Nickel producer SR Metals Inc. (SRMI) has described as “tough but fair” the current mining audit ordered by the government to weed out irresponsible mining companies
The company was given the chance to answer all the queries, said SRMI tenements manager Alfredo Belen Jr., noting the company submitted 145 different documents for the technical audit.
It was another story when it came to the social audit. The audit team from various civil organizations, were “independent” when they interviewed the local community within the mining area.
“We did not accompany them. They went out to the local community. The rules were very strict, they were not allowed to ask if the respondent was pro or anti-SRMI. The question was, ‘If the people benefitted from the mining operations?’” Belen noted.
“They asked around. And the questions and observations, they put it down on paper. They gave it to us and asked us to comment,” Belen said.
The company operates the Tubay Nickel Mining Project in La Fraternidad, Tubay, Agusan del Norte. Its Mineral
Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) covers more than 1,000 hectares.
The company’s revised MPSA in 2015 is good until 2033, and allows it to mine for nickel, cobalt, and iron.
SRMI was earlier accused of destroying the environment in its area of operations. But Agusan del Norte Governor Angel Amante-Matba himself belied the allegations, saying the company has been a “responsible” miner.
Matba is joining the majority of local residents in asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to let SRMI continue operating because of the benefits the province has been getting from the mining operations.
“Suspending the operations of SRMI would be a big burden to the local government,” he said. The people relied heavily on the LGUs for employment and financial support, the company started mining in the area.
“Before, the province was so laid back. The people had no jobs and … would really go to politicians, but we cannot accommodate them all. You cannot accommodate a growing population, that’s impossible,” said Matba.
Matba placed the workforce of SRMI at 1,700. The taxes paid by the company totaled more than P 23 million last year.
“I’ve seen it myself … If you … ask me, their operations have been a great help to the community. If you say that mining does not contribute, I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Matba said. “You don’t just look at the number of people employed, you also have to look at the multiplier effect.
“If they are compliant, why should you close it?” he added.
“Not all mining companies are bad. I would understand if you close the companies destroying the environment, but if companies are following the rules of the country, why will you close it?
“How will the DENR secretary help me accommodate all those people who would be displaced? I will be the one answerable to them, because I am the leader here,” Matba said.
The Indigenous People (IP) affected by the operations of SRMI also urged the mining audit team and Environment Secretary Regina Lopez to be “fair in making decisions.”
“It will be very unfair if they suspend the operations of SRMI. What will happen to us? Farming and fishing alone could not sustain us. We are appealing to the government to be fair,” said Matbanwa Datu Bebuar Manlatan.
“Those IPs claiming that they are one of us are fake. The IPs here support the company, because we can see that they are responsible,” Manlatan added.