Church-led group revives campaign vs South Cotabato mining project
KORONADAL CITY——-The Diocese of Marbel and its allied groups are sprucing up their campaign against the controversial Tampakan open-pit mining project which regained its environmental clearance that was scrapped by then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez in 2017.
Touted as Asia’s largest known reserve of copper and gold, the Tampakan tenement covers 10,000 hectares straddling the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and Davao del Sur.
It has a potential yield of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate every year for 17 years, in all estimated to be valued at $5.9 billion.
The 25-year contract to mine the area was granted on March 22, 1995, to Australian firm Western Mining Corp. (WMC) from which Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), its current operator, acquired mining rights in 2001.
Diocese of Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas noted that currently, the “momentum (is) going in favor” of SMI hence the need to ignite, through the Tampakan Forum, a “systematic and sustained” opposition to the planned extraction activities, which will largely be in South Cotabato.
The church-led forum was instrumental in instituting a ban on the open-pit method of mining by the South Cotabato provincial government in 2010.
Casicas acknowledged the role played by Lopez when she was environment secretary, in pulling the brakes on the project.
However, with Lopez gone from the environment department, the tide has turned to SMI’s favor, Casicas said.
He cited the 12-year extension of the firm’s 25-year mining contract with the government which supposedly expired in March this year.
The project’s environmental clearance certificate was also restored by the Office of the President in May last year.
Casicas said the Marbel Diocese is opposing SMI’s venture due to concerns on the plight of the indigenous peoples and the environment.
SMI has repeatedly stated that “it is deeply committed to upholding and promoting the rights of local communities” hosting the project.
Cotabato Archbishop Angelito Lampon lauded the revival of the Tampakan Forum as a vehicle to protect the environment.
“Regardless of different cultures and beliefs, we are making a loud statement, especially support, that the Tampakan project will not be allowed to proceed,” Lampon said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.