Altai mining firm says 'voluntarily' halting exploration, testing activities in Sibuyan

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2023 05:22 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2023 09:29 PM

MANILA — Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) on Monday said it is voluntarily stopping all exploration and testing activities on Sibuyan Island in Romblon.

The development comes after fierce opposition from residents and environmental groups who have said the firm's mining activity would cause long-term impact on the ecosystem of the so-called "Galapagos Islands" of the Philippines.

In a statement Monday, Altai said it will continue to cooperate with authorities "to address any concerns or issues that have been raised."

"Our priority is to maintain peace and order, to ensure the concerns and well-being of the Sibuyanons, and to ensure that no parties are negatively impacted by our operations," it added.

People protesting the mining site clashed with police on Friday as they formed a barricade to prevent mining dump trucks from reaching the privately constructed port.

Police formed their own barricade to keep the group from blocking three trucks which according to residents were allegedly hauling nickel ore extracted in the area and bringing them to a private port.

The anti-mining groups listed as wounded a 22-year-old resident named Charles Rosil and Jay Romero, another kagawad of Barangay España whose shirt was torn during the commotion.


On Saturday, anti-mining groups said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) - Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Region IV-B has issued 3 notices of violations against APMC.

APMC on Monday confirmed to ABS-CBN News that it had received the notices and would answer them in the proper forum.

Environmentalist and Sibuyan resident Rodne Galicha of the group Living Laudato Si said a regional DENR officer and local government officials posted two of the notices at the Altai’s mining site in the town of San Fernando on Saturday morning.

Galicha said a representative of the mining firm present at a meeting with officials and stakeholders earlier that day refused to receive the notices, saying they will wait for their head office in Pasig City to receive them.

Galicha provided media with copies of the documents, the first of which was received by a representative of APMC last Thursday.

The first notice, issued Wednesday said APMC violated the Water Code of the Philippines (Presidential Decree 1067) and a department administrative order (2004-24) by constructing a docking port and a roadway for its dump trucks.

The second notice, issued Thursday, said AMPC violated Presidential Decree 1586 by constructing the causeway without an approved Environmental Compliance Certificate.

The third notice issued Friday, found AMPC in violation of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines (PD 705) for cutting and damaging trees in the mining exploration site in Sitio Bato without a cutting permit.

It also invited the management of the mining firm to attend a technical conference with the director of the EMB MIMAROPA in Manila this coming Tuesday.

The DENR on Tuesday said they will issue a statement regarding the situation in Sibuyan, including the police's dispersal.


Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, on Tuesday said in a statement the struggle of the Sibuyanons is "far from over" despite getting temporary relief from the DENR.

"The DENR Order suspending the current operations of APMC is a clear victory for the people of Sibuyan. Without the firm resistance of the Sibuyan residents and environmental defenders, we doubt if the DENR will lift a finger on the violations of the APMC," said Garganera.

While celebrating the issuance of the notices, Galicha said anti-mining groups will continue to encamp at the mining site until the notices are acknowledged and followed by the mining firm.

“Although nagkaroon ng dialogue at umaksyon naman ang mga lokal government unit, ito sa palagay namin ay naging resulta ng naging barikada for the last 12 days ng ating mga kababayan dito sa Sibuyan Island,” he said in a Zoom interview.

“Tayo ay natutuwa, pero ito ay temporary lamang, hindi pa rin aalisan ng tao ang barricade camp hanggang sa makaalis ang mga barko, malalaking barko. Pero mas mahaba pa rin dahil ang nais natin ay ma-revoke, mapasawalang bisa ang Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) ng Altai Philippines Mining Corporation.”


APMC on Saturday said its exploratory activities in Sibuyan Island are legal.

“We categorically deny all allegations questioning the legality of our Sibuyan operations. Our company has secured all the necessary permits and licenses to lawfully and peacefully conduct our business in the area,” the firm said in an official statement sent to ABS-CBN News this weekend.

It said the trucks that protesters were blocking were part of its testing of samples for mining viability.

The company clarified that its permits were only for exploration work and not yet for actual mining, which they have yet to apply for.

Altai mining firm says 'voluntarily' halting exploration, testing activities in Sibuyan

Around 50,000 metric tons of nickel ore need to be sent to a processing plant to see if actual mining operations could be applied for in the area, APMC said.

APMC added it was “deeply saddened” by the dispersal incident on Friday, adding the company had “exhausted all means to help” those hurt and deescalate the situation.

The mining firm added in a separate Q&A statement that while the protesters were exercising their right to assemble and speak out on their activities, APMC was also exercising its right to ask law enforcement to help remove those “impeding” their exploration.

AMPC also said it tried to reach out to the protesters for dialogue but “did not bear fruit”.

Galicha, however, said their side did not hear from the mining company throughout their barricade and after the dispersal.

The company said it remains committed to ensuring its operations “involve and respect all stakeholders, minimize environmental impact, and prioritize a fair division of socio-economic benefits.”

“We are doing everything correctly and above board. Delays in the exploration and testing only really serve to delay the eventual rehabilitation of the exploration site,” the company said.

“The sooner we get the exploration done, the sooner we can begin the rehabilitation plan that has also been approved by the DENR and the LGU.”

APMC was issued an MPSA in 2009 but was stopped by a cease and desist order in 2011 that was lifted 10 years later.

—with reports from Jasmin Romero and Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News


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