Halloween is fast approaching, and I am filled with scary thoughts. I can imagine little ghosts and goblins shrieking for treats. I can imagine costumed superheroes playing gruesome tricks. But the truly frightening thing that I came across this week is the decision made by the Philippine government to allow mining companies to arm their private security forces.
According to reports from GMANews.TV, mining companies in the Philippines will be allowed to established civilian auxiliary armed groups (CAGs) as an adjunct to the local military. CAG members will carry only low-calibre guns, but that is little consolation to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a bullet.
Philippine Defence Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro reportedly said that miners will be allowed to have a many armed men “as necessary depending on the threat level and the terrain” as along as each company signs an agreement with the Armed Forces.
I find this proposal frightening for several reasons.
First, arming private security forces in the mining industry represents an escalation of the disputes that frequently arise over mineral extraction.
Second, it opens the door for irresponsible use of force during confrontations.
Third, it will only increase the number of death or injury complaints by local residents and NGOs.
Fourth, it increases the risk that mining employees will become targets of armed opponents.
Fifth, the Philippine government is abdicating its responsibility to maintain the peace within its borders.
There are a dozen Canadian companies with projects in the Philippines. Notably, TVI PACIFIC operates the Canatuan and Rapu Rapu gold mines. CREW GOLD is mining gold at the Maco mine. Other companies are engaged in development: CGA MINING’s Masbate gold project and OCEANAGOLD’s Didipio gold project. And there are dozens of exploration projects in various stages of work.
I would like to hear from any Canadian companies with projects in the Philippines and get their opinion on arming private security forces.