A two-year study conducted by Amnesty International on the situation of nickel mine workers in Dinagat Islands in southern Philippines showed “systemic” labor rights abuses, including workers being employed without written contracts, delayed payment of wages, and nonpayment of employers’ contributions for their employees’ mandatory health, housing and social security benefits.

The study, released by AI on 27 August, involved at least 100 mine workers and 15 focus group discussions in 15 villages of the Dinagat Islands province. AI analyzed the workers’ payslips and held talks with the provincial governor, experts in labor and industrial relations and officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Department of Labor and Employment.

The study exposed the practice of mining companies hiring through ‘manpower services companies’. While the mining firms were not directly involved in the hiring, AI said the mining companies are complicit in perpetrating labor abuses because they failed to do due diligence on the companies that provide them with workers. In 2019, a total of 2,300 workers were employed in the mining sector in Dinagat Islands.

Five companies currently operate nickel mines in the province, namely, Cagdianao Mining Corp, Century Peak Corp, Libjo Mining Corp, Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp and Sinosteel Philippines HY Mining Corp. Libjo Mining, Oriental Vision and Sinosteel have substantial involvement of capital from China. These three mining firms were also exposed in 2016 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for violating several environmental codes, including siltation of coastal waters, illegal cutting of trees and failure to comply with their environmental certificates.

The Philippines is one of the largest producers of nickel ore in the world and is the leading supplier of nickel ore to China.