Press Release
August 5, 2007

Loren wants mining firms to plant trees, build schools & hospitals

BUTUAN CITY - Mining concessionaires in the country, many of them multinational corporations, should be required to build forest parks, schools and hospitals in the communities around them, Sen. Loren Legarda said here Sunday.

"Mining companies should not just create new wealth for themselves and their shareholders. They should also enrich the communities -- the people -- around them," Legarda said during a visit to this city, which is part of Caraga, a designated "high-priority mining investment site."

Caraga has two large mining concessions. Philippine Nickel Corp. and China's Jinchuan Nonferrous Metals Corp. jointly operate one area, in nickel deposit-rich Nonoc Island, Surigao City. Manila Mining Corp. and England's Anglo American plc jointly operate the other area, in gold and copper-rich Placer, Surigao del Norte.

"We should have additional, specific guidelines for responsible mining. For instance, regulators should require mining firms to plant a certain number of trees for every ton of ore that they extract from the land," Legarda said.

"Additionally, mining companies should be required to put up one school in every barangay and one hospital in every town around their concession areas," the senator said.

Legarda stressed the need for mining companies "to consciously return" to the communities around them some of the huge profits that they are generating.

"The residents of the communities around concession areas should be able to achieve a higher quality of life," she said.

Mining firms are drawing out and processing gold, copper and nickel at a cost of just one-fourth, some even less, what they stand to gain by selling these precious and base metals in the open market, according to the senator.

"There is nothing wrong with this -- with making a lot of money. But they have to give back some of these profits to the communities around them," Legarda said.

"They also have to offset the extractive nature of their activities by enhancing the environment on purpose, such as by growing lots of trees," she added.

Five of the world's biggest mining companies -- Melbourne, Australia-based BHP Billiton Ltd.; Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.; London, England-based Anglo American; Zug, Switzerland-based Xstrata plc; and Toronto, Canada-based Chemical Vapour Metal Refining Inc. -- are now invested in the Philippines.

The country's estimated $1-tillion worth of unexplored gold, copper and nickel have lured them and dozens of foreign mining companies.

The Philippines has attracted some $1.04-billion worth of mining investments from foreign firms since the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act, which opened the sector to aliens.

Next year, the sector is expected to generate an additional $1.5-billion worth of foreign investments, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

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