[UPDATED from NOVEMBER 2009 article on Hallmark Nickel]

In January this year BHP Billiton cut ties with its controversial Hallmark nickel mine, selling its stake in the project to AMCOR. Lodged between two protected areas – the Pujada Bay Protected Seascape and Mt. Hamiguitan Range, a proclaimed wildlife sanctuary – Macambol has never been the most logical site for a large-scale nickel
laterite mining project.

Home to more or less a hundred hectares of “pygmy forests,” exotic plants and wild animals, the local community rely on rattan, timber and non-timber products as a source of livelihood. The community, successfully defending their lands and protected areas against large scale logging, now stands wracked with increasing social tensions from the nickel mining operation.

Living in constant fear of displacement, loss of livelihoods and environmental degradation, the community continue to defend these two protected areas, which form part of their natural life support systems.

Extractives policy analyst Sonya Maldar, for the Catholic Overseas Development Agency (CAFOD), states, “Despite BHP Billiton’s withdrawal from the Hallmark project, it looks like the company’s former partners will proceed with the nickel mine.

Given the serious flaws in the official consent process, AMCOR and any future partners in the project cannot use this to push ahead with mining in the area. There must be a new consent process that is genuinely free and fair before any mining can proceed at Macambol.”

“BHP Billiton’s distancing of itself from this project is not the end of the story. The people and environment of the Philippines are still at risk from poor practices within the mining industry. Despite claiming to be an industry leader, BHP Billiton’s management failed to ensure that the company and its partners met the highest standards at the Hallmark project and this impacted on its licence to operate in Macambol. These issues, which are often seen as more marginal to a good business model, can develop into serious business risks if left unaddressed, leading
to loss of investment to shareholders.”

The large-scale nickel laterite mining project continues to be a threat to local livelihoods, and will give little to the community in return.

Based on CAFOD press release, 7 January 2010, http://www.cafod.org.uk/news/campaigns-news/bhp-billiton-2010-01-07