NPA Raiders Hunted In Mindanao

March 7, 2008 at 3:38 pm | Posted in 1 | 1 Comment

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 07, 2008) – Philippine soldiers mounted fresh operation against communist insurgents who raided a mining firm in Compostela Valley province in Mindanao, officials said Friday.

Officials said dozens of New People’s Army insurgents attacked the Apex Mining Company late Thursday near Masara village in the town of Maco. Gunmen, numbering more than 50, disarmed the security guards and carted their weapons, said Col. Benito Antonio de Leon, spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

He said the NPA torched several equipment owned by the mining firm before escaping under cover of darkness. “Troops are pursuing the rebels and we are awaiting reports from ground commanders and so far there have been no clashes between soldiers and rebels,” De Leon told the Mindanao Examiner.

Apex is partly owned by an international mining company, Crew Gold Corporation based in London and has interests in Lefa Corridor Gold Project in Guinea; Nalunaq Gold Mine in Greenland; and the Maco Gold Mine in the Philippines, where it employs close to 2,000 people.

De Leon said the motive of the attack is still unknown, but the NPA has previously raided mining firms that refused to pay so-called “revolutionary taxes.”

“We still don’t know the motive of the attack. But the rebels had in the past targeted mining firms that refused to pay extortion money. The weapons, particularly long firearms such as automatic rifles, use by security guards is also a magnet for NPA attacks,” he said.

In January, communist insurgents also raided the Swiss firm, Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), in the town of Tampakan in South Cotabato province. The attackers torched buildings and equipment and also raided a military post near the mining firm.

The NPA accused SMI of plunder, land grabbing and environment destruction and said the attack was a punishment. The rebels said the raid was in response to a longstanding demand of the people to put a stop to the firm’s operations in the area.

Indigenous tribes were protesting the operation of the SMI, saying, the mining activities allegedly encroached into ancestral lands and caused pollution in rivers and streams in Tampakan, which is considered a watershed area and is believed to be one of the world’s “best new large-scale copper gold mines,” with an estimated 11.6 million tons of copper and 14.6 million ounces of gold.

SMI is partly owned by Xstrata, one of the world’s largest mining companies based in Switzerland.

Rebel forces have previously raided other mining firms in Mindanao which refused to pay illegal taxation. The attack sent a chilling warning to the government that the NPA can carry out offensive despite a massive military operation to crush the growing insurgency problems in Mindanao.

In March last year, rebels also raided a private coal mining firm, the MG Mining Company, in Raja Kabunsuan village in Surigao del Sur’s Lingig town.

The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, last month also warned mining firms to stay away from ancestral lands in Mindanao.

MILF rebels have previously attacked and killed 13 Filipino miners working for the Calgary-based TVI in Zamboanga del Norte province after they ignored warnings to stop operation in Mount Canatuan in Siocon town, a sacred altar to an indigenous tribe called the Subanon whose ancestors settled in the area centuries ago.

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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