MANILA, Philippines – Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) has taken steps to tighten security at its copper and gold project in Tampakan, South Cotabato following successive violent attacks by rebel and tribal groups.
SMI, through British security consulting firm Global Securities Solutions Inc (G4S), was scouting for a security expert, with experience in “armed response.”
Among others, the security expert must be able to “control unplanned events,” according to a job posting by G4S.
SMI is the local operator of the $6-billion Tampakan mine, which is owned by UK-based Xstrata Plc and Australian miner Indophil Resources.
The mine has been attacked by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and an indigenous tribe belonging to the Blaan community, who oppose the planned commercial operations of the project by 2016.
In June, a retired police colonel, who was a security official of SMI, and a security guard were killed in an ambush staged by Blaan in Kimlawis village in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur. This followed the killing of another SMI security guard in Barangay Tablu, Tampakan in May.
Tribe leader Daguil Capion claimed responsibility for the deaths. He is opposing what he says is SMI’s encroachment into their ancestral lands.
The attacks against SMI officials and its mine site started as early as 2008. On New Year’s Day that year, some 80 fully armed NPA members raided the Tampakan mine and abducted a village official, who they later executed.
The following year, the same NPA rebels attacked the Tampakan police station, whose unit was providing security to SMI.
In 2011, 3 drill contractors of the mining company were killed in an ambush believed to be staged by Capion’s group. In the same year, SMI’s offsite land acquisition officer Cris Bual was gunned down while jogging near his home in Davao City.
In all these incidents, SMI temporarily suspended operations and resumed them only when violence subsided.
SMI is facing stiff opposition from the Catholic Church as well as various environment groups for its planned mining operations.
Bishop Dinulado Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel has repeatedly warned that violence at the mine site may escalate once commercial operations start.
SMI was denied an environmental clearance certificate by the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on account of a South Cotabato ban on open pit mining, the method it is using in its project.