Mining firm employee killed in ambush

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QUEZON, Nueva Vizcaya: Armed men attacked a van carrying members of a British-owned mining firm’s safety security and demolition consultant team on Thursday, killing one of the passengers.

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Initial police reports identified the fatality as Jericho Pastor, a resident of Barangay Roxas in Solano town, who was hit on his face by a bullet and was declared dead on arrival at MMG hospital in Solano town.

Police said the team led by a retired senior police officer Noel Valdez was ambushed with six others while on board a Starex van which was travelling along a mountain road in Calaocan village.

Pastor was in the front seat of the van driven by Valdez when the attack happened.

The security and demolition team is composed of retired and former police and military personnel which is reportedly hired by the British-owned FCF Minerals to demolish bunkhouses and ball mills (grinding machine) illegally setup by small-scale miners.

Just recently, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) demolished at least 200 bunkhouses and ball mills located in the areas covered by Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) issued by the national government to FCF Minerals.

FCF Minerals which is undertaking its Runruno village gold-molybdenum project, is on its construction stage in preparation for its launching of its commercial operation in less than two years and will have a mine life of 15 to 25 years.

Police investigation is looking at an angle of retaliation from residents and small-scale miners who may have interests in the demolished or about to be demolished bunkhouses and ball mills.

Last week, mining village officials have expressed concern over the reported human rights abuses as a result of the entry of large scale foreign mining operations in the province.

Former Didipio village chief Ireneo Bobbola said the entry of the Melbourne-based OceanaGold and the British-owned mining firms in the upland villages of Didipio in Kasibu and Runruno in Quezon respectively has brought human rights abuses in these “peaceful and loving indigenous peoples’ communities.”

“We fear that there will come a time when gone are the days when closely knitted clans and families help and provide each other’s economic, emotional and psychological needs. Even now, there are reported fighting against relatives who were divided in their views and convictions pertaining to mining operations,” Bobbola told The Manila Times.

Through a separate national government-issued FTAA, Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. is tasked to undertake the multi-billion dollar Didipio copper and gold project in Didipio village while FCF Minerals is handling the Runruno gold and molybdenum project in Runruno village.

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