Farmers oppose open-pit copper-gold mine in Davao Sur


MANILA, Philippines — A battle between farmers and Sagittarius Mines, the operator of the copper-gold mine set to open in southern Mindanao in 2016, is looming over water resources in the lush, mineral-rich province of Davao del Sur.

Farmers and an irrigators’ association in Davao del Sur and Davao City have asked the Aquino administration to stop the $6-billion open pit mine project, saying it would destroy the watershed that feeds into 13,000 hectares of mostly-rice farmlands downstream.

The complaint of the farmers was confirmed by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who was asked by the farmers recently to halt the massive project. “Farmers are against the Tampakan project. I think they will not let this push through,” Alcala said.

A resolution made by the Davao del Sur and Davao City Federation of Irrigators’ Association that was submitted to the Department of Agriculture and the Office of the President said the national and communal irrigation system of Davao del Sur would face “environmental destruction” from the open pit mine and various mining facilities that would be built to support it.

Davao del Sur is an agricultural basket and one of the rice-producing provinces in Mindanao. The irrigators’ association said their rice production would be threatened by the mining project.

More than 13,000 farmer-irrigators are very much dependent on water resources of the rivers, considering that water is the life-blood of our rice farmers,” the group said in the resolution.

If our watershed will be damaged due to this open pit mining operations, we are certain that the Road Map to Rice Self-Sufficiency from year 2011-2016, which is one of the major components under the present administration will not be achieved,” the resolution read.  The Aquino administration has been aiming to make the Philippines produce enough rice for its population so that the government could halt the costly importation of rice, the Filipinos’ main staple.

Nestor Rama, president of the group, said the tailings and chemicals used in the processing of the minerals could contaminate the water flowing from the Mal River to downstream.

Leogene Bangahon, another farmer-irrigator, said the location of the mining area, as well as the use of the open pit method, could wipe out the watersheds in the mountains.

“Once you destroy a mountain, it’s gone,” he said. “If the source of our water is gone, we will not be able to plant,” he added.

The Sagittarius Mines project is a joint venture among Xstrata Copper, Indophil Resourcs NL and Tampakan Group of Companies. The companies’ $5.9-billion investment in the copper-gold mine is considered to be the largest single foreign direct investment in the Philippines.

The Tampakan mining site straddles four provinces in Southern Mindanao. The proposed mine site covers 10,000 hectares and is located between the towns of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resourcs has yet to issue an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) for the project following the ban on open pit mining by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

Agriculture officials have confirmed that the area where the mine project is located has large-scale irrigation facilities and a major river system. Antonio Nangel, NIA administrator, said the government has spent P250 million for the irrigation system in Mal River.

Alcala said the complaints from farmers and irrigators in other mining areas have compelled them to include a provision in the new mining regulations being drafted by the government. “There should be no mining in areas where there are established agricultural facilities. Prime agricultural land should also be exempt,” he said in an interview.

Davao del Sur is part of Region XI, a highly mineralized area in Southern Mindanao. The region is home to large-scale and small-scale mining operations, as well as vast plantations of rice, bananas, and pineapples.  Over the years, the region’s rice output has declined. According to data from the National Irrigation Administration, Region XI produced 427,184 metric tons of rice in 2007. In 2010, paddy yield dropped to 402,111 metric tons.

A spokesman from Sagittarius Mines said the project would not contaminate agricultural land in the area.

John Arnaldo of SMI said: “SMI confirms and guarantees that no mining activities are proposed to be undertaken in any prime agricultural lands.”

He added that the company would build a fresh water dam to mitigate any impact on water supply downstream.

“If the project is approved, we would construct a freshwater storage dam to collect water that is excess to current downstream agricultural requirements during the wet times of the year, which would then be used during the dry times when river water levels are low,” he said.

“This will lead to increases in rice production and farmer’s incomes as well as provide an opportunity for an improved equitable distribution of irrigation water,” Arnaldo said.

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  • tonto_ka

    i believe before an ECC can be granted there must be a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment …in so doing consultation with affected communities shall take place…any concern from the concerned parties will be addressed thoroughly by the company…

