by JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY – Small-scale miners from the gold-rich town of Pantukan, Compostela Valley cried foul to the latest move of large-scale mining company National Development Corporation (Nadecor) which allegedly put up a steel gate and told them to get an identification card from the mining regulatory agencies of the government.
The steel gate is located a few meters from Sitio Buko-Buko sa Anay in Barangay KingKing, a 40-minute motorcycle ride from the town center of Pantukan.
The Diat Small Scale Miners Associaion (DSSMA) said the gate was put up by the Calalang group.
“They told mine owners last year to get an ID but we only know of it now. We have to go to the provincial government to secure one. It will cost P600 per person,” said Rowena Maisog, a representative of the DSSMA.
Nadecor owns a 1,656-hectare tenement in Barangay Kingking in Pantukan but it is currently in an “intra-corporate” dispute which divided it into two factions: the Calalang group and the Ricafort group.
Small scale miners said there was an alleged letter dated January 3 that Nadecor personnel distributed to them and to the residents who pass through the gate regularly. The directive contained in the letter gave them 15 days upon receipt to get an ID. The letter was allegedly signed by a certain Dan Valenzuela.
“We have been living there for decades. In fact many already died and now we are being required to have an ID,” said Maisog.
Maisog said that the move barred access to other barangays where residents and miners live like in Sitio Diat in Barangay Napnapan.
“One mine owner in just one tunnel in our sitio alone has 1,000 miners,” she said.
Maisog said they were worried that this was a step Nadecor was taking to eventually ease out small scale miners and farmers from the area.
Maisog said other individuals and groups were also barred.
Sixteeen delegates of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, who were in the country for a conference on “the United State’s intervention on sovereign nations”, were not allowed to enter the tenement. The group went to the area last January 14 to see the situation of farmers and small scale miners.
The “sudden” requirement of an ID confused small miners who said they were “frantic” upon hearing the news saying that they considered it a “threat” to their lives. Maisog said she thought it at first that the ID was required by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) provincial office of Compostela Valley.
But, MGB OIC-Director for Mining Environment and Safety Division Noel B. Angeles said their offices did not require an ID from the residents and that they have no provincial office.
“The only issuing ID to small scale miners is the provincial government. It might be also that the mining company there is requiring such identification system to control influx of people,” said Angeles.
Maisog clarified that they were to apply with the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board for the ID.
In 2010, Nadecor tapped the US-based St. Agustine Gold and Copper Ltd and Russel Mining and Minerals, Inc. (RMMI) to fund the $2-billion Kingking gold and copper project. In 2012, Queensberry Mining & Development Corporation, which is reportedly owned by former Philippine Senator Manuel Villar, invested $11 million to St. Agustine.
Belen Galleto of the Save Pantukan Alliance said the small scale miners expected more displacement if a bigger large scale mining company would start its operation. Galleto said Napnapan Mineral Resources, Inc (NMRI) will also start its operations soon. NMRI owns a 4,000 hectares in Pantukan.
“The feature of that area is you will find miners at the center of the mountains and farmers at the periphery. Some farmers tend to their farm in the morning and go to the tunnels at night as their harvests cannot sustain their daily needs. All of them will be displaced,” said Galleto.
Galleto said that small scale miners and farmers of Sitio Gumayan, the site of the open-pit operation of Nadecor have already contested the ID system of the company before Mayor Roberto Yugo.
Galleto said that almost all municipalities of Compostela Valley have mining operations owned by large-scale mining companies.
She said that the government should have supported the “minahang bayan” (people’s mining tenement) of small-scale miners which have sought government technical support to improve its mining practices since 1980s.
“The government favors large-scale mining companies which destroy the mountains and the lives of small-scale miners and farmers,” she said.
According to the MGB website, there were three mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) in the town of Pantukan as of December 2013. These were the Nadecor and Benguet Coporation (1,656 hectares), the King Eagle Exploration and Mining Corporation (324 hectares) and the Napnapan Mineral Resources, Inc. (4,920 hectres).
The MGB website also shows that it was processing other mining applications in Pantukan such as another 2,025-hectares by Nadecor, 428.27 hectare by a certain Joseph P. Saucejo, 8,100 hectares by the Southern Horizon Mining Corporation, 8,100 by the Oro East Mining Corporation, and 1, 134 by Zetoza Mineral Reserves are still being processed by MGB offices.
Based on estimates, Nadecor’s tenement alone could produce some 100,000 tons per year of copper and 500,000 ounces per year of gold for 22 years. (John Rizle Saligumba/davaotoday.com)Compostela, davao city, diwalwal, gold mine, gold-rush site, mining, mining tenement, mt. diwata, philippines, small scale mining, US mining companies in the Philippines