Bakun municipality has been targeted by several mining companies since the 1960s (see project details). In 2007, Royalco Philippines Inc., subsidiary of Australian miner Royalco Resources Ltd. started explorations in the area. However, the indigenous Kankanaey villagers, whose livelihoods depend on their ancestral lands, threatened by mining, have never provided valid Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) to the company operating on their certified ancestral lands .
Royalco, backed up by the provincial office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), was accused of strongly manipulating the FPIC process, in order to achieve a 5,400ha exploration permit, divided in several exploration Phases . In order to achieve the first exploration permit, many lapses in the FPIC procedure were reported, such as fostering strategic division of the tribe’s elderly and misrepresentation for the FPIC process [1;2]. Those elderly who have agreed to the first exploration phase, received then by Royalco a monthly ‘honorarium’ of 2,000PHP (around 50USD).
During 2007 and 2008, when meetings to advance with the free-prior informed consent (FPIC) took place, hundreds of villagers picketed several times Royalco’s office as well as the provincial NCIP office, to suspend the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for exploration phase III [1;2]. However, after an investigation by the central NPIC office, the company was allowed to proceed .
Indigenous resistance was strengthened through the creation of the BAKUN AYWANAN group (Defend and Nurture Bakun) who organized several regional meetings, in which the Benguet Declaration and Bakun Unity Pact were signed . In the following years, several large gatherings among mining opponents were held. Large protests followed, complaints were filed and several resolutions opposing mining activities in Bakun municipality, calling for a suspension of exploration permits and procedures, were released [1;3;4].
Finally, in 2010, following a series of complaints over Royalco’s activities in the Philippines, the House of Representative set to investigate the company for the alleged violations of indigenous rights  and validated the flaws in the FPIC procedures in Bakun municipality . The report, released in February 2011, particularly stated there was no clear basis of why the exploration permit was divided into several phases and areas corresponding to different indigenous sub-groups, since the ancestral lands are not of individual property but of collective use rights . Hence, subdivision of areas and groups was rather a tactic of the company to achieve community division. Increasingly under pressure, and following the large protests, also the provincial NCIP office that previously acted in favor of Royalco, nullified in 2011 the compliance certificate for the exploration phase III permit .
The company however, aimed to renew the permit and meanwhile started harassing the villagers, by submitting their names to the police, accusing them of being members of the armed New People’s Army (NPA) . The community, in turn continued to guard the village entries as a safety measure, avoiding that any mining equipment would be carried into the area . Their resistance activities were finally successful, as in June 19, 2014, Royalco informed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) about its relinquishment of their only valid exploration permit from Phase I, citing ‘poor results of exploration works’ .