Firm maintains it got Lumads’ consent “without deceit”

Apparently upset by the criticisms its venture has been receiving, officials of MG Mining and Energy Corp., maintained they “obtained the approval of villagers in Barangay Ned to explore the area without deceit.”

In a press conference here late last week, Rufino Bomasang, MG mining senior consultant, said they are planning to put up a coal-fired power plant in the area to address a projected electricity shortfall in Mindanao in 2010 onwards.

“The (construction of the power) plant depends on supply and demand. But the island needs an additional 200 mega watts (MW) in 2010 and after due to a (foreseen) growth of industries,” he said.

The plant construction costs an estimated $1 million for every MW.

“A 300 MW power plant, for example, would be built at a tune of $300 million,” he said.

MG Mining was granted a coal operating contract by the Department of Energy to explore 7,000 hectares of land in Barangay Ned last year. The four-year exploration stage will cost the company at least P34 million.

Ned residents, backed by the local Catholic Church, have opposed the coal projects in their village, which is also being pursued by Daguma Agro-Minerals, Inc. and its sister company, Bonanza Energy Resources, Inc.

Hundreds of residents claimed the coal mining companies failed to consult them properly and that the other signatories on the list were dubious.

Orestes Salon, MG Mining senior vice president for communication development and external affairs, denied his firm employed deceit to get the consent of residents.

He decried what he said was a generalization by anti-mining advocates that all the coal mining firms in the area duped the residents to get their consent for exploration activities.

Salon said the negative reception of the residents to the coal projects in Barangay Ned could have been caused by Daguma-Agro, whose officials could not be reached for comment.

But Daguma-Agro officials earlier also insisted that they did not dupe the residents.

“MG Mining had four or five consultations facilitated by the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) with the residents. The assemblies were documented in nine claim books,”  Salon, who was with Bomasang, told reporters.

The NCIP issues the Free and Prior Informed Consent certificate to firms conducting  massive development activities in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples.

Salon was asked if they would repeat the consultations to do away with perceptions of treachery. But he did not favor the idea because  “the process is very costly and it will be very difficult to return to it.”

But he assured that the process they went through in securing the consent of the villagers was “very transparent.”

In his power point presentation, Salon showed tribal leader Ungil Labi as having given his consent to the exploration activities of MG Mining.

Last month, Labi was in a meeting convened by South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes with critics of the coal projects.

A few months before the meeting, Labi said he would not allow the firms to continue their activities because they would be displaced and the environment would suffer.

“We are willing to use force just for the companies to realize that we don’t want them. They operated without a real consultation if the people in the affected area will back their project,” he said. (MindaNews)