KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/27 February) – Unidentified armed men ambushed the vehicle supposedly owned by a tribal chieftain supportive of the mining venture of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).
Neraldo “Dot” Capion, tribal chieftain of Bong Mal, said two men armed with Garand and M-14 rifles fired at the vehicle carrying his wife Madelyn, 34, two other women, a child and the driver around 3 p.m. Tuesday at Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
Fortunately, no one suffered serious injuries in the incident, he told a local radio station here.
The group was going home from Digos City in Davao del Sur when ambushed in Barangay Kimlawis, some 14 kilometers away from their home in Bong Mal, Capion said.
Kimlawis is part of the mines development site of SMI.
Capion, who did not go with the group, said that at least eight shots were fired, some hitting the car.
The tribal chieftain believed “he was the main target of the attack and that he knows who could have been behind the ambush.” He did not give a name or identify the group, however.
Manolo Labor, SMI external communications and media relation superintendent, separately confirmed the attack.
Capt. William Rodriguez, spokesman of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade that has jurisdiction over the area, did not respond to calls and text message for more details of the attack.
The military, through the Task Force Kitaco, is providing security in the area.
The attack came less than a month after Kitari Capion died in an alleged encounter with government forces within the mines development site of SMI. Kitari died in a hospital here hours after he suffered a bullet wound during the alleged encounter with soldiers last January 30.
Back then, Rodriguez said that the group of Kitari allegedly fired first at the patrolling soldiers, resulting to a gunfight.
Kitari was the younger brother of Daguel Capion, leader of the B’laan armed men opposing SMI’s Tampakan project.
Daguel Capion and Neraldo “Dot” Capion are cousins.
The military has considered Daguel Capion’s group as “bandits.”
Last month, the military deployed additional soldiers to the mines development site of SMI. They were deployed nighttime on board five military trucks.
Earlier, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez warned that a tribal war might erupt within the tenement of SMI as there are tribal members both for and against the mining project.
Gutierrez had blamed the presence of the mining company for the atrocities that erupted in the area.
Xtrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, controls SMI, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the junior partner.
The Tampakan project, potentially the biggest single foreign direct investment in the country with a capital requirement of $5.9 billion, is touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold reserve in Southeast Asia.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently issued an environmental compliance certificate to SMI, after rejecting it twice last year due to the open-pit mining ban imposed by the South Cotabato government.
SMI announced that open-pit method will be used to extract the massive deposits. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)