KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/22 May) — Another shooting incident rocked the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. on Tuesday, military and company officials said.
Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo, commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion, said a security guard of the mining company was shot in Barangay Tablu, Tampakan Tuesday morning.
Citing sketchy reports earlier in the day, he told a radio station that the security guard died from a gun attack and that a vehicle rented by the mining company was later fired upon.
He later told MindaNews that the security guard was apparently aboard the vehicle and was just wounded.
The military official did not identify the victim. Authorities were still investigating the incident.
For his part, John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines external communications and media relations manager, also denied the security guard was killed in the shooting at around 6:45 a.m.
“An off-duty security guard employed by our security service provider Catena was shot in the forearm by an unidentified individual,” Arnaldo said in an e-mailed statement.
The victim, who was rushed to a hospital for treatment, was traveling along Aspac Road in Barangay Tablu, Tampakan when the incident occurred, the mining executive said.
“The safety of SMI employees remains our first priority. As a precautionary measure we have temporarily suspended all travel for SMI employees and contractors along the Aspac Road,” Arnaldo said.
Sagittarius Mines is looking forward to the swift resolution of the incident, he added.
Last year, three workers of a construction company hired by Sagittarius Mines for a road project were also killed in an ambush staged by tribal members opposing the Tampakan copper-gold project.
Daguil Capion, a B’laan tribal leader, had claimed responsibility for the ambush in March 2011 but put the blame on the mining firm. This happened in Barangay Danlag also in Tampakan town.
If the mining firm had only heeded our demand to leave our ancestral domain, we would not resort to this violence, Capion, who remains in hiding, earlier told the local media.
The latest shooting incident within the mines development site came as tribal members opposed to the Tampakan project continue their barricades.
Several B’laan communities in Bong Mal district set up the roadblocks last March to protest the relocation plans of Sagittarius Mines.
Bong Mal, which sits at the borders of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, serves as a crucial artery for Sagittarius Mines to move around its tenement.
It may be recalled that on New Year’s Day 2008, New People’s Army rebels stormed the base camp of Sagittarius Mines in Barangay Tablu and set on fire buildings and equipment worth P12 million. The following year, the communist guerillas also attacked the Tampakan municipal police station in retaliation to the alleged protection extended by the police to the mining firm.
The Tampakan project is touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.
The estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 million metric tons to 15 million MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz, according to the latest company study.
In January, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected Sagittarius Mines’ application for an environmental compliance certificate, citing the open-pit mining ban imposed by South Cotabato province.
The company filed a motion for reconsideration but the Environment department has yet to announce a decision. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)