A green activist from Australia joins investigative missions in areas affected by operations of Australian mining companies in the Philippines.
By Marya Salamat
MANILA – As Australian Peter Brock turned 56 on January 27, he found it fitting to be with environmentalists in a picket protest in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City.
Brock is the head of a national campaign initiated by the Australia-based group Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines. He is set to participate in environmental investigative missions in Philippine communities affected by large-scale mining operations by various Australian mining companies.
Brock said his group is trying to build solidarity between groups in Australia, Philippines and El Salvador, where OceanaGold is currently involved in a mining dispute.
OceanaGold has big interest in El Salvador mines, but the El Salvadoran government has halted its operations following peoples protest and reported environmental destruction which includes tragic impact on communities’ water sources.
“Mines have been operated badly in El Salvador, causing pollution, damage, and people’s protests,” Brock told Bulatlat.com.
But because the El Salvador government is part of a free trade agreement, Brock said it is being sued since two years ago by the mining company OceanaGold as a result of the government decision to stop the mining operation.
Oceana Gold is demanding from El Salvador government some $310-million, said Brock. The amount, he added, is higher than the country’s budget for health or education. He said the decision in the case would show the nature of free trade agreement, “if governments can decide to protect environment or if profit is more important.”
In the Philippines, Brock will also visit the Tampakan mines in Mindanao where members of his group had been to since 1995.
The mining operations in Tampakan, locally operated by Sagittarius Mines, have repeatedly postponed the start of commercial operations amid a bloody standoff with the opposing tribes. Over the years, its foreign partner mining company has changed hands from Australian Western Mining to Swiss Xstrata, and now to global mining giant Glencore.
The Tampakan Mines is two-third owned by the Brisbane, Australia unit of global mining giant Glencore, Brock said. The remaining third owner of Sagittarius Mines, he added, has stakes from mining companies headquartered also in Australia. This web of Australian company involvement is part of what brings him to the Philippines and to environmental investigative missions in affected communities, he said.