Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Pelican in Sibuyan

What is a pelican?

The pelican is a large water bird belonging to the genus Pelicanus. It has a stretchy pouch just under its long beak, where it deposits the food it catches, usually fish, before swallowing it whole, head first.

The pelican is known to always peck her breast so that it bleeds. Thus, the bird has come to be known as a symbol of piety. In fact, the pelican has become a heraldic symbol. It appears on flags and emblems.

The pelican is an inland and coastal water bird, but it is not found in the polar regions, the deep ocean, and oceanic islands.

“Occasionally, pelicans will consume animals other than fish. In one documented case, a pelican swallowed a live pigeon and reports of similar incidents have surfaced. In fact, pelicans are fairly opportunistic predators, and while fish forms the bulk of their diet due to being the most common food source where pelicans nest, they will quite readily eat any other food that is available to them,” says Wikepedia in its description of the bird.

Sibuyan being Pacifican, the pelican is not seen in this paradise, not until recently when a different breed of this bird of prey came to nest on its shores.

This ‘pelican’ is an Australian (the Australian variety is called Goolayyalibee) but it has no physical resemblance to the large aves. It does, however, sport its name but no one, until now, can tell with certainty if this ‘pelican’ is pious. I, myself, doubt this, for this ‘pelican’ is in Sibuyan to hunt, not to beat its breast in piety till it bleeds.

What is the Pelican?

On September 21, The Age newspaper in Australia carried a news item about a certain Pelican signing a Romblon agreement with BHP. The article was published by other newspapers and was picked up in Manila by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

It was not long before the news circulated in the Internet and in Romblon, where a furious exchange took place between pro- and anti-mining advocates. It found its way in the blogsite of the advocacy group Sibuyan Aton Manggad, or SAM, an acronym which never fails to remind me of a politician with that name who excreted a promise not to run in the last election, only to swallow the pledge later, excrete and all, by, what else, running! Incidentally, this politician was rumored to have pocketed pro-mining money. O, di ba, masaya? But that topic is for another day.

“Junior explorer Pelican Resources Ltd has signed an agreement with mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd for off take from the emerging Romblon nickel laterite project in the Philippines,” the news went this way.

“The off take agreement is to supply 500,000 wet tonnes of product annually for an initial period of five years, with options to extend for a further eight years.
“The agreement is dependent on Pelican confirming a 2.5 million tonne nickel reserve at Romblon and BHP Billiton's satisfaction of the ore grade.
“The ore would be processed through BHP Billiton's Yabulu refinery in Queensland.
“Romblon has an inferred resource of 7.26 million tonnes, with an average grade of 1.56 per cent nickel.
“BHP Billiton has also committed to fund a $US250,000 ($A290,500) exploration program at Romblon.
“Pelican director John Hills said the off take agreement with BHP Billiton reflected the economic potential of the Romblon project.
"The company looks forward to the commencement of the exploration and evaluation program at the Romblon nickel project, and to working closely with BHP Billiton and its subsidiaries to develop a long-term, cooperative relationship into the future," Dr. Hills said.
“The company gave no details of first production and Pelican management was unavailable for further comment.
“Nickel laterite is low-grade and requires intensive processing or a low-cost heap-leaching process where crushed ore is put into mounds and irrigated with acid to extract the metal.
“The agreement was signed between BHP Billiton and Pelican's Philippines subsidiary, Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation Ltd (SNPDC).
“Pelican holds a 75 per cent stake of SNPDC while All-Acacia Resources Inc. holds the balance.
“Pelican shares dipped one cent to close at 29 cents,” The Age thus said.
So there, dear readers. As the debate in the yahoogroups said, “A mining giant now enters Romblon.”

But wait, this is misleading. Just what it is they are cooking up in Sibuyan? Who are the main and minor mining players there? And where does this news put SAM and the other anti-mining advocates on the struggle to STOP this "pelican" and company from poaching—and swallowing up—the island?

In the company of the Pelican

Pelican Resources Ltd is a publicly-listed company based in Leederville, Australia, with a market capitalization of AU$28.9 million. Its website does not list how many employees it has. It is not a giant mining company, contrary to speculation. It is an “extractor”. Its main business is oil, coal and gas exploration. It is only a “junior” miner, as the news said, for, indeed, exploration, drilling, and equipment provision services are only sub-industries on its plate. It has iron ore projects in Australia. In Mindanao, it has a gold exploration project in Surigao City and another one 200 kilometers down south. Its project in Sibuyan is its only nickel exploration venture thus far.

Pelican’s chairman of the board, John Palermo, receives a US$94,400 a year in salaries, while its managing director, John Henry Hills, gets as much as US$175,400 per year. Combined, this amount approximates its proposed investment in Sibuyan. Range this against Manong Nic Musico’s estimate of US$375 gross profit per year and you can figure the amount is nuts, peanuts.

Pelican’s mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) application, AMA-IVB-025, is pending before the Minerals and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), an agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), although this is not reflected in the MGB list of pending MPSA applications. Perhaps, this must have been approved without our knowing?

It is Pelican’s partner, New York-based BHP Billiton, which is the mining giant—the one capable of processing the minerals that Pelican will dig up in Sibuyan. BHP Billiton is the world’s third largest nickel producer.

