Anti-mining advocates in SouthCot to stage 150km protest march

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/9 Nov) ¬– Groups opposed to the Tampakan copper-gold project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. are set to conduct a long march anew to also call on the provincial government of South Cotabato to sustain the ban on open-pit mining, a militant leader said on Wednesday.

Ryan Lariba, BAYAN-SOCSKSARGEN spokesperson, said the four-day march protest would start on December 6 until December 10, in time for the commemoration of International Human Rights Day, covering the provinces of Davao del Sur and South Cotabato.

“The long march protest would span at least 150 kilometers,” he said.

Lariba said the march would just be one of the many protest actions they would conduct to hopefully force the company to abandon plans of going into commercial operation in 2016.

He said the long march next month would cap their one-year campaign against Sagittarius Mines, a company controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer.

It is dubbed “Lakbayan II: Tuloy ang Laban Batok sa Dinagkung Pagmina ug Pagpanglapas sa Tawhanong Katungod” or “The Fight Continues Against Large-Scale Mining and Human Rights Violations.”

The four-day march-caravan will commence on December 6 at Digos City and will advance in Malalag, Davao del Sur, which the company eyed as host of its coal-fired power plant.

It will then proceed to General Santos City, where Sagittarius holds administrative and operational offices, and eventually conclude in Koronadal City to urge South Cotabato officials to fully implement the environment code that bans open pit mining method.

Based on its studies, Sagittarius Mines said the only viable option to extract massive copper and gold resources in Tampakan is through the open-pit mining method.

Pro-mining groups have called on the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to lift the ban on open pit mining, but the board members have yet to decide on the matter.

John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, said the company “always respects the views” of those against their mining project.

Last year, groups opposing the Tampakan project also held a 150-kilometer march beginning from this city and ending in Digos City in Davao del Sur.

On December 10, Lariba said they will reiterate their demand for justice for Eliezer Billanes, a known critic of Sagittarius Mines. He was shot in this city in March 2009 by a still unknown suspect who fled with a cohort aboard a motorcycle. He was believed killed because of his anti-mining stance.

Sagittarius Mines had vehemently denied involvement in the murder.

As part of the long march, Lariba said they will also demand justice for Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio, who was killed last month in Arakan, North Cotabato. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)