Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stay Away From Ancestral Lands, Rebels Warn Mining Firms In Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 23, 2008) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), on Saturday warned foreign mining firms of venturing into the strife-torn Maguindanao province.

It said tribesmen have threatened to use force should mining firms operate in their ancestral lands.

The MILF, which is fighting for a separate homeland in Mindanao, said a Canadian mining firm, which the rebel group did not identify, is planning to conduct a gold and mineral exploration in the town of South Upi in Central Mindanao.

The rebels said the Canadian firm has established ties with an unidentified, but influential politician in Maguindanao. The MILF said any attempt to explore gold deposits in the town could bring about bloodshed and sufferings to the locals.

A senior MILF leader, Jun Mantawil, urged Manila to suspend all mining or exploration applications in areas under the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity which is made up of indigenous and Muslim ancestral domain.

“What will happen to the BJE if all the gold, silver, copper, and other natural resources are consumed? The environment will be destroyed if we allow mining companies to rape our mineral resources,” he said.

Communist insurgents have also threatened to attack mining firms in the Philippines.

A Canadian mining firm, TVI Philippines, also operates in Mount Canatuan in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte province on the western side of Mindanao. Muslim rebels had previously attacked and killed 13 miners working for the Calgary-based TVI in the province.

Mount Canatuan is the sacred altar to an indigenous tribe called the Subanon whose ancestors settled in the area centuries ago. TVI is said to be looking to extricate 182,951 ounces of gold, 6.99 million ounces of silver, 93.8 million pounds of copper and 68.4 million pounds of zinc in Mount Canatuan, about 800 kilometers south of Manila.

The mining company invested more than C$20 million dollars in the Canatuan project.

The Philippines is estimated to have at least US$1 trillion unexploited treasure trove of minerals and is promoting the rejuvenation of the mining sector to boost the economy and cut its budget deficit and debt. (Mindanao Examiner)

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