South Cotabato town seeks lifting of open-pit mining ban
KORONADAL CITY—The municipal council of Tampakan, South Cotabato province, has sought the lifting of the open-pit mining ban that hampered the development of Southeast Asia’s largest known copper and gold mine for the last decade.
Vice Mayor John Mark Baldon, the town council’s presiding officer, said the body passed Resolution No. 589 on March 15 urging the provincial government to review its 2010 Environment Code, specifically Section 22 that banned open-pit mining in the province.
For years, Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) has been pursuing the Tampakan project, intending to extract the area’s mammoth deposits using the open-pit mining method but was blocked by the open-pit mining ban in the province.
The municipal council maintained that the mining firm has completed all requirements to proceed with its operation, including the consent from indigenous landowners to open their lands to the mining operation. Only the mining ban impedes the realization of the Tampakan project, the council’s resolution added.
Opposition still strong
Rene Pamplona, advocacy officer of Convergence of Initiatives for Environmental Justice Inc. that has opposed to the mining operation, noted that moves to lift the open-pit mining ban had failed in the past despite a strong lobby by promining groups.
In October last year, Judge Vicente Peña of South Cotabato’s Regional Trial Court Branch 24, ruled against a petition to revoke the prohibition, saying the open-pit mining ban in the province remained valid.
Pamplona, a Tampakan resident, believed the same thing would befall the latest move of the municipal council to revisit the environment code and lift the ban, stressing the strong antimining stance of the Diocese of Marbel and other environment groups in the country.
Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas spearheaded the revival last year of the Tampakan Forum to ignite a “systematic and sustained” opposition against the Tampakan project, months after Malacañang’s decision to restore SMI’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC) that was canceled by the late Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
But in September last year, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) also issued to SMI a certification precondition (CP) that states that the indigenous cultural communities in the area have consented to the mining venture within their ancestral domain.
Bae Dalena Samling, chieftain of the Danlag Tribal Council in Tampakan, lauded the NCIP for granting SMI the CP, saying “this mining project will change the lives of indigenous peoples for the better.”
The CP, ECC and endorsement from the local government are crucial approvals needed by the mining company to start commercial production.
According to company estimates, the Tampakan project, which straddles Tampakan town in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat province and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur province, has the potential to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold each year within the 17-year life of the mine.
If developed, the Tampakan project has the potential to make a “significant contribution to the economic prosperity of the Philippines and enable a better future for the people of southern Mindanao,” SMI said on its website.
SMI has been lately recruiting employees with expertise on land acquisition, land settlement and resettlement, among others. INQ
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