Mamanwas set up barricade against Surigao mining firm

TUBOD, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 19 March) – For alleged non-payment of royalty share to the Mamanwas, tribesfolk have set up barricade against a mining firm operating in this municipality.

Since last Monday, around 400 Mamanwas made shanty encampments along roads to block heavy equipment from crisscrossing to the waste dump site, to the mine pits and to the milling plants of Greenstone Resources Corporation.

Dionestio Aidao, one of the counsels of the Mamanwas representing the Budlingin Community, said five host communities are now blocking the heavy equipment of the mining firm. These communities are from Budlingin, Camp Edward, Cawilan, San Juan and Motorpool.

Speaking in behalf of their tribal chieftain, Datu Emiliano Gedi, Aidao claimed that since Greenstone began its commercial operations in 2012, the company failed to pay the one-percent royalty share to the Mamanwas.

Aidao said Greenstone is operating in their ancestral land, after the Mamanwas entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the mining firm as early as 2002.

Section 7-b of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 entitles indigenous peoples to “negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws.…”

The Mamanwas got their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) 048 on September 22, 2006.

The CADT has an area of 48,870 hectares covering five towns in Surigao del Norte – Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag, Tubod and Alegria – including a portion of Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte.

Under the Mining Act of 1995 and the Ingenious Peoples Rights Act of 1997, Lumads are entitled to one percent of the gross earnings of mining operations in their ancestral areas.

Aidao said the tribe was supposed to get P16 million for 2012 and P3 million more for the current year.

Aidao and the rest of the Mamanwas at the barricade said that aside from non-payment of the royalty share, they have not received any livelihood projects yet, noting that Greenstone started working in the area since 2002.

Greenstone stopped operations in 2013 when a crack occurred at their tailings dams.

“Now they are back into operations, and they have nothing for us. They just continue to ruin the environment and displacing us because of their mining operations,” Aidao stressed.

MindaNews tried to get the side of the company but security guards told this writer that no one could give statements since everyone in the office was busy.

Some workers who refused to give names said the blockade has affected production. “Milling continues because we have some stockpile left but we don’t have operation in the open pit area because of the blockade,” one worker said.

MindaNews could not reach the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Surigao del Norte for comment. The Mamanwas are now seeking the help of NCIP’s office in Surigao del Norte and the incumbent local leaders to fast-track payment of their royalty share.

Greenstone, a subsidiary of Australian-based miner Red5 Limited, has been producing 1,250 ounces of gold per week at its minesite at Barangay Siana in the municipality of Mainit, also in Surigao del Norte, since the start of commercial production on April 26, 2012.

Siana Mines was actually an abandoned mine site previously operated by Surigao Consolidated Mining Company, Inc. (Suricon) and was first opened in the 1930s.

Closed down during World War II, it was reopened in 1946, producing 4,800 kilograms of gold and 8,000 kg of silver. It was closed down again owing to mine flooding and underground fire.

The abandoned mine site was not rehabilitated until Red5 Ltd. secured a mining permit in 2002. It was granted an environmental compliance certificate in April 2009 despite a prior scheduled Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan expected late May of the same year, according to Alyansa Tigil Mina.

The Siana Gold Project is made up of both an open pit and an underground mine. The project, as originally designed, will deliver a minimum 849,000 ounces of gold production a year at a cash cost of under $400 per ounce over a 10-year life.

Greenstone used Suricon’s old tailings dam that suffered a crack.