Anti-mining protestors end 150km march vs Sagittarius Mines

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 Dec) – Anti-mining activists opposing a proposed giant mining project in South Cotabato ended their 150-kilometer four-day march cum caravan upon arriving in Digos City in Davao del Sur around 10 a.m. today.

This despite alleged harassments and delays when unidentified men threw metal spikes that deflated the tires of four vehicles.

Directed against foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc., more than 400 protestors finished the day’s march that started in Padada town beginning at 5:30 a.m., said Ryan Lariba, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Socsksargen chapter.

The march-caravan kicked off in Koronadal City in South Cotabato last Tuesday with about 50 militant and environmental activists, their number swelling as they reached certain places.

Its culmination was timed in celebration today of International Human Rights Day.

The protestors held rallies in Tampakan in South Cotabato, General Santos City and Malalag in Davao del Sur, areas where Sagittarius Mines will operate.

Sagittarius Mines has listed Tampakan town as its principal office but currently performs administrative and operational functions in this city apparently due to security concerns.

In two separate occasions since 2008, the communist New People’s Army had successfully launched violent attacks against the mining firm and the local police command.

The protestors marched last Thursday around Malalag, Davao del Sur, where Sagittarius Mines plans to build a coal-fired plant dedicated solely for its operation.

“Despite the harassments, we were able to complete the long march with wide support from the people, including the religious sector,” Lariba said.

“With the march, [I think] we have implanted in the public mind the strong message to oppose the large-scale mining ventures,” he added.

On Wednesday afternoon, unidentified men on board a motorcycle threw suyaks (spikes) at the caravan while traversing Barangay Batomelong in General Santos City, Lariba reported.

From the first day of the protest dubbed “March Against Large-Scale Mining and Human Rights Violations,” Lariba said their caravan were purportedly stopped seven times in military and police checkpoints.

Manolo T. Labor, Sagittarius Mines external communications superintendent, said they welcome the opposition waged against the Tampakan project, touted as the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.

“The concerns of the opposition will help us assess on how to go with the project. We respect and welcome their views as we did in a recent public scoping where representatives from the Diocese of Marbel were allowed to read their statement and ask questions about the project,” Labor said in a separate interview on Friday.

The diocese has been stoutly opposing the Tampakan project on concerns over the environment, human health and food security. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)