Philippine panel rejects special military unit to protect mines
A Philippine inter-agency government panel rejected creating a special military unit to protect mining operations, but plans to work closely with miners to address local issues to reduce violence.
MANILA (Reuters) -
An inter-agency panel of the Philippine government vowed on Thursday to prevent attacks on mining projects but rejected a proposal to set up a special military unit to protect mines.
meeting of 12 government agencies was held after armed men attacked the base
camp of what could become the largest mining project in the country, a copper
and gold mine being developed by Xstrata plc
No one was injured in the New Year's Day attack but seven buildings of the camp were burned down. The attack was later claimed by the communist New People's Army (NPA).
"We can't allow a repeat of such attacks and we agreed to work closely with the mining industry to address local issues and prevent further violence," Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose Atienza told Reuters.
He said the meeting was not in favour of a proposal to organise, train and deploy a special military team to protect mining projects getting threats from the NPA rebels.
"We don't need special units," he said. "But we instructed the military and police to work closely with other agencies and the mining companies to address local issues that could affect the security of these projects.
"We should be more aggressive in helping mining companies deal with the local community, anticipating social, environment and other concerns and issues that could affect the security of the mining projects."
The Philippines allows 100 percent foreign ownership of mining projects in the country in an effort to bring much needed investment into the sector. The archipelago is believed to have about $1 trillion in unexplored mineral wealth.
The Xstrata mine, in the Tampakan area on the southern island of Mindanao, has been earmarked as one of the government's priority projects.
It is one of the biggest undeveloped copper resources in Southeast Asia and total resources are estimated at 12.8 million tonnes of contained copper and 15.2 million ounces of contained gold.
Tampakan is due to launch production in 2013, with annual output of 200,000 tonnes of copper and 200,000 ounces of gold.
mine is 62.5 percent owned by Xstrata and 32.5 percent by Australia's Indophil Resources NL
(Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)