Philippine rebels raid mine to stop "plunder"
MANILA (Reuters) - Communist rebels in the Philippines said on Wednesday they attacked a mine majority-owned by Xstrata Plc to "punish" the Switzerland-based firm, protect the environment and safeguard the rights of local tribes.
About 30-40 armed men raided the Tampakan mine in the southern Philippines on Tuesday morning and burned six buildings, police said. They said the rebels were from the Communist New People's Army (NPA).
Officials at the mine said the attack would not affect a pre-feasibility study now in progress.
Tampakan is one of the biggest undeveloped copper resources in Southeast Asia. Its total resources are estimated at 12.8 million tons of contained copper and 15.2 million ounces of contained gold.
"As the people intensify their struggle to assert national patrimony against the rapacity of foreign monopoly capitalists, the New People's Army will carry out more and more punitive actions in response to the people's demands to stop the unbridled rapacious and destructive operations of big foreign mining companies," a statement from the Communist Party of the Philippines said on Wednesday.
"Yesterday's raid is an important milestone in the effort to put a stop to the firm's destructive and plunderous mining operations, defend the ancestral domain of the B'laan tribe; protect the environmental balance and resist the Arroyo regime's campaign to auction off the country's natural resources to big foreign capitalists."
The government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has called for a ceasefire with the Communist rebels over the holiday season.
The rebels opened fire on a nearby army detachment during the raid but there were no casualties, police said. The rebel statement said the firing was only a deterrent and that the NPA did not pursue the offensive in deference to the ceasefire.
Tampakan is due to launch production in 2013, with annual output of 200,000 tons of copper and 200,000 ounces of gold.
The mine is 62.5 percent owned by Xstrata and 34 percent by Australia's Indophil Resources N.L..
(Reporting by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Alex Richardson)