By Rjay Zuriaga Castor
A mining company will again conduct drilling in some parts of Pan de Azucar Island in Concepcion town in the northern part of the Iloilo province to assess the potential profitability of a mining project in the area.
Concepcion Mayor Milliard Villanueva confirmed to Daily Guardian that TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD), an affiliate of TVI Pacific Inc. – a Canadian mining company listed on the stock exchange, is currently conducting mineral exploration on the island.
“Ang exploration is to check the area kung may ara gid man nga mineral dira which is of commercial quantity […] Amo na ang time nga makuha sila sang samples and they will determine kung may commercial viability ang project,” Villanueva said in an interview on Tuesday.
Pan de Azucar Island comprises the villages of Tambaliza, Macatunao, and Talotoan. The mining company has established barracks in Talotoan, designating the area as its base for exploration activities.
Villanueva said there will be no exploration activities in the two other villages.
The town mayor said the company was granted an exploration permit (EP) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
He mentioned that the local government has no role in granting permits to the company since the exploration permit is issued by the MGB, which he described as a “national imposition,”
“But despite the exploration, gin require ko sila nga mag conduct sang information education campaign dira sa area. Tatlo ka barangay ang tagaan nila sang IEC,” he added.
TVIRD has already conducted an IEC on the locals in the barangays of Macatunao and Talotoan.
The information education campaign in Tambaliza is scheduled today, November 29, and will be attended by representatives of MGB, and the environment and natural resources office of Concepcion town and the province.
“[The education campaign is] para ma explain kung ano gid ina ang mga activities. Para ma voice out sang mga residents ang ila nga mga concerns kag masabat sang proper authorities,”
Villanueva maintained that the ongoing activity in the island has no negative environmental impacts, citing that specific areas are designated for borehole drilling in order to collect samples.
“Rest assured that it is not the proper mining activities kundi exploration lang na siya. Specific areas ang gina kuhaan nila sang mga samples.
Daily Guardian has reached out to the MGB for comment but is yet to respond as of writing.
What happens in mineral exploration?
An EP is an initial mode of acquiring mining rights giving the holder the right to conduct exploration for all minerals within a specified area.
It is valid for two years from the date it’s issued and can be renewed for similar periods, up to a maximum of four years for nonmetallic mineral exploration or six years for metallic mineral exploration.
In filing an EP with the MGB, a company is required to submit a location map or sketch plan of the permit area, an exploration work program, an environmental work program, proof of technical competence and financial capability, and a certificate of environmental management and community relations record, among other requirements.
During the exploration, TVIRD will search for valuable minerals and quantify them to determine whether there is a feasible deposit for mining development and production.
The drilling process in the exploration involves using different types of drill rigs to bore holes to drill 10-20 cm wide holes to varied depths at varied angles.
In a 2011 press release, Mindoro Resources Ltd., which is also a listed Canadian miner, carried out drilling activities on Pan de Azucar Island, specifically in the village of Talotoan.
The exploration activity of Mindoro Resources Ltd. in the area yielded results of pyritic sulfide zones, with associated copper, gold, silver and zinc mineralization.
In 2012, the mining company entered into joint venture agreements with TVI Pacific for both a direct shipping ore venture and a processing venture in their mining projects across the country, including the one on Pan de Azucar Island.
If the area is commercially viable for mining, the company can proceed to apply for a Mineral Agreement (MA).
An MA provides the company with the exclusive rights to carry out mining operations and extract all mineral resources discovered within the contracted area.
The MA can either be a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement, a Co-production Agreement, or a Joint Venture Agreement.
Atty. Cesar Emmanuel Buyco, Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Office (PGENRO) chief, said the province has no direct handover of the exploration activities in the area.
“Ang problema ta sina da, ang EP is issued by the MGB […] Kung full-fledged nga permit na gid, may intervention kita. Pero sa subong nga exploration daw asta lang gid kita sa reklamo. Very minimal pa gid ang mahimo ta,” he said.
Citing this, Buyco said they are not aware of the restrictions in TVIRD’s EP.
“Indi namun ma check jay wala man kami mahatagan ka MGB ka documents kung ano ang gin hatag sa ila nga authority, ano ang extent sang ila exploration permit,” he said.
Buyco clarified that the Provincial Government, the local government unit, and other relevant agencies can only intervene when the company applies for a mining permit.
“There are limitations sa pag-issue sang permits especially sa mga declared protected areas or tourism areas. Kung mag-apply na gid sila nga efficient for mining, maagi man sila gihapon sa proper permitting procedures,” he added.
Buyco said he will be attending the IEC in Tambaliza scheduled today.
He plans to inspect the barracks and noted that he will report to the MGB if there are irregularities or non-compliance with the limitations stated in the EP.
Meanwhile, Villanueva said that his office did not receive any complaints but admitted that he is aware of the concerns raised on social media.
“If it was directly addressed to us, we could properly respond to that,” he said.
He urged locals to address their concerns to the proper authorities for immediate action.
“Facebook is not an instrument for information. Why don’t we go directly sa LGU para we can initiate the proper action kung ano ang himuon natun. Waay kami naghimo sang move dira because ang scope is under the national government like the MGB and the company,” he noted.