  • dennis

    First of all,if there were such project like this,i would like our government to PUSH THROUGH the plan of converting our system into a Socialist-Federal form of Government.The reason that made me clear is to get us out of belief that NCR is the place where there is a green pasture! That is TOTALLY WRONG! At yan ang dahilan kung bakit hindi mawawala ang SQUATTERS sa Metro Manila.People from all over the country who believe that there is no better chance to survive in their region will move to NCR,believing and having in their mind the “Bahala na” attitude.Saying like “Doon na lang tayo sa Maynila,kahit papano eh baka may pag-asa pa!”…PAANO KUNG WALA?
    Why i prefer SOCIALIST-FEDERAL FORM OF GOVERNMENT?…A good example are most of those countries here in Europe like Germany.Socialist is something that the concern of our government is “FAMILY FIRST”….Why with a mix of FEDERAL? My point is to have our region converted into 4 Federal places(Northern Luzon,Southern Luzon,NCR,Visayas and Mindanao).Now here comes the plan…Every federal states income should stay at their OWN place.In short,they are all responsible to improve state that are under their own jurisdiction!…People from NCR,specially those NOT FROM NCR(squatters) will be force to be move at their own places upon which they are belong with,returning back their thinking na,”May matatrabaho na ako sa pinanggalingan ko!”…..Now,if you are planning to do such project like this then it will be impossible to do such improvement “Copper-Gold mine” because THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE WERE STILL VERY BACKWARD! Magbago man ang panahon,hindi magbabago ang prinsipyo at paniniwala na “Ang lupa ay kayamanan” which is TRUE!
    The year ahead 2016 is no longer far away from our fingertipps lalo na kung Improvement para sa bansa ang pag-uusapan! Filipinos must believe that we are no longer the filipinos of 50yrs ago but a FILIPINO WHO WILL EMBRACE THE NEW GENERATION TOWARDS TECHNOLOGY.
    Sa panahon ngayon,let me ask a simple question?

    SAAN MABILIS KUMITA ANG BANSA?…Sa gold-copper mine? Or sa walang kamatayang agriculture na walang gagawin kundi magbungkal ng lupa? Sa isang Federal form of Government,Maganda ito para sa taga Mindanao! Umulan man or bumagyo,kayamanan pa din yan! Samantalang kung may Bagyo…any Natural calamities eh “BACK TO ZERO” na naman ang itinanim ninyo?…Samantalang kung Copper-Gold mine na malakihan ang pagkakakitaan,lahat ng magtatrabaho eh kikita!…Just my 2cents of opinion lang po!


      1. Federal – I agree with you on this bro,

                        Philippines will be much better if we are a Federal State. Regions will be better off if we dont beg from Manila for budget… As this will erradicate the mentality from local governments that they have something to receive from the Central Government eventhough their City is not earning locally. (Take a look at Maguindanao? )

      Management wise, Federal is more suitable geographically in our Island Nation.

      Financially, this will empower the Local Government to find ways for Income Generation Projects for their Regions.
      As well as it will create Healthy local competition among Regions.

      Culturally, each regions are different with individual pride on its own local culture.

      2. Socialist – Sorry dude but Im for Free Enterprise andLaissez-faire

      But on my opinion we have a confused society because as of now we are already behaving like socialist republic. For example DTI Price Control… Its a socialist mentality right?. Government sponsored Hospitals, Government Sponsored Educations. Conditional Cash Transfer Program etc.

      But whatever the Filipino majority’s decision is all fine with me. as long as we are consistent with it.


    dennis: “SAAN MABILIS KUMITA ANG BANSA?…Sa gold-copper mine? Or sa walang
    kamatayang agriculture na walang gagawin kundi magbungkal ng lupa? Sa
    isang Federal form of Government,Maganda ito para sa taga Mindanao!
    Umulan man or bumagyo,kayamanan pa din yan! Samantalang kung may
    Bagyo…any Natural calamities eh “BACK TO ZERO” na naman ang itinanim
    ninyo?…Samantalang kung Copper-Gold mine na malakihan ang
    pagkakakitaan,lahat ng magtatrabaho eh kikita!…Just my 2cents of
    opinion lang po!”

    Tama ba wording mo dito bansa ba mabilis kumita? tsk tsk tsk salitang hunghang yata to, maliit masyado ang kikitain dito ng mga tao. Ang mga opisyal ng gov. kikita ng malaki sa pagbenta ng yaman ng bansa.  Hind naman nabubulok to bakit kailangan kunin agad sa paraaan na nakakasira ng lupain na tinataniman ng mga magsasaka.  Ang Korea, Japan at iba pang European na bansa ay marami ring deposit ng minerals pero hindi sila nag open pit mining.  Isipin mo kung bakit, kasi may utak at may pananaw sila sa bayan nila.

    • ronald gustilo

      E kasi ho, ayos sa MINIG ACT OF 1995, 2% lang ng halaga ng mamimina ang mapupunta sa gobyerno. so technically, WALANG PERA SA PAGMIMINA! di gumaganansya ang mamamayan dito

    • Meg


  • jorgeheheluis

    miss leading talaga yung numbers about the mining industry. ang sabi talaga, is 40% of all mining revenue goes to government through taxes, fees and funds. ang layo sa 2% na sinsasabi ng iba.

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