Two community representatives from Mindoro Island in the Philippines came to the United Kingdom recently to voice the opposition of communities to the activities of a UK-based company on their land. The company, Crew Development, is an international mining company with offices in Norway and Canada, with its headquarters in the UK. It has plans to develop a nickel mine on the island of Mindoro, on a concession almost 100 square kilometres in area straddling the border between the provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro. Production will involve strip mining the soil for nickel and cobalt, with reserves estimated to last for around 30 years. Contrary to the claims of Crew, the project has met with strong and sustained opposition throughout the island of Mindoro. The mine will be on the ancestral lands of the indigenous people of Mindoro, the Mangyans, who have expressed their antagonism to the project through resolutions. There are concerns of de-forestation, increased flooding from siltation of the rivers, the impact on endangered species, such as the tamaraw (wild water buffalo) or Mindoro crocodile, and also from how the mine waste will be disposed. The Provincial Governor of Oriental Mindoro, Atty Arnan C. Panaligan, the two local congressmen and the province-wide Mayors League all oppose the mine. There are clear current statements and position papers from indigenous and civil society organisations rejecting the project and there have been numerous popular rallies, with 12,000 attending the most recent. However, with the support of the central Philippine government, which is currently promoting mining, often against the legitimate and legally supported wished of the people, Crew is pushing ahead with the project. Ramil Baldo, a Mangyan indigenous leader from the affected area, and Father Edwin Gariguez, a priest who was, at one time, acting municipal secretary to the town of Victoria where the mine is located, and who is active in ALAMIN, the local alliance against the project came to the UK to highlight their opposition to the project. They have addressed a meeting at the Houses of Parliament and they have asked to meet with the company, which is based in Weybridge, but so far Crew says it does not have anyone available to meet with the visitors. "We, the people of Mindoro, demand respect for the sovereign will of our people and the recognition of our right to chart our own direction of development. Therefore, we reiterate our demand that Crew stop the proposed mining operation of the Mindoro Nickel Project, " said Father Edwin Gariguez. The visit is being organised by Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks), which is a UK-based organisation active in support of indigenous peoples in the defence and promotion of their rights, and is sponsored by IWGIA in Denmark and Christian Aid in the United Kingdom.
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