MAC: Mines and Communities

Gunmen attack mining project in Davao del Norte

Published by MAC on 2008-07-28
Source: AFP - Mindanao Bureau

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines--Gunmen believed to be communist rebels raided a drilling site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) in the hinterland village of Kimlawis in Kiblawan town in Davao del Sur around midnight Saturday, and seized several firearms.

Before the gunmen fled, they burned a drilling rig of a contractor hired by the SMI for its exploration project.

SMI is in the final stage of its copper-gold exploration in the tri-boundary of Davao Del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato.

In its statement sent through e-mail, SMI management said no one was hurt during the raid.

Capt. Patricio Tomales, spokesperson of the 1002nd Army Brigade, confirmed the incident but refused to give details.

But sources said that around midnight Saturday, 30 heavily armed communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels swarmed into the drilling site of United Philippine Drilling in Sitio Datal Ngabong in Barangay Kimlawis.

UPD is one of the contractors hired by the SMI to carry out its exploration activities in the mining site.

Security guards assigned to guard the drilling site were unable to react after they were disarmed by the NPA guerrillas led by Ka Jam-Jam and Joy-Joy.

The firearms seized by the rebels include 10 shotguns, one .30 cal. M1 Garand and a .38 cal. revolver.

This is the second attack made by the NPA rebels against the Xstrata-backed SMI.

Just hours after the New Year's eve, NPA rebels attacked the SMI base camp and burned several buildings and company facilities.

During said incident, the communist guerrillas also disarmed the mining firm's security personnel.

That raid that prompted the government to re-evaluate security for major projects in the promising resources sector.

The rebel leadership has been warning the SMI against conducting mining operations in the area.

The Maoist group, with more than 5,000 members, often attacks economic targets as part of efforts to raise funds through extortion.

SMI, however, continues with the project, despite strong opposition from various sectors led by the Church and environment advocates.

The mineral resource in the area has been touted as the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit in South East Asia.

The latest mineral resource estimate confirmed 2.2 billion tons containing 12.8 million tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold at a 0.3-percent copper cut-off grade.

Xstrata Copper acquired 62.5 percent of the controlling interest in project and assumed management control over SMI on March 30 last year.

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