For its exploration and extraction operation, Pelican will not do it. These literally earth-shaking activities will be undertaken by its subsidiaries and affiliates—its fronts—the Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation Ltd. (SNPDC) and All-Acacia Resources Inc., a joint-venture partner. I have yet to find out if there is a Romblomanon in the SNPDC, but there is a Filipino industrialist there by the name of Jesus Miguel Cabarrus. As to All-Acacia Resources, Inc., this company has been de-listed in the stock exchanges for one reason or another, but Pelican still owns it up to 25 percent of its shares of stocks.
Pelican, in its quarterly report on March 31, 2006, said that the Environmental Management Bureau, another DENR agency, had issued it an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) for its two small-scale nickel ore mining projects in Sibuyan. It said it was “pursuing approval process” for its “open cut mining and shipping of ore.” It further said in its report that it consulted with representatives at the barangay, regional and provincial levels” as part of the approval process. To the Sibuyanons, were you consulted in 2006?
An ECC is required for a holder to be to issued a small-scale mining permit, which allows the holder to extract up to 100,000 tons of mineral per year. That is small-scale? In addition, a small-scale mining permit will allow the holder access to the area covered by its MPSA, so if a mining company has an appoved MPSA application, a small-scale mining permit could facilitate “intrusion” into a bigger area. One needs not be a rocket scientist to figure this out.
The ECC is then forwarded to the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (if Romblon has such) which will endorse it to the governor (we have one, I suppose) who will issue the permit. This process, I assume, had been completed already, and the usual “tong” already demanded, paid, received, and spent?
There are other predators now salivating over the rich mineral resources of Sibuyan, and they ought to be mentioned in the anti-mining advocates’ hate list: JKL Brothers Mineral Ore Quarrying Resources, Ore Asia Mining Development Corporation, Altai Resources, Sunshine Gold Pty. Ltd and Sun Pacific Resources Philippines, Inc.
A search yielded very scant information about JKL Brothers and Ore Asia Mining. Probably, these are small-scale miners granted permits. Sunshine Gold Pty. Ltd and Sun Pacific Resources are subsidiaries of Pelican Resources, too, which owned 40 percent and 35 percent of the stocks of the two, respectively. With its joint-venture partner, SNPDC, Pelican has so far drilled 300 holes in the eastern coast of Sibuyan. More holes will be drilled, more pits will be opened, I am sure, in the next few months.

Altai Resources: Another miner
Altai Resources is very interesting. A Canadian mining company, it has a Philippine subsidiary, Altai Philippines Mining Corporation, whose shares of stock it owns up to 40 percent. From my understanding, Altai Philippines has also a pending MPSA application, but again, this does not show on the MGB list. Nevertheless, the company’s MPSA application lists up to 1,822 hectares of nickel-cobalt-rich lands in Sibuyan as its “property.” Wow, that’s neat.

Pacific Metals Company and Mitsui Mining of Japan, which have cast moist eyes over Sibuyan many years before, had drilled 431 holes and pits in the island. These holes and pits may have been used as basis by Altai Philippines to inform the MGB that Sibuyan has an “excellent exploration potential for discovery of a much larger deposit.”

On November 24, 2004, Altai Philippines had signed an option agreement with an unnamed Australian mining company (could this be Pelican Resources?) and another company named Sunshine Mining Pty. Ltd for the sale of its Sibuyan “property”. Is Sunshine Mining Pty Ltd different from Sunshine Gold Pty Ltd, which is a Pelican subsidiary? I don’t know.

The option was “C$1.3 million payable within six months of the Philippines signing an MPSA.” In effect, Sibuyan had been sold even before a pound of nickel could be extracted from its bowels.

Altai at present has also a sulfur exploration project in Amlan, Tanjay, Pamplona, and Sibulan, all in Negros Oriental, a permit for which was granted by the DENR in 2004.

Thus far, this is the complete cast of major characters in the on-going drama. There is a local cast, you know, the politicians, the hangers-on, the treasure hunters, the miron, but they are minor, and this blogger will write about them in due time. The important thing is that we now know who are out to spoil Sibuyan, so we must be ready for a fight.

To be so, let me end this brief with a famous limerick about the pelican, written by Dixon Lanier Merrit in 1910. It says:

"A wonderful bird is the pelican. His bill will hold more than his belican. He can take in his beak, Food enough for a week, But I'm damned if I can see how the helican."


Kalikasan-PNE said...

this is a great article. did you wrote it? im living in adjacent municipality to Sto Tomas Batangas. my organization is doing mining campaign at the national level. if you are interested to do some contribution, maybe research and writing, please contact me at visit us at thanks. enteng

Pelican Products said...

I must say that I myself am very much the animal lover! When I was younger, I used to live on a farm. Now, it wasn't your traditional farm with cows and all rather a farm with peacocks, doves, parrots, bunnies, puppies, chickens, ducks, and a dog named Bonnie that made sure every thing was okay! :) Basically a farm that consisted of only the cutest animals on the planet! I loved them all, they were part of the family and even up until today I speak about them because they are, what can I say, a real part of my history :)

Anonymous said...

Hard words break no bones.