Surigao mining firm pays initial P5 million to Mamanwas, barricade lifted

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 March) – Mamanwas have lifted their barricade against a mining firm on Saturday after Greenstone Resources Corporation initially paid at least P5 million to the tribesfolk, belated reports said.

Vicente Baldoza, provincial director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), said Mamanwa lumads ended their six-day barricade at the Greenstone mining site in Cawilan, Tubod town in Surigao del Norte.

Baldoza told MindaNews on Wednesday afternoon that the P5 million was an initial payment of the P19 million demanded by the Mamanwas.

Last March 16, around 400 Mamanwas made shanty encampments along roads to block the mining firm’s heavy equipment from operating because the company allegedly did not pay royalty share for using their ancestral domain, as provided for by law.

The barricade effectively blocked heavy equipment from crisscrossing to the waste dump site, the mine pits, the milling plants and even the fuel storage.

Baldoza said the Mamanwas should have gotten the payment early from the mining company, saying that Greenstone sought the legal opinion of the NCIP’s provincial and national offices whether or not the Mamanwas are entitled to get one percent royalty share.

He said the company was adamant to pay the royalty share, saying only the waste dump site belonged to the Mamanwas’ ancestral domain. The rest of the mining area, Greenstone reportedly claimed, “are not within the ancestral domain.”

Baldoza said the Mamanwas and Greenstone have an existing memorandum of agreement signed in 2002.

He added the mining company’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement covers the area of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) 048, except the extraction area or the open pit.

“I don’t know why they delayed the payment. It looks like they are using dilatory tactics. The company was already given legal opinion from our office since last year,” Baldoza said.

He pointed out that the Mamanwas’ stance last week had affected the mining firm’s production, noting that all the company’s heavy equipment were grounded.

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

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

The company resumed commercial operation last January after the Mines and Geosciences Bureau had lifted the ceased and desist order.

Until today, Greenstone has remained silent on the royalty share issue.

Dionestio Aidao, one of the counsels of the Mamanwas representing the Budlingin Community, told MindaNews that five host communities blocked 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.

Recardo Labao, one of the Mamanwas, said that the P5-million initial payment was divided among the tribesmen.

He said if the company would not pay the balance, they would probably stage the barricade again.