Mining Resister: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
Mining Company: Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI) Resources and Oceana Gold
Nominated By: Teddy Casino (Manila,Philippines) / Beth Dollaga (Vancouver, BC)
1. What mining-related problems or issues has this person faced?
Human rights violations and use of paramilitary groups by TVI, Oceana Gold against the indigenous peoples, farmers’ communities, and individual anti mining advocates.
2. Please tell us why you would like to nominate this person/community for this award? What aspects, activities, or accomplishments do you find most inspiring?
As a member of the 14th-16th Philippine House of Representatives from 2008-2016, then Rep. Neri Colmenares initiated congressional investigations on the human rights violations committed on communities and anti-mining advocates and the impact of large-scale destructive mining, including those involving Canadian Companies specifically TVI Resources and Oceana Gold. He authored national legislation in Congress to prohibit mining in areas declared as mining free zones by local government units, and to repeal and replace the Philippine Mining Act with a new law banning open pit mining and other destructive, large-scale mining practices, conserve the environment and protect communities in mineral rich areas.
On October 30, 2012 he appeared as a witness in the hearing of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the House of Commons, Chamber Des Communes, Canada, and exposed the alleged use of paramilitary groups by big foreign mining firms including TVI Resources in violently suppressing the people’s opposition to its mining activities. He proposed a Canadian study mission. During the visit of Canadian officials, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on November 10, 2012, Atty. Colmenares supported the protest actions of the national minorities and anti mining advocates as he reiterated that the Canadian officials should do their part to ensure that Canadian firms in the Philippines, particularly the mining corporations, respected the people’s rights. His courage and unwavering support to the fight against destructive mining inspires the people to continue the struggle.
3. How have companyies and/or governments responded to this work?
Rich and powerful mining companies and successive Philippine governments have tended to deny and cover up the environmental disasters and human rights violations caused by large-scale mining. Thus, Neri Colmenares’ voice as well as those he represents have been a crucial one that speaks truth to power.
Atty. Colmenares has challenged three Philippine governments – led by Presidents Arroyo, Aquino and Duterte – to protect the environment and indigenous communities affected by mining. He has consistently called for the dismantling of paramilitary groups that protect mining companies. His calls are shared and have resonated among a wide array of communities, groups and movements, pressuring the government and mining companies to respond, however unwillingly and in small steps, to their demands.
In 2012, TVI was compelled to condemn the killing of an 11-year-old boy named Jordan Manda, son of a community leader opposed to its mining operations in Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines. Philippine military and police officials denied involvement in the killing. In that same year, Pres. Benigno Aquino issued an executive order suspending all new applications for mining.
In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed anti-mining advocate Gina Lopez to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She later ordered the closure of 26 mining firms for violation of environmental laws. However a year later, Lopez was replaced by former armed forces chief of staff Roy Cimatu who downgraded Lopez’s order to the closure of only three companies and suspension of nine others.
The Canadian government has been hearing calls from people like Colmenares around the world for over 12 years to develop accountability mechanisms but has yet to implement any credible mechanisms.
4. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the nominee and their struggle?
As a senatorial candidate, Atty. Colmenares continues to advocate for pro-people and pro-environment policies in mining and utilization of natural resources. Part of his electoral platform is the development of laws and policies addressing the climate change crisis.
Colmenares believes that poverty plays a crucial role in environmental destruction. Thus aside from stronger environmental laws, he is pushing for a sustainable program of industrial and agro-industrial development that would provide better jobs and incomes among communities with the least environmental cost.
He supports the struggle of of the Bangsamoro, Lumad, and other national minorities for self-determination and control of their ancestral lands.
Join us to celebrate BC Mining Resisters of the Year at the GALA OF RESISTANCE on Wednesday, May 1st in Vancouver, BC, unceded Coast Salish Territories.