Chinese Shenzhou Mining Corporation was one of the nickel mining companies active in the region surrounding Claver, Surigao del Norte. During 2009-2013, it was the operating company of the 433.9798ha Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), held by Claver Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC) since 1998. The company, as well as others active in the area, caused large environmental destruction within the ancestral domains of the indigenous Mamanwa and Manobo tribes [1;2].
Shenzhou Mining Corporation, and other companies, operated their mine without proper siltation facilities. The impacts created serious pollution of river and marine ecosystems, and damaged irreversibly mangroves and corals. Mining further destroyed sacred mountains, prayer areas, hunting areas and burial grounds. Evidence of pollution was supported by an analysis of the Natural Sciences Research Institute of the University of the Philippines (UP-NSRI), which showed that levels of nickel in drinking water were at 190 mg/l, while the maximum acceptable level should be at 0.02 mg/l. Likewise, also soil samples showed 12,400mg/kg, while the maximum tolerable level was at 50 mg/kg. Residents claimed to suffer from health impacts, such as difficulties in breathing, vomiting and lost bowel movement and exposure to heavy metals that may cause cancer. Further, crucial livelihood resources, particularly fish stocks, were negatively affected and polluted .
For this reason, the tribal commission of Mindanao (TRICOM) and several other communities filed in May 2011 a petition for writ before the Supreme Court demanding an immediate stop of the active companies, among them Shenzhou Corporation .
Moreover, the company, which also had a trial pending with MPSA holder company CMCD due to its failure to pay CMCD a 5% royalty share, refused to pay the claimed royalties to the tribes .
Under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), the indigenous are entitled to a 1% share of gross production, as the mining site is located on their ancestral lands. The Mamanwas claimed payments amounting to 24 million PHP (around 540,000 USD) . On January 12, 2012, the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) sent a letter to the company, ordering cease of operations; and the tribe leaders sent official letters to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), asking them to stop issuing permits to the company, due to the NCIPs decision. However, the company continued mining .
In response, on May 2, 2012, around 100 members of the Mamanwa tribe from Claver took over the minesite of Shenzhou Company. The indigenous set up campsites at key points, such as the entrance and the guardhouse and blockades were built to block company staff from entering and exiting; Chinese company staff was held inside the taken mine.
The motives for setting up barricades were mainly outstanding royalties, which the company refused to pay to the tribe, but apart from claiming the payments, they wanted the company to completely leave the area, adhering to NPIC’s cease order. A week later, soldiers and private security and members of the 132nd regional Public Safety Company (RPSC) stormed the mining site, removing the tents and blockades of the protesters .
On July 18, 2012, after a visit from a multi-disciplinary assessment team, the MGB finally ordered the suspension of mining due to excessive siltation in the area and the inappropriate construction of a silting pond in the sea . However, the company was alleged to have continued mining . On July 15, 2013, the regional Court ordered Shenzhou Corporation to vacate the area, as it violated the contracts with CMDC as well as environmental laws and moreover continued mining after a suspension order was given. The company was further ordered to post a bond of 1 million pesos (around 22,000 USD) for whatever damages caused .
This was a small victory for environmental justice, however, in July 2014, CMDC signed a new Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with another Chinese company, CCIL Mining and Mineral Resources Corporation (CCILMMRC), to continue exploiting the concession area. So far it is not clear how the relationship between the indigenous tribes and the new company will develop and to which degree environmental damage will proceed.