Update: 19.06.2013

Commodities giant Glencore jeopardises human rights situation in the Philippines

Glencore Xstrata, the transnational commodities corporation based in Zug, is once again coming under fire for the violation of human rights. The planned construction of a mine in the Philippines endangers the source of life of tens of thousands of local residents. This is the result of a study commissioned by a number of religious aid organisations. These organisations call for a suspension of the project.

«The powder keg is about to explode»

In Tampakan on the Philippine island of Mindanao, Asia’s biggest copper and gold mine is about to be opened: Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), a company that is part of the Glencore Xstrata corporation, is planning to mine 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold over the next 20 years.

In order to render this project possible, 5,000 indigenous people will have to be evicted from their ancestral lands which would irreversibly then be irreversibly destroyed by the mining works. In addition, the water supplies for tens of thousands of inhabitants of the region would be endangered. The political situation in the region is already considered unstable and political violence is on the rise. According to aid organisations, eight persons have been killed already in connection with the projects. Social Action Center (SAC), a local organisation warns that the situation might escalate into a more violent conflict and that the powder keg is about to explode.

Free consent and proper information of the population is necessary

The Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund, Bread for All and the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation Misereor have commissioned a study with the Institute for Development and Peace of the University of Duisburg-Essen. The report published in mid-June 2013 is based on documents and surveys gathered locally in the Philippines and proves that the Glencore Xstrata subsidiary SMI has failed to sufficiently clarify the possible effects of their activities on the human rights situation of the people living in this area. In their media release, the aid organisations point out that such clarification is absolutely imperative particularly in conflict regions such as Tampakan.

There is above all a need for a real exchange of opinions with the local population. «The indigenous people’s right to decide freely on the realisation of mining projects on its land has to be respected», says Elisabeth Strohscheidt of Misereor. This includes a good knowledge of the consequences of the project in regard to the economic and social situation of the indigenous people, as well as the effects on their culture and their environment. So far, the Glencore Xstrata subsidiary has barely or not at all addressed the risks and serious impacts on aspects of the planned project, such as the danger of earthquakes in the region, possible environmental pollution or the adverse effects on food security and the quality of water supplies. At the same time, the company pledged to finance improvements in schooling and medical facilities, which the aid organisations consider to be a negative development since the local people will end up being dependent on SMI.

Reaction by the Federal Council is called for as well

The Glencore Xstrata subsidiary has signed up to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and therewith accepts to respect human rights worldwide. Aid organisations now primarily call for an «honest dialogue» between the company, the Philippine government and the affected population. In addition, they press for active Swiss policies in this field: «We need a legal regulation to assure that the obligation for enterprises to exercise due diligence in business becomes a binding standard. Swiss enterprises have to respect human rights – all of them, and all around the world.»

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