NPA vows stronger armed resistance vs Glencore Xstrata’s Tampakan project

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/04 June) – The New People’s Army (NPA) will launch stronger armed resistance against the Tampakan copper-gold project of the merged Glencore Xstrata plc., a rebel leader said Tuesday.

In an e-mailed statement, “Ka Efren,” spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Far South Mindanao Region, also appealed “to the people’s greater vigilance and fervent stand for the protection of our environment, our subsistence, and our national patrimony against the catastrophic attack of foreign large-scale mining.”

“The most recent intrusion of the multinational Glencore will bring about a wider anti-mining resistance in Far South Mindanao.  The revolutionary forces are unremittingly preparing for the extensive battle to defy the multinational’s invasive assault,” he said.

Glencore International plc announced on May 2 that it has completed the takeover of Xstrata plc to form GlenCore Xstrata, making it the world’s fourth biggest mining company and the world’s biggest commodities trader.

Xstrata, through its wholly owned Xstrata Copper, owns 62.5 percent of the 40 percent controlling equity at Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), developer of the Tampakan project.

Australian firm Indophil Resources NL owns the rest or 37.5 percent of the controlling equity. It is Indophil’s flagship asset in its portfolio.

The Tampakan project straddles the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Malungon in Sarangani.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued an environmental compliance certificate to the Tampakan project last February, after rejecting it twice last year because of the open-pit ban imposed by the South Cotabato provincial government.

In December last year, SMI announced that it was moving the start of commercial operation from 2016 to 2019. Among the major challenges the company cited is the open-pit ban in South Cotabato.

On New Year’s Day 2008, communist guerillas stormed the base camp of Sagittarius Mines in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan town, burning facilities and equipment worth at least P12 million.

On January 29, 2009, NPA rebels also attacked the municipal police station in Tampakan. Four people, including three policemen, were injured in the daring attack that left the police station partially destroyed

SMI has repeatedly acknowledged in their annual sustainability reports that security threats are among the risks facing the project.

“A stronger armed and legal resistance shall continue to arise,” Tuesday’s statement from the NDF-FSMR warned.

Besides the security threat posed by the NPA, the Tampakan project is also facing opposition from B’laan tribesmen who took up guns in resistance.

The local government units of Kiblawan, Tampakan and Columbio earlier agreed to form the Task Force Kitaco to take charge of security arrangements in the mountains that include the tenement of SMI.

The mining company has been providing support to the military-led task force through its annual financial assistance to the LGUs straddled by the mining project.

The Tampakan Forum, a coalition of international and local non-government organizations and the local Catholic church opposing the Tampakan copper-gold project, said that before Glencore acquired Xstrata, the former wrote them that it does “not believe in military presence in the mine site and will demilitarize when it takes over.”

“The Tampakan Forum is taking with a grain of salt the Glencore pronouncement. But if it is able to sincerely demilitarize the project site immediately and unilaterally, this will be extremely welcomed,” it said.  (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)