Hingpit told MindaNews a number of mining firms have visited the village to present their proposal to explore the Upper Pulangui area, at the eastern and more remote part of the city along Bukidnon's border with Agusan del Sur.
The city government has banned since 2003 all mining activities in any part of the city. Also, a public consultation on mining has shown that the prevailing sentiment among St. Peter residents is against mining.
Hingpit said an official of the Malaybalay City-based Environmental Science for Social Change, a non-government organization, told him that at least 24 firms have applied for mining permits in the Upper Pulangui area.
He said there were reports the area contains rich deposits of chromite, nickel and even gold.
He noted that representatives of a mining company, Galnerite, came to the village in early October to seek permission to explore the area. The firm's engineers were accompanied by representatives of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
In the ensuing “public consultation,” some Lumads (indigenous peoples) showed interest in mining but majority of the residents sounded their opposition to it, a volunteer community policeman said.
St. Peter has a population of 2,180 residents or 449 households in 12 sitios.
Hingpit admitted opposition to mining was clear during the initial consultation and even in a follow-up discussion attended by non-government organizations that were also against it.
But no barangay resolution stating the village's opposition to mining, has been passed as Hingpit said he wants the decision of the people to be based on “reason.”
He said those who favor mining should prove the presence of “model mining sites” that are supposedly sustainable.
He said Galnerite vowed to tour tribal and community leaders to their quarrying site in Manticao, Misamis Oriental. But he also noted it is not yet operational until February.
"If the people would say they will not agree to allow mining in the area, then the barangay council will give way," he said.
"In that case, we can claim we have done our best to study the options," he said.
Hingpit said they will draft a resolution and call for a general assembly to validate the stand.
The Malaybalay City Environment Code approved four years ago by the City Council prohibits mining in any area of the city. The ordinance was amended on October 18 this year, but it has retained its anti-mining provisions.
Provincial Board Member Glenn Peduche, environment committee chair, said only small-scale mining and quarrying is allowed in the province.
Pulanguiwen tribal leader Datu Nestor Menaling, head of the Nabantaw Pulanguiwen Tribal Association, said he could never agree to the entry of mining to their ancestral domain as it would mean destruction and possibly loss of lives.
Father Virgilio Delfin, president of the Church-run San Isidro College, told MindaNews the Diocese of Malaybalay has expressed opposition to mining in Upper Pulangui because it is a watershed of Bukidnon and its neighboring provinces. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)