Padlocks, roadblocks removed from SMI; dialogue to be set

But workers from the Sagittarius Mines, Inc. Workers Association (SWA), in a petition  want the operations of SMI be suspended unless it “sufficiently” answers “the legitimate demand of the workers for regularization.”

SMI’s Tampakan gold and cooper deposits represent “one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the South East Asia-Western Pacific  Region,” at two billion tons “containing 11.6 million tons of copper and 14.6 million ounces of gold at 0.3% copper cutoff grade.”

Xstrata Copper based in Brisbane, Australia, the fourth largest global copper producer, acquired on March 30 this year 62.5% of the controlling interest in the Tampakan Prjoect and assumed management control through its Philippine-based affiliate, SMI.

In a press statement dated October 8, SMI expressed its appreciation to the official of Tampakan led by acting mayor Pedro Cagas and acting vice mayor Relly Leysa for their “sincere and serious efforts in working to remove the padlocks in the SMI facilities in Tampakan, and to lift the roadblock on public road leading to the project site.”                                                                      

SMI representatives met with the local government’s representatives on Thursday. The local government’s officials agreed to “assist the company by resolving the illegal actions started by a small group of deployed agency workers last Monday.”

The SWA, however, said in their petition to have SMI operations suspended temporarily, said their demand for regularization is “legitimate.”

Some 100 workers of SMI grouped in four clusters last week to paralyze the firm’s operations to demand regularization.

Nilo Reysoma, board member of the SMI Workers Association, said they  padlocked the main office in Tampakan, set up a barricade at Barangay Tablu which leads to the company’s base camp, and staged protest actions in the villages of Lambayong and Liberty, site of SMI’s ore farm. 

Reysoma said around 200 people working in the company for the past two to three years have not been granted regular status. SMI, however, recently announced through local TV it is opening regular posts for 37 workers, mostly drivers. 

But Reysoma said SMI should first look at its current pool of workers to fill the posts instead of opening them to the general public. 

After the meeting with the local officials Thursday, SMI wrote Cagas “to express its appreciation and to propose a way forward through constructive and transparent dialogue in an atmosphere of respect and mutual cooperation.”

“SMI has always believed that issues can be resolved through sincere dialogue and engagement with concerned parties. It is along this approach that we are pursuing our long-term development partnership with the community and the stakeholders of the Tampakan Project,” the press statement quoted Gerardo Laviste, SMI Resident Manager, as saying.

The dialogue, however, has yet to be set.

“SMI remains committed to playing an important role in project and community development. We intend to be around for the long term, and we ask our partners and local community to work with us to improve employment prospects and well-being in the region. The Tampakan project has already delivered many benefits to the local communities. We believe the project has the potential to further significantly improve the quality of life for local communities as it progresses.”