In Cotabato, bishop rejects lifting of ban on open-pit mining
KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato, Philippines — The Diocese of Marbel has reiterated its support for the ban on open-pit mining imposed by the South Cotabato provincial government, which has delayed the $5.9-billion Tampakan project that seeks to mine one of Asia’s largest known undeveloped copper and gold reserves.
The Tampakan project has a potential average annual yield of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold, in concentrate, over 17 years.
Bishop Cerilo Casicas pledged last week to sustain the opposition spearheaded by his predecessor, the late Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, against Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), operator of the Tampakan project that straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and Davao del Sur.
Addressing a mining forum at the Notre Dame of Marbel University here, Casicas described the project as a venture which “even God will not approve.”
“God created humans to protect the environment,” he said.
Advocates for mining the province’s gold and copper reserves have challenged in court the open-pit mining ban that was imposed through an environment code approved in 2010.
The petitioners include the Bongmal Tribal Council, the Danlag Tribal Council and the Fulo Bato Tribal Council, all of whom come from communities within SMI’s approved mining tenement.
The ban has delayed the project for close to a decade already. The bulk of the minerals for extraction are said to lie in Tampakan.
In the past, SMI had explained that based on various studies, the only viable method of extracting the mineral riches in the Tampakan project’s area is through open-pit mining.
International experience has shown that “it is a safe and responsible method,” the company said.
The environmental compliance certificate issued to SMI was canceled by the late Gina Lopez, when she served as environment secretary.
South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said the provincial government would respect the court’s decision.
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