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Agriculture and Mining

No resolution in sight for controversial Tampakan Copper-Gold project

September 20, 2012 5:23pm
Keeping its fingers crossed ahead of government’s decision on a controversial project in Mindanao, the operator of Tampakan Copper-Gold mine said Thursday it expects Malacañang to act in favor of its request for an environmental clearance certificate before September ends.
"With regards to the ECC appeal, SMI lodged the appeal to the OP in late July,” Mark Williams, Sagittarius Mines Inc. general manager, told reporters Thursday on the sidelines of the 2012 Philippine Mining Conference and Exhibition in Pasay City.
“Based on the administrative timetable, it is due by September. We have conducted the most extensive ever environmental impact study and assessment here in the Philippines.," Williams added.

"We have followed the process, we have followed the procedure,” Williams noted. “That has been monitored by the DENR, and logic would prevail that this issue will be granted approval in September.”
However, Malacañang isn’t likely to meet the mining company’s expectations.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said, "We are carefully studying the MR (motion for reconsideration); but given the death of (the late Interior Secretary) Jesse Robredo, I would not be able to say for sure if we can complete the review by end September.”
As a member of the MICC Robredo had been tasked to work with the Office of the President on this. The new secretary (Mar Roxas) may need some time to study it," said in a text message to GMA News Online
An ECC is a permit issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for companies to engage in activities that include extracting mineral resources.
What makes the Tampakan Gold-Copper project controversial is that Sagittarius Mines will use open-pit process.
According to Ecology Dictionary, open-pit mining is “The process of removing mineral deposits that are found close enough to the surface so that the construction of tunnels (underground mining) is not necessary.
“The soil and strata that cover the deposit are removed to gain access to the mineral deposit. The primary environmental concerns related to this technique are the disposition of spoils removed to gain access to the deposit and the scoring of the landscape that remains following the complete removal of the mineral deposit.
“Erosion and water pollution are also concerns because runoff from the mining area is frequently rich in sediments and minerals which may pollute receiving streams.”
DENR turned down Sagittarius Mines’ ECC application – the first time last January, the second time in May – citing the ban on open-pit mining imposed the local government unit through municipal ordinance must first be resolved.
Williams said the company went through extensive consultations with stakeholders at the project site, including the indigenous peoples in the area
According to the Sagittarius Mine website, “Sagittarius Mine’s 40 percent  controlling equity is a joint venture between Xstrata Copper (62.5%) and Indophil Resources NL (37.5%). The 60 percent non-controlling equity shareholders of Sagittarius Mines are the Tampakan Mining Corporation and Southcot Mining Corporation (known as the Tampakan Group of Companies).
“Xstrata Copper is part of Xstrata Plc, a global diversified mining group that is listed on the London and Swiss stock exchanges. Xstrata Copper is the world’s fourth largest copper producer with operations and projects in eight countries.”
Sagittarius Mines said it continues to hold open dialogue with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato. Given the chance, it would seek a quiet resolution on the open pit ban issue, the company said.
"We stated that there is an avenue for legal route, which the… DILG was talking about,” said Williams. “There is also a route which is our preference – for dialogue and consultation between the parties to be able to resolve the open pit ban in South Cotabato without the legal route."
The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Executive Order 79 noted national law has supremacy over local laws.
On that note, Sagittarius Mines is depending on EO 79 to "… be effectively and efficiently implemented."
The company said it looks forward to working with Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel A,. Roxas II, whose appointment was recently confirmed by Commission of Appointments.
"Former DILG Secretary Robredo was helpful. We always found him open, transparent, straightforward and we don't expect any change with the new secretary," said Williams.
“As a member of the MICC (Mining Industry Coordinating Council),  Robredo had been tasked to work with the Office of the President on this,” Carandang said in his text message to GMA News Online.
“The new secretary may need some time to study it," he added.
Sagittarius Mines and its equity partners in Tampakan Gold-Copper are expected to plow $5.9 billion into the project. The mine site straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur. — With Gian Geronimo/VS, GMA News
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