‘Mining firm, not tribesmen, to blame for atrocities in Tampakan’

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/30 June)—Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. is to blame for the rising violence in its Tampakan copper-gold project area and not the tribesmen supposedly responsible for the atrocities, a militant leader said yesterday.

Ryan Lariba, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Socsksargen, defended the “pangayaw” launched by the B’laan tribesmen against the mining firm.

Pangayaw is reportedly a tribal tradition to confront with force threats to their ancestral lands.

“There would be no violence if only the mining company respects the wish of the tribal members for them to abandon the Tampakan project,” Lariba said.

While there are tribesmen opposed to the mining project, there are also those who support the venture, especially the tribal chieftains.

Dalina Samling, tribal chieftain in Barangay Danlag in Tampakan, South Cotabato, said they support the mining project due to its economic and social contributions.

“Our children are going to school because of the mining company, which also provides jobs to several tribesmen,” she said.

Lariba said that Sagittarius Mines has caused divisiveness among the tribal communities, citing those who oppose and support the mining project.

John Arnaldo, Sagittarius mines external communications and media relations manager, earlier said the company “is open to dialogues” with those tribal members opposed to the project to thresh out their concerns.

Last week, a policeman and a company security consultant were killed in the mines development site. Two other militiamen were wounded in the attack.

Officials of the 27th Infantry Battalion, headed by Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo, pointed to the group of Daguil Capion as allegedly behind the fresh violence, which came three days after an unidentified attacker killed a security guard also within the Tampakan copper-gold project area.

Last year, Capion admitted responsibility for the ambush that killed three workers of a construction company hired by Sagittarius Mines for a road project.

The suspect, who has since remained in hiding, had blamed the mining company for the atrocities in the mines site, saying bloodshed could have been avoided if only Sagittarius Mines heeded their demand to abandon the project.

Bravo has ordered a continued manhunt operations against the suspects.

Sagittarius Mines is also facing security threats from the communist New People’s Army and social resistance from the local Catholic Church and other groups on concerns over the environment, human health and food security, among others.

It plans to excavate the massive deposits using open-pit mining, a method banned by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

The estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 million metric tons to 15 million MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz, according to the latest company study.

It is potentially the largest single foreign direct investment in the country with an estimated $5.9 billion capital requirement for the production stage targeted in 2016. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)