited Lepanto Mining Consolidated Corp. in Benguet and other mines in the Caraga region.

Members of the delegation noted that Lepanto’s miners in its operations in Mankayan suffered from unsatisfactory labor circumstances, particularly low wages and dangerous working conditions.

“Out of its more than 1,400 workers, 800 are contractual while the rest are illegals who only get about P200 to P250 a day,” said Jon Swart of the Australian Workers Union. The report also noted that mining firms did not provide protective equipment like masks to the miners.

The ISMM urged the Philippine government to raise the wages for mine workers and impose stricter regulations on mining companies to make the safety of miners paramount. It must also help in developing downstream industries locally so that the country could gain optimal value in trading using minerals extracted from the Philippines.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno said the government was working on new laws that would regulate the mining industry, including stricter regulations on smaller mines and higher fines on large-scale mining companies.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines declined to comment on the issues presented by the ISMM. Its spokesperson stressed that the industry group made sure that its members followed national rules to protect miners and the environment.

“We encourage our members to comply with government laws as part of our advocacy for responsible and sustainable mining,” said Rocky G. Dimaculangan, COMP spokesperson.

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