Barricades down in mining firm compound but…

Tuesday, 30 September 2008 09:14
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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 September) –The barricades put up by tribal residents of Tampakan, South Cotabato seeking employment in a mining firm may have been gone, but the possibility that it will happen again is not remote because the solution offered by the management was “short term,” a municipal official said on Monday.

The protesters had given Sagittarius Mines Inc. until September 25 to heed their demand. They warned they would reinstall barricades on the road leading to the base camp of the company in Barangay Tablu if the company did not give in.

Dismayed tribal residents seeking employment at the company lifted the road blockade on September 8, which they set up several days earlier, forcing the company to suspend exploration activities then.

“It’s a temporary, short-term solution…to accommodate the residents’ demand for work, some were even hired for road maintenance, using sticks and shovels,” acting Tampakan Vice Mayor Relly A. Leysa said in an interview.

“The residents did not reinstall the road blocks, as they warned earlier, because they were given employment. The company now even has operations during night time,” he added.

The official feared the road blockade will recur and other problems will arise once the temporary jobs end.

Leysa said the local government unit will consider the solution offered by the company on the residents’ demand for work in the ongoing review of the principal agreement.

The mining project is controlled by Swiss miner Xstrata Copper with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as junior partner.

The local government unit targets to finish the review of the principal agreement with the company before the end of the year.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius corporate communications manager, defended the company by claiming that “it is doing its best to foster good relationship with the communities.”

“We’re trying to find short, medium and long-term solutions [to the problems grappling us],” Arnaldo said.

He confirmed that they have employed the disgruntled residents but failed to identify what kind of work was given.

He said all is “normal” and that the firm has resumed its 24-hour operation.

Some of those who took part in the recent barricades were alleged illegal sluice mining workers arrested by the police last month.

Sluice mining, or banlas in the vernacular, requires the pouring of large amounts of water on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ore.

They participated in the road blockade to demand work in the company since they have been deprived of their source of income following their arrest, although they were later on freed.

In October last year, Christian residents also set up road blockades and padlocked the facilities of the company in Tampakan town. They demanded regular positions at the company.

Last New Year’s Day, New People’s Army rebels stormed the firm’s base camp and burned facilities worth at least P12 million. (MindaNews)

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