Anti-mining protesters allowed to attend forum sans placards

COLUMBIO, Sultan Kudarat (MindaNews / November 20) – Some 100 anti-mining advocates who trooped to the municipal gymnasium here on Friday were initially prevented from entering but later allowed inside, without thier placards, to listen and raise their concerns about the impact of the mining operations of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).

Uniformed military and police personnel stopped the protesters, headed by Fr. Peter Geremia, the tribal Filipino program coordinator of the Diocese of Kidapawan, less than 20 meters away from the heavily-guarded gymnasium.
After negotiations with security officials of SMI, the protesters were allowed to proceed to the venue without their anti-mining placards.

The forum went on smoothly afterwards, lasting about five hours.
Senior Filipino officials of SMI presented some engineering aspects of the project slated to commence by 2016.

SMI, managed by global mining player Xstrata Copper with Australian firm Indophil Resources as junior partner, concluded today its “public scoping” in this sleepy municipality after doing the same early this week in the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Kiblawan in Sultan Kudarat and Malungon in Sarangani.

No foreign executive of Sagittarius, in which Filipino conglomerate Alsons Corporation also has a stake, was around to hear the concerns of the people from this town.

Fr. Geremia asked during the forum the postponement of the mining project, raising safety concerns over the impact of the project to the communities.

“You cannot anymore return these minerals if they’re excavated,” said the priest, adding “I hope Filipinos can use these deposits for the [development of the] Philippines.”

Environment Assistant Secretary Jeremias L. Dolino said the government would not postpone as Fr. Geremia is suggesting, if the proponent complies with the mining laws.

“If they violate the law, or not complying with the requirements, then the state can order a postponement,” Dolino said.

SMI is currently in the final feasibility stage for the Tampakan copper and gold project.

The firm’s “public scoping”, or presenting its proposed mining plan to the stakeholders, is part of the environmental impact assessment process, a requirement to secure the environmental compliance certificate that would give the firm the right to go on commercial stream.

“We want you to know what are the plans of the company. We also want to know your views about our project,” said John Arnaldo, SMI corporate communications manager.

Issues and concerns raised during the public scoping will be studied by SMI whose response would be made during the public hearing set for next year. (MindaNews)