Two weeks after closure, nickel mining firm wants to go large-scale

Anthony Ryan Culima, acting resident manager of the SR Metals, Inc. (SRMI), told MindaNews today that the company is applying for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA).

Under the MPSA, the government, as owner of the minerals, shares in the production of the SRMI, “whether in kind or in value,” while the latter provides the necessary financing, technology, management and personnel for the mining project.

But Fr. Luis Jenor, parish priest of St. Anne in Tubay, said the mining firm is “an image of an irresponsible mining.”  From the start, he said, the company had been operating illegally.

The priest said the mining area granted to SRMI had earlier been declared by the Tubay government as watershed, reforestation site and bird sanctuary.

SRMI shut down its operations over a 60-hectare site on September 24, citing financial difficulties allegedly because of the drop in the price of nickel in the world market.

The 60-hectare minesite was covered by a small-scale permit issued by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board of Agusan del Norte on March 3, 2006.

SRMI closed down on September 24  this year “based on management decision that continuing operation at this point has ceased to be viable,” Culima said.

The company had, in fact, stopped its marketing operations since September 3.  

Culima said they are now finalizing the Environmental Protection Enhancement Program, Social Development Management Plan and Final Mining Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan as requirements to secure  permit over a thousand hectares of mining area in barangays La Fraternidad and Binuangan, both in Tubay town under the MPSA.

Corporations, associations, cooperatives or partnerships can apply for a maximum of 5,000 hectares.

“Within this month, we can comply with the requirements for our application with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” he said, adding they would reopen soon.

Culima said the price of nickel may be down in the world market but if they produce nickel large-scale, this would offset the expenses.

But Fr. Jenor, one of the convenors of the Tubaynon Against Mining,  said they “strongly oppose its expansion and would lobby (that they be not granted) the MPSA.”

Fr. Jenor said SMRI does not have a track record in mining and “doesn’t even respect court orders.”

“We will submit our opposition to Environment Secretary Lito Atienza within this week. Our legal arm is now working on it,” Jenor said.

Enviornment Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio together with ranking officials from the regional office of  the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and Mines and  Geosciences Bureau (MGB) visited the mine site of the SRMI on October 5 but has yet to make public the evaluation team’s findings.