NPA warns more attacks vs SMI

"Xstrata-SMI will face direct punitive measures for its encroachment and continuing presence in South Central Mindanao," the statement said.

The rebel group also held the Arroyo government for the "plunder and destruction of our land and waters" in the area.

"It has brazenly facilitated the entry of foreign multinational mining companies like Xstrata-SMI and gave them blanket authority to exploit our natural resources," the NPA further said.

In a statement signed by Ka Dencio Madrigal and posted on the website of the rebel group, the NPA also said that cases have already been filed against former Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Paul Dominguez and SMI supervisor for local and regional political affairs Roland Doria before the "people's revolutionary court."

Dominguez could not be reached to give his reaction.

Dominguez was SMI president until April 2007 when he resigned as officer of the multi-billion dollar copper and gold project following the takeover of Xstrata Copper.

Xstrata has taken active role over SMI and took over major management functions and decisions since the resignation of Dominguez.

Several key local officers of SMI also reportedly resigned over policy disagreements with Xstrata management people.

Late last year, several agency and casual workers of the company barricaded the offices of SMI over alleged failure to honor commitment to hire members of the host tribal communities of the copper project.

The NPA rebels have repeatedly warned the company against pursuing mining operations in the hinterlands of Tampakan and adjoining towns of Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.

Some 40 fully armed rebels attacked the base camp of SMI in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan in the early hours of January 1 and burned two buildings of the company.

The NPAs also harassed a nearby military detachment before fleeing the area.

SMI condemned the attack but issued no further statement.

Xstrata Copper is a subsidiary of Xstrata PLC, a Switzerland-based firm said to be the sixth largest mining corporation in the world.

Last year, it exercised its option over the Tampakan gold and copper project owned by SMI.

Late last year, XStrata announced that its exploration studies in the Tampakan Copper and Gold Project could yield as much 2.2 billion tons in ore deposits, up 10 percent from the last estimate declared in April 2006.

The upgraded measured, indicated and inferred resources were pegged at a grade of 0.6 percent 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 percent copper cut-off grade, XStrata said in a statement. (Edwin G. Espejo / MindaNews contributor)