Toronto-listed miner St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd. and its joint venture partner National Development Corp. said that it plans to hire at least 1,000 small-scale miners currently operating within its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) area.

Clyde Gillespie, St. Augustine country manager and director for environmental permitting, said that illegal small-scale miners will be absorbed by the company once the King-king copper-gold project in Pantukan, Compostella Valley, starts operations.

"As we work with the small scale miners, we will try to hire them as many of them as we can," he said. At present, majority of the illegal small-scale miners were located directly in the 481 hectares out of the 16,656 hectares tenement area that the company intends to develop.

Once the mine is commissioned, it will employ 1,700 people. During the construction phase, it will have 4,000 to 5,000 employees.

"We can try to absorb them into our workforce and because of their experience, we're going to need them," he said. Gillespie also said that the company will set aside areas within the tenement for those who will choose to continue their small-scale mining operations, adding that the company will even provide them proper equipment to process ore. "We will set up a milling facility with the right chemicals and the tailings, so they too will also be responsible small scale miners," he said, adding that the company is also amenable to offering contracts to small scale miners for the supply for ore to maximize the mine's output.

"We will basically buy the ore from them and process it, and then sell the gold, pay taxes, put the money into the community so we can help the mayor of Pantukan with some of his projects and programs," Gillespie added.

Mayor Roberto Yugo of Pantukan, on the other hand, said there is only one designated Minahang Bayan in Pantukan, where small-scale miners can operate legally.

This is the tenement controlled by the Napnapan Mineral Resources Inc. where each small-scale operator can operate a maximum area of 80 hectares each.

There are currently four cooperatives operating within the gold-rich tenement.

Yugo said the local government does not generate substantial revenues from small-scale mining operations but recognizes that the municipality faces unemployment and underemployment problems.