SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/25 November)– An Australian-affiliated mining company and its local partner have no right to operate or conduct exploration activities in Masapelid Island off Surigao del Norte, Leo Jasareno, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said.
Jasareno told MindaNews in a telephone interview that Bundok Mineral Resources Corporation (BMRC) “has no legal personality” to explore 1,400 hectares of land because San Manuel Mining Corporation (SMMC), holder of Mineral Production Sharing Agreement 0049-91-XIII, has “no legal right” to operate in the area.
“We acted already on the request of San Manuel and we have denied their application for extension. They have already consummated the exploration period allowed by law,” Jasareno said.
Officials of the Australia-based mineral exploration firm Lindian Limited Resources said that government inaction on their application placed the company at a disadvantaged position. They added that BMRC and San Manuel are “victims” of bureaucratic red tape, claiming the government failed to act on their third application for exploration sometime in 2010.
BMRC is an affiliate of Lindian.
But Jasareno reiterated they have acted on the company’s application, by denying it.
“Sa case nila (San Manuel) 20 years na sila (In the case of San Manuel, they have been around for 20 years). Also, under the law, an exploration period is only allowable for 8 years,” he said.
Jasareno admitted that they had received the letter-complaint of several barangay officials in Lakandula, the most affected barangay in the island, asking for an investigation on the company’s supposed operations.
“It is important (to note) that San Manuel is not authorized to mine. This should be investigated also,” he noted.
Last month, a team of MGB personnel based in this city conducted an ocular inspection at Sitio Dakung Sabang, also in Masapelid, to verify if the company followed the stoppage order issued by MGB regional director Roger A. de Dios.
At least 200 supporters of BMRC earlier staged a rally urging authorities to lift the stoppage order so they can resume work and their livelihood.
De Dios issued the stoppage order on October 3. Exploration activities reportedly stopped a week before the MGB visit on October 30. The MGB team also probed alleged environmental violations committed by the company.
But Jasareno said that even if the stoppage order is lifted, the mining firm can still not operate “because they have no more right.”
MindaNews sought BMRC consultant Jon Felipe Agcol for an interview but he declined the request.
Amid the pronouncement of Jasareno, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan conducted last Wednesday a parallel investigation, joined by representatives of BMRC, MGB, village officials and residents.
Board member Fernando Larong said the investigation was conducted not to jeopardize the MGB decision but to determine if indeed the company’s operations have stopped.
Masapelid Island is composed of six barangays, three of them under Placer town and the rest under Taganaan municipality.
Vice Governor Arturo Carlos Egay Jr. told MindaNews the result of the investigation will be released next week. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)