Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Competing Claims Hound Mining Firms

By Sergio Pontillas

PALAWAN’S MINING companies are getting a rough ride before they can even start full-scale mining operations in the province’s southern municipalities.

Aside from strong opposition in many communities, corporate battles are proving to be a headache among mining companies involved in the utilization of the province’s vast mineral resources.

Two national dailies reported last Aug. 2 that Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. (CMDC) has asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to stop the mining activities of the Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) in the municipalities of Narra and Sofronio Española.

According to its operating agreement signed on July 18, 2003, the Platinum Group was allowed to operate in the mining claims originally owned by the Olympic Mines and Development Corp. (OMDC) in the two municipalities.

PGMC was reportedly allowed to operate in the OMDC area pending Olympic’s application for a large-scale mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA).

On April 24 this year, OMDC unilaterally rescinded its operating contract with PGMC, citing violations of environmental laws, particularly excessive extraction of minerals. OMDC then reassigned its operating partnership rights to a newly formed corporate entity, the CitiNickel group.

The Platinum Group allegedly practiced large-scale mining in its production site, in violation of its two small-scale mining permits issued by Gov. Joel T. Reyes in November 2004 that limits the company to the extraction of only 50,000 metric tons of ore per year in each of its two sites.

However, a source from PGMC who requested anonymity believes that OMDC tried to revoke its contract because the latter had seen the viability of mining in its former mining claims.

The source described the cancellation of the contract as “pure harassment,” saying the PGMC does not see any violation in its exportation of 282,729 tons of ore to Australia in a span of one and a half years. The current project is covered by a total of 100,000 ton limit for the PGMC permit per year plus another 100,000 ton limit for Olympic, the source argued.

Last week, Palawan Regional Trial Court Branch 52 ruled in favor of PGMC, on the grounds that only the court could cancel or revoke a binding contract.

Rival Mining Companies

Early this year, another mining company lodged an appeal with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to delay the council’s endorsement of rival mining companies with MPSAs in the municipality of Brooke’s Point.

In a letter to the PCSD dated February 20, 2006, Lebach Mining Corp. asked the council to reconsider its endorsements for MacroAsia Corporation, Blue Ridge Mineral Corp. and Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corp.

The mining company based its appeal on the pending cases with the Supreme Court and the Mines Adjudication Board, which involves its rival mining companies with claims to the same tracts of mining sites in Brooke’s Point.

Records from the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau indicate that an MPSA for 2,835 hectares of land in Brooke’s Point had been issued to Celestial Mining as early as September 18, 1993.

Lebach’s application for a mineral agreement was filed on September 11, 1997.

On the other hand, MacroAsia Corp. was issued an MPSA for 1,113.9 hectares in Brooke’s Point on December 1 last year. MacroAsia is reportedly expecting the issuance of another MPSA that will cover 410 hectares of land in the same municipality this year.


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