Agusan tribes hit mining mogul for violations

Date of publication: 
6 March, 2012

THE Municipal Tribal Council of Tubay, Agusan del Norte through their counsel Rose Beatrix Cruz-Angeles filed a complaint with the DENR against SR Metals, Inc., a large- scale mining firm owned by Caloocan Vice Mayor Edgar Erice, for violation of the Mining Act of 1995 and other environmental laws.

In a complaint addressed to DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, the tribal council sought the immediate issuance of an order suspending mining and quarrying operations in the firm’s mining site in La Fraternidad village, Tubay, Agusan del Norte because of the “imminent danger it poses and continues to pose to residents.”

They complained of the health hazards to residents and for the firm’s closure of the Tubay National Secondary Coastal Road for the firm’s own use. The council complained that SR Metals Inc. illegally appropriated the public road and has not allowed anyone to use it to the extent of setting up check-points and denying access to anyone, including local executives from Tubay town.

The council also complained of the firm’s violation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by the DENR on February 27, 2007 particularly its failure to strictly implement commitments, mitigating measures, and monitoring requirements to minimize any adverse impact of the project.

Atty. Angeles, counsel for the complainant said SRMI’s blatant disregard to the laws shows that the mining company has someone close to those who are in power which could protect them in case they get in trouble.

“Since 2005 marami nang reklamo against SRMI, pero tuloy tuloy pa rin ang kanilang operation continues so feeling ko talagang malakas sila to whoever (there have been numerous complaints against SRMI, but it still manages to continue its operation, I believe that the company has some strong connections),” Angeles said in an interview.

The municipal tribal council of Tubay, through its lawyer wants the DENR to stop the operation of SRMI because of the obvious violations committed by the company particularly in taking over government-owned road and used it exclusively for the company and denied residents access to it.

“This is just the first case, we are also preparing other cases that will be filed against the SRMI, particularly in relation to the destructive effects of the its operation to the environment,” she added.

SR Metals Inc. has been the subject of numerous complaints from local government executives, community leaders, and residents for the destructive effects of their mining activities in the Agusan del Norte, particularly on the marine life and the surrounding mountains, which is a bird sanctuary and protected area.

Tubay Mayor Sadeka Garcia Tomaneng earlier cried harassment against the Caloocan City vice mayor when Erice filed a complaint against her before the Office of the Ombudsman over her relentless campaign against mining operations in her hometown.

Previously, Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Jasareno conducted an aerial survey of the area and found indications that SRMI may have committed several violations that could endanger the eco system there.

Environmentalist have expressed doubts that the MGB would investigate and sanction SRMI including three other large-scale mining firms in Surigao del Norte namely Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC), Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) and Claver Mining Corp.

SRMI, according to them is being backed by Erice, a partymate of President Aquino and a member of the national executive council of the Liberal Party.

Erice and Miguel Alberto Gutierrez are listed as the principal owners of SR Metals Inc. Erice was chairman and president of the company and is currently the first member of the company’s board.