Hot lumber found inside SMI compound; SMI denies ownership

The lumber, measuring 630 board feet, was discovered Thursday "discreetly buried" at the mining facility, local officials said.

But Roy D. Antonio, SMI senior coordinator for corporate affairs, immediately sent a statement denying allegations that the company had something to do with the hoarded illegally cut lumber. Antonio said SMI even notified the municipal environment office on the illegally cut lumber on March 17.

Police and local environment officials discovered the lumber under mounds of sand and hollow blocks at the core farm of SMI in Barangay Liberty in Tampakan. A core farm is where the SMI materials, rock samples, equipment and facilities are being kept.

The SMI statement said the lumber, alleged to have been cut without the necessary permits, was not harvested inside company property. The statement said the lumber was intended for use in forming concrete.

The municipal environment office earlier investigated reports that a contractor of  SMI "was not acting in accordance with the company's contractual and environmental requirements", according to the SMI statement.

"The company is cooperating with the authorities investigating the incident and is continuing with its own internal review," Antonio said.

He added that SMI "is committed to the highest standards of environmental performance, community cooperation and principles of sustainable development."

"The company meets and, wherever practicable, exceeds applicable laws governing the use of forest products and the conditions of its Environmental Compliance Certificate for the SMI Liberty core farm," he added.

In 2007, the company said that approximately 3,200 volunteers planted a total of 20,860 seedlings of various varieties of native and fruit trees around the project area "as part of the firm's reforestation program in the municipalities of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, and Kiblawan in Davao Del Sur", the statement claimed.

SMI is backed by Xstrata Copper as its top investor and Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as junior partner. (MindaNews)