A highly placed source who declined to be named, said SMI hired a former member of the elite British SAS security force from an Australian security firm to serve as security consultant of the company after receiving repeated threats of attacks from several armed groups.
On New Year's Day, some 40 members of the communist-led New People's Army raided the base camp of SMI in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato and burned its administration and dormitory buildings.
The rebels also disarmed security personnel manning the camp and harassed a Philippine Army detachment some 500 meters away from the mining firm compound to prevent reinforcements from soldiers and militiamen.
The NPAs took away two service revolvers and a shotgun from three security personnel on duty
during the raid.
No one was hurt in the attack but a former militiaman was reportedly abducted by the rebels in the nearby village of Datal Biao in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat when the armed group retreated.
The former militiaman, a certain Tony Gorgonio , remained missing as of January 10.
SMI corporate affairs supervisor Roy Antonio would neither confirm nor deny the presence of a foreign security consultant. "SMI cannot discuss any security matters at all," Antonio said in a text message.
But the same source identified the foreign security agency, which provided the consultant for SMI as Genric Holdings Limited, reportedly an Australian-based security firm. In its Internet website, Genric Holdings said it is providing security consultancy in at least 32 countries worldwide, the Philippines included.
The company specializes in comprehensive security aspects of its clients to include "training and advisory services relative to specific situations, for example how to deal with activist groups threatening company products, operations and personnel."
The source said the consultant reportedly began overseeing the security of SMI premises and officials last year.
SMI is presently conducting drilling operations and is in the feasibility studies stage of its copper and gold project in Tampakan.
SMI is controlled by Australia-based Xsrata Copper, one of the world's biggest mining firms, following its takeover of the company last year. Last month, Xstrata released new estimates of the copper and ore deposits in Tampakan which reported could reach as much as 2.2 billion tons.
The upgraded measured, indicated and inferred resource totals 2.2 billion tons at a grade of 0.6% copper and 0.2 grams per ton gold and contains 12.8 million tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold using a 0.3% copper cut-off grade, the company said in a statement. (Edwin Espejo / MindaNews contributor)