Coal exploration in South Cotabato opposed

In a manifesto written in Ilongo, at least 100 residents of Sitio Kibang, Barangay Ned, cited at least eight reasons for opposing the coal exploration activities of MG Mining and Energy Corp. and Daguna Agro Minerals Inc.

They said mining carbon, aside from destroying their livelihood, would cause pollution and diseases, destroy the watershed servicing South Cotabato and neighboring provinces, and defeat government efforts to develop their area.

"It would cause misunderstanding among the people that will lead to a conflict," the manifesto added.

On February 23, 2005, the Department of Energy entered into a coal operating contract with MG Mining, a copy of which MindaNews obtained.

MindaNews failed to get a copy of the contract between the government and Daguma Agro Minerals.

Coal, as defined in the contract, means "a black or brownish-black solid combustible rock containing less than 40 percent non-combustible inorganic components, formed by the accumulation, decomposition of plant material under long-acting geological process."

The contract included a donation by MG Mining to the Energy department a four-wheel vehicle "as a form of assistance in kind for use in the department's supervision of coal, geothermal and petroleum operations in the Philippines."

The contract provides for a four-year exploration period starting from the date of agreement. The terms of the contract, however, said that if there is commercial quantity, production permit maybe granted for at least 20 years.

Documents showed that MG Mining is expected to shell out some P34 million for the exploration phase.

The coal operating contract was signed by Frederick de Venecia Lu, chair of MG Mining, and Energy Undersecretary Guillermo Balce.

Ma. Cecilia Garcia, a geodetic engineer at the Department of Energy, said that MG Mining has been allowed to explore at least 7,000 hectares of land within South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

In one land parcel, MG Mining will explore 6,000 hectares bounded on the northeast by the contract area of Daguma Agro and on all other sides by free areas, she said.

Daguma Agro is reportedly owned by the Guingona political family.

MindaNews tried but failed to get the side of officials of the companies criticized by the villagers.

An MG Mining briefer said the Lake Sebu coal mine in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat has the largest potential reserves among its various coal projects at 360 million metric tons.

"[Lake Sebu] has average grade coal, low stripping ratio and a geology that supports an open-pit mining activity," it added.

MG Mining's other coal projects are in Lingig and Bislig in Surigao del Sur and in Argao, Cebu.

MG Mining and Daguma Agro have reportedly consulted residents of Barangay Ned for their coal exploration activities.

But Yellen Yata, a villager, claimed there was no "real consultation."

"We are opposed to the coal exploration activities because it is not only us from Ned who will be affected but [people] from three provinces. Ned is a watershed area," she said. (MindaNews)