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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Lumads seek Lepanto mines closure

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Mankayan Indigenous People’s Groups (lumads) is seeking the closure of a century old mining firm in their locality.

The clamor of lumad groups in Barangay Suyuc in Mankayan for the closure and halt operations of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC) are now being discussed in the Provincial Board.

During this week’s regular session, Provincial board members debated on how to tackle the issue presented to the body in 2015 via a petition penned by the local Mankayan groups seeking the closure of LCMC, alleging irregularities in its operations.

The issue was submitted to the Provincial Board late November and has been discussed partially before the Holiday rush.

The Provincial Board has agreed to hold in abeyance any action to the petition sent by Mankayan folk pending deliberations of Committees on the matter.

Petitioners accused LCMC of using dynamite that allegedly damaged residential and agricultural lots in sitios Pacda and Mayangyang.

The petition added that damage can be seen and observed on the residential and agricultural lots of sitio Pacda and Mayangyang due to the underground dynamite blasting operations of LCMC.

Petitioners are also alleging safety procedures of LCMC does not even pass the required standards for ISO due to several accidents that have caused injuries and deaths.

Petitioners also point out Lepanto has continued to operate the Pacda tunnel despite the expiration of its license to mine the area under a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA). The MPSA, numbered 001 which expired on March 15, 2015.

LCMC is seeking renewal of its MPSA, filing last year, the company has been operating the Victoria and Teresa gold deposits in Benguet, but its 25-year contract for the Victoria mine is expired.

LCMC claims the law, which mandates the acquisition of an FPIC, under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) does not apply to their case because they are exempted, because the company obtained its contract seven years before the law was enacted in 1997.

A Makati Regional Trial Court ordered government regulatory agencies to avoid disrupting the operations of LCMC until a resolution of a dispute over its application to renew its mining contract in the area is resolved.
The issue is now with the arbitration council.

While seeking arbitration, Lepanto is also planning to convert portions of the subject MPSA into a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), allowing Gold Fields to acquire majority stake in the copper-gold project.

At present, Lepanto holds 60 percent of the FSP, and the remaining 40 percent owned by Gold Fields.

MPSAs are granted to mining firms, which have at least 60-percent local ownership, while Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement allows 100-percent foreign ownership.

Lepanto and Gold Fields, have been applying to convert MPSA 001 and 151 into a single, expanded tenement covered by a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement.
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