Mt. Canatuan Gold Mine on Subanon Ancestral Lands, Western Mindanao, Philippines

Sacred lands and Philippines’ corporate gold rush: the Subanon indigenous oppose the destruction of their sacred Mountain Canatuan by the Canadian mining company TVI Pacific Inc.


On October 23, 1996, TVI Resource Development Phil. Inc. , subsidiary of Canadian TVI Pacific Inc., was granted a mining permission to develop an open pit gold and silver mine, placed on top of Mt. Canatuan, the sacred place and altar of the Subanon indigenous people [1]. The Subanon, present in the area since ever, pursuing legal recognition since 1987, were among the first indigenous groups who received in 2003 a formal Certificate of Ancestral Domain, covering an area of 8,213ha [1]. The mining permission, located within their ancestral lands was granted to the company without Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) by the affected communities; hence, in non-compliance with the Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA) of the Philippines [1].

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Basic Data
NameMt. Canatuan Gold Mine on Subanon Ancestral Lands, Western Mindanao, Philippines
ProvinceProvince of Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Tailings from mines
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe approval of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the Philippine government was received by TVI Resource Development Phils. Inc., subsidiary of Canadian TVI Pacific. Inc., on October 23, 1996 [1].

TVI Resource Development Phil. Inc., which is further involved in other mining projects in Mindanao, such as the Balabag mine [6], is a subsidiary of Canadian TVI Pacific. Inc. Among other shareholders is the Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation [7].

The Canatuan mine was the first mine operated by a foreign company, after the 1995 Mining Act [5].

(Note that in 2012, a moratorium on new mining concessions was ordered, which however did not affected ongoing concessions).

Total disclosed project cost was reported (2008) to amount to 57.57 million USD [6].

508.34 ha of the MPSA are located within the ancestral land domain of the Subanon, having a population of 330,000. The ancestral land domain title held by the Subanon covers 8,213ha [1].

Mining operation started in 2004 and ended in 2014. Between 2004 and 2008, a total of 105,000 ounces of gold and 1.8 million ounces of silver doré were produced by the Canatuan gold silver mine. This relates to gross revenues of USD 86 million [5].

Between 2009 and 2014; a total of 199,778 dry metric tons of copper concentrate and 40,548 dry metric tons of zinc concentrate for gross revenues of USD 393 million were produced by the Canatuan copper-zinc mine [5].
Project Area (in hectares)508,34
Level of Investment (in USD)57,570,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population330,000
Start Date23/10/1996
Company Names or State EnterprisesTVI Pacific Inc. (TVI) from Canada - mining, gold, silver, copper
TVIRD Resource Development Phils. Inc. (TVIRD) from Philippines - mining, gold, silver, copper
Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation from Philippines - mining
Relevant government actorsDepartment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the Philippine government
International and Financial InstitutionsMetropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (Metrobank) from Philippines - banking, finance
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersApu Manglang Glupa’ Pusaka (AMGP); Gukom Sog Pito Kobogolalan Sog Pito Kodulongan (Gukom of the Seven Traditional Councils of the Seven Rivers); Pigsalabukan Bangsa Subanon (PBS) / Confederacy of the Subanon People; Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center/Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FOE Phils.); Tebtebba, Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education; Indigenous Peoples Links; Irish Centre for Human Rights; Save Siocon paradise movement
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Subanon (name of the indigenous group)
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Potential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
The company underwent an indigenous trial, after which it admitted to have damaged the sacred place. Afterwards the company and started to pay fines, which could be understood as a form of compensation for the damages produced.
Development of AlternativesAccording to the UN CERD complaint filed in 2007, the proposals put forward by the affected communities were [1]:

1. Urge the Philippine Government to call a halt to current operations on Mount Canatuan

and any planned expansions in the surrounding area.

2. Call on the Government of the Philippines to adhere to its obligations under CERD to

provide a timely country report addressing the violation of the Subanon’s rights, what

measures it has taken to uphold and protect indigenous peoples and their access to justice

and the role of indigenous judicial systems.

3. Urge the NCIP to revoke the discriminatory provisions in the FPIC implementing rules

and regulations and guidelines.

4. Urge the Government of the Philippines to ensure that its agencies and bodies function in

accordance with their mandate, and are held accountable for breaches thereof.

5. Urge the Philippine Government to respect and uphold the ruling of the indigenous

courts, and specifically the ruling of the Gukom promulgated in June 2004.

6. Reaffirm the Committee’s recommendation to the Government of Canada in relation to holding its transnational corporations to account. Also, request that the Government of

Canada investigate TVI’s actions, ensuring the involvement of all affected parties in such

an investigation, and until such a time as this investigation is completed to avoid any

support for TVI.

7. Address the issue of discrimination with regard to indigenous religions and beliefs, and

call for the respectful restoration of Mount Canatuan based on plans overseen by the local


8. Draw the attention of the UN Secretary General, the Human Rights Council, the

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human

Rights and the appropriate Special Rapporteurs to the serious and urgent situation facing

indigenous peoples in the Philippines who are affected by mining developments.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Mining was stopped in 2014, because ore reserves were exhausted, but not because of justice for the affected communities who face vast damages, such as the destruction of their sacred land.
Sources and Materials

Philippine Mining Act of 1995
[click to view]

Executive Order No. 79 (July 2012) Institutionalizing And Implementing Reforms In The Philippine Mining Sector Providing Policies And Guidelines To Ensure Environmental Protection And Responsible Mining In The Utilization Of Mineral Resources
[click to view]

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA)
[click to view]


[3] Cathal Doyle, Clive Wicks and Frank Nally 2006. Mining in the Philippines Concerns and conflicts. Report of a Fact-Finding Trip to the Philippines. July-August 2006. (accessed 23/03/2015)
[click to view]

William Holden, Kathleen Nadeau and R. Daniel Jacobson 2011. Exemplifying Accumulation By Dispossession: Mining And Indigenous Peoples In The Philippines. Geografiska Annaler: Series B
[click to view]


[2] MiningWatch Canada on the case (13/08/2005)
[click to view]

[4] Mines and Communities (24/05/2011): "Canadian company TVI submits to Philippine tribal justice" (accessed 23/03/2015)
[click to view]

[5] TVI Pacific Inc.'s website on the Mt. Canatuan mine (accessed 23/03/2015)
[click to view]

[1] UN CERD Complaint 2007: Discrimination against the Subanon of Mt Canatuan, Siocon, Zambonga del Norte, Philippines in the context of large-scale gold mining on their ancestral domain. (accessed 23/03/2015)
[click to view]

[6] Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (Nov-Dec, 2008): "The Canadian quandary" (accessed 23/03/2015)
[click to view]

[7] GMANEWS online (26/12/2007): "Atlas turns P42M loan into equity in Canatuan Project" (accessed 23/03/2015)
[click to view]

Wikipedia on the case
[click to view]

Media Links

Indigenous leader explains the motives behind the UN CERD complaint (2012)
[click to view]

Indigenous leader on the UN CERD complaint (2007)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Canatuan Copper Mine Source:
[click to view]

Familiy farm after mining start Source: taken from
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update23/03/2015