The open-pit King-King Copper-Gold Project operated by Nadecor and St. Augustine in Pantukan threatens the rich biodiversity of Southern Mindanao. The environmental group Panalipdan-SMR cited the 2013 NI 43-101-compliant Technical Report and Preliminary Feasibility Study of M3 Engineering & Technology (M3ENG), which clearly warned that King-King mining will affect twelve “vulnerable or critically endangered” species of the 253 native or endemic plant species present in the area, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and the Philippine National Red List; six species endemic to Mindanao of the 74 bird species present in the area; and a total of 17 mammalian species and 10 reptilian species identified in the area. The report adds that several of the wildlife species found in the region “are listed as near-threatened or vulnerable by the IUCN, while others are protected by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), including 11 bird species, two mammal species and five reptile and amphibian species. The region is also home to the Philippine eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi, which will be further endangered as a result of these large-scale mining projects. The environmental group Panalipdan- SMR emphasized that the M3ENG report also highlights the impact of the project on the coastal and marine ecosystems in the area which is part of the eastern coast of Davao Gulf. Several species of sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and seabirds live in the area. The sea cow species and all species of sea turtle found in the region are listed as endangered.
To the threat to biodiversity is added the threats to human rights. In January 2016 human rights defender 60 years old Teresita Navacilla was killed. She was a member of the Save Pantukan Movement, a network of indigenous peoples from the Pantukan region in the Compostela Valley province (some of them, small scale miners) fighting for the right to their ancestral lands, advocating for more stringent environmental protection in the country and opposing large-scale open pit mining by foreign corporations in Southern Mindanao. On 30 January 2016, three days after being shot, Teresita Navacilla died in a hospital in Tagum City. She had spoken out against the launching of the King-king mining project in Pantukan. Environmental groups warned that the project will adversely effect the livelihood and health of communities in the region, and threaten its biodiversity and marine and coastal ecosystems.
On 27 January 2016, two unidentified armed men attacked her. One of the perpetrators entered the human rights defender's store in Purok Bardown and shot her twice, before both men drove away on motorcycle. The attack was reportedly perpetrated by soldiers from the 46th Infantry Battalion, which has been assigned to secure the King-king mining project. Inhabitants of the Compostela Valley report that the soldiers have arrested and assaulted members of indigenous people Mansaka and other civilians from the region that have opposed the mining project. Mr Seigfred Tubalado, commander of the 46th Infantry Battalion, denied any involvement of his soldiers in the killing of Teresita Navacilla. It is alleged that the attack on Teresita Navacilla was an attempt to silence her opposition to the King-king mining project. The project is being carried out in the Puntakan region by two large-scale international companies, Nationwide Development Corporation (NADECOR) and St. Augustine Gold and Copper Limited (SAGCL). The King-king tenement is the second largest copper and gold deposit in the Philippines. Under an agreement signed in 1992 with the Government of the Philippines, NADECOR received the exclusive right to explore, develop and exploit minerals within the area comprising the King-king deposit. In Spring 2016 NADECOR, in partnership with SAGCL, was planning to begin mining activities. It also plans to scale-up its operations in the near future, leading them to cover 1,656 hectares in the Pantukan region.
The death of Teresita Navacilla brings the number of extrajudicial killings in the region of Southern Mindanao to four in the month of January 2016. The source for this information, Front Line Defender, condemned the killing of Teresita Navacilla, motivated by her legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of environmental rights and rights of indigenous communities inhabiting the Compostela Valley. Front Line Defenders also reiterated its extreme concern for the growing number of extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders in the country and the languishing of these cases in impunity.
On her part, Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan said the attack was an attempt to silence Navacilla for her opposition against the entry of Nadecor and St. Augustine Gold and Copper Limited.
“She is the 54th victim of extrajudicial killings in Southern Mindanao since 2010 and the fourth victim here in just one month,” said Suazo. Suazo claimed that the attackers “could have come from the 46th IB, who have been on a rampage in Pantukan lately, arresting innocent civilians and portraying them as members of the New People’s Army, and assaulting human rights of progressive leaders in the area as well. They are targeting small scale miners, farmers and lumads of Mansaka tribe who are opposing the entry and full operation of Nadecor and St.
Augustine Mining Companies,” she said. There is a pattern of repression against environmentalists in the region, accusing them of membership of the NPA, a tested technique of the police and military to harass activists and citizens.