MAC: Mines and Communities

Auction of Davao mine project stopped by indigenous groups

Published by MAC on 2009-09-29
Source: Business World (Philippines)

BIDDING FOR a 20,000-hectare copper and gold mining project in Davao del Norte was postponed by a state-led firm following a restraining order issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The NCIP’s Regional Hearing Office in Davao City issued the order on Sept. 17, citing the lack of "free and prior informed consent" from indigenous groups.

State-run Philippine Mining Development Corp. (PMDC) scheduled a bidding "without the [petitioners’ free and prior informed consent] pursuant to Republic Act 8371 [or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997]," said the order issued by NCIP Regional Hearing Officer Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo.

Petitioners were the Maco Ancestral Domain Council, Inc., the area’s Municipal Tribal Council, and the Mansaka Tribe represented by Datu Roberto T. Onlos.

"It appears that the petitioners will suffer great loss and irreparable damage should the bidding be conducted, as they would be deprived of their priority rights over their ancestral domain’s resources and cultural heritage," the NCIP said.

Asked for comment, PMDC vice-president Jaime T. De Veyra said "the TRO [Temporary Restraining Order] is premature."

"On our part, we are saying that consent is not necessary at this time because we are just bidding the area. Whoever wins the bidding will be the one to get the consent," Mr. De Veyra said.

The 20,237-hectare North Davao project is a prewar mine in Compostela Valley that has two major mining zones — the Amacan copper and Hijo gold areas — which contain an estimated $900 million worth of minerals.

Foreign miners Jinchuan Mining Plc and China Non-Ferrous Metal Corp. and local miners Wellex Petroleum Corp., Asia Alliance Mining Resources Corp., Century Peak Corp., Carrascal Mining Corp., and Mt. Sinai Exploration and Development Corp. pre-qualified to join the bidding.

After a minimum of $6 million spent on exploration, the winning bidder must decide whether to develop the area for commercial operations. The PMDC will get 5% royalty on gross produce from operating mines.

In the next two to four days, the PMDC "will be filing the necessary pleading to have the TRO lifted," Mr. De Veyra said.

Last year, the NCIP granted indigenous groups a certificate of ancestral domain covering 141,773 hectares in the towns of Maragusan, Nabubturan and Maco, all in Compostela Valley. The North Davao project is covered by the ancestral domain.

A summary hearing for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction was set on Oct. 7

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