KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/20 Dec) -Two security guards of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. sustained gunshot wounds before dawn Monday when still unidentified armed men attacked the mines development site, officials said.
The attack prompted the company to recall field personnel conducting drilling activities. “Field works were initially suspended. Workers were escorted back to the base camp [hours after the incident],” said Manolo T. Labor, Sagittarius Mines external affairs communication superintendent.
He said field workers were later allowed to resume work provided they seek clearance from top company officials.
Labor said that members of the military-led Task Force Kitaco have been deployed to secure the area.
Maj. Rembert Baylosis, Task Force Kitaco commander, said the incident happened past 4 a.m. in Sitio Datal Aliong in Barangay Tablu.
He said the suspect is a member of the B’laan tribe who has been barricading the area in protest against the company.
The victims suffered wounds inflicted by a 12-gauge shotgun, he added.
Labor clarified local media reports that the incident happened right at the base camp of the company.
The shooting incident happened in Sitio Datal Alyong, some 10 kilometers away from the base camp while the security guards were on routine roving patrol near the drilling sites, he said.
Sitio Alyong is part of Barangay Tablu which hosts the base camp of the mining company.
The company is being secured by Catena Security, Inc., an affiliate of England-based Group Four Securicor, or G4S, supposedly “one of the world’s leading security firms”.
Catena was hired after the New People’s Army raided on New Year’s Day 2008 the base camp of Sagittarius Mines in Barangay Tablu.
The rebels burned the firm’s administration office and several mining equipment worth at least P12 million. They also disarmed and took several firearms of the security guards then manning the base camp.
No one was hurt in the attack although the NPA rebels also managed to keep at bay government security forces manning an Army detachment some 500 meters away from the base camp.
Early in 2009, the communist guerrillas, as part also of its campaign against Sagittarius Mines, also successfully attacked the police station of Tampakan town, resulting to the wounding of four people, three of them policemen.
The NPA has warned the mining company to brace for more violent attacks as a punishment for “plundering and destroying the nation’s patrimony.”
Labor said the two victims in the latest violent incident within the Tampakan project were already declared out of danger, recuperating at a hospital in this city.
Sagittarius Mines is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as minority equity partner.
Based on the Mine Project Feasibility Study (MPFS) submitted by Sagittarius Mines to the government in April, the Tampakan project could yield an average life of mine annual production rate of 370,000 metric tons and 360,000 ounces of copper and gold, respectively. The initial life mine estimate for the Tampakan project was pegged at 17 years.
The previous estimate was an annual average production rate of 340,000 tons and 350,000 ounces of copper and gold, respectively.
Sagittarius Mines also revised the development cost for the Tampakan project to $5.9 billion from $5.5 billion, including the provision of $900 million for a dedicated power station. (Bong Sarmiento / MindaNews)