Mining company denies 'illegal operations' on Sibuyan Island

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5) — Altai Philippines Mining Corp. (AMPC) on Sunday defended its “lawful” operations on Sibuyan Island in Romblon, as residents demanded to see the company’s permits and licenses.

In a statement, APMC said its operations in the area underwent “comprehensive environmental and socio-economic studies and outcome analyses,” consultation with regulators and agencies, and engagement with surrounding communities.

“Given this, we categorically deny all allegations questioning the legality of our Sibuyan operations,” the statement read. “Our company has secured all the necessary permits and licenses to lawfully and peacefully conduct our business in the area.”

The mining firm also said it reached out to protesters to establish a dialogue but “these efforts did not bear fruit.”

Rodne Galicha, executive director of the environmental group Living Laudato Si’, told CNN Philippines on Saturday that APMC had not reached out to them since they started a human barricade which tried to prevent the company’s trucks from loading nickel ore.

APMC said its management was “deeply saddened by the recent hostilities” and claimed it has “exhausted all means to help those who have been hurt.”

The human barricade, set up in front of the company’s port in Sitio Bato, Brgy. España in San Fernando, was dispersed by police on Friday, leaving two persons injured.

Residents also said a barangay official was briefly handcuffed but was released a few minutes later.

READ: 2 hurt in police dispersal of Sibuyan Island human barricade vs alleged illegal mining

APMC said it is conducting mining exploration in the area and planning to export 50,000 metric tons of nickel ore to be tested overseas.

In a multi-sectoral dialogue on Friday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Mimaropa region said it served APMC three notices of violation after it found that some of the company’s activities lacked the necessary permits.

READ: Mining company told to stop operations in Sibuyan Island — environmentalist

“Lahat ng ginawa nila ay violation, ibig sabihin iligal na iyon dahil wala pa ngang permiso at walang ECC (environmental compliance certificate) ‘yong kanilang causeway nag-construct na sila at ginamit nila,” Galicha earlier told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: There were violations in all their activities and that would mean their operations are illegal. They don’t even have a permit and ECC for their causeway project but they already constructed and used it.]

He said they will continue with their barricade until Tuesday.

Pero mas mahaba pa rin dahil ang nais namin ay ma-revoke, mapasawalang-bisa 'yong mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) ng Altai,” he said.

[Translation: We want Altai’s mineral production sharing agreement revoked.]

In 2011, the DENR canceled the company's MPSA to explore resources on Sibuyan Island because of a complaint by then San Fernando Mayor Dindo Rios, saying mining operations will “severely endanger the rivers and streams of Sibuyan.”

The DENR lifted the cease-and-desist order on APMC’s operations in September 2021.

CNN Philippines tried to seek clarifications from APMC but the mining company said it has yet to appoint an official spokesperson.

CNN Philippines correspondent Paige Javier contributed to this report.