KORONADAL CITY — The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of South Cotabato on Monday approved the proposal to lift the controversial ban on open-pit mining, removing the decades-long thorn in the throat of the $5.9 billion (about P295 billion) Tampakan project, Southeast Asia’s largest untapped copper-gold minefield.
Without objections from the SP members present, the plenary approved the amendment of the Environment Code on second reading, particularly the removal of the prohibition on open-pit mining.
The session was presided by board member Glycel Mariano-Trabado, in place of Vice Gov. Vicente de Jesus, who was on leave.
Present during the plenary session were board members Hilario De Pedro VI, principal author of the proposal to remove the ban on open-pit mining, Edgar Sambog, Dardanilo Dar, Noel Escobillo, Antonio Fungan, Eamon Gabriel Mati, Henry Ladot, Rolando Malabuyoc, Alyssa Marie Fale, and Rose Grace Achurra.
In a video taken during the recent campaign period and now circulating on Facebook, de Pedro, chair of the committee on environment and natural resources, told a campaign sortie here that he was “against open-pit mining.”
De Pedro, the son of the late South Cotabato Gov. Hilario de Pedro III, had sought reelection during the May 9 polls but lost.
“We are doomed,” said environmental activist Chinkie Peliño-Golle, a resident of this city, after the provincial board lifted the ban on open-pit mining.
Board member Ester Marin Catorce, who openly stood against the lifting of the open-pit mining ban, was not present during the session. She was designated acting governor as Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo was on leave.
Board members Ellen Grace Subere Albios and Jinky Avance-Samodal were also on leave.
Since 2010, the open-pit mining ban had hounded the giant Tampakan mining project, which had been pursued by Sagittarius Mines, Inc (SMI) since the early 2000s.
SMI earlier revealed in a study that the most viable way to extract the minerals was through open-pit mining. The Tampakan project has been touted as the largest undeveloped copper-gold minefield in Southeast Asia and among the biggest of its kind in the world.
It has the potential to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate per annum in the expected 17-year life of the mine. SMI has repeatedly vowed to employ “responsible mining” in the Tampakan project.
The Diocese of Marbel has been staunchly opposing the Tampakan project, which had claimed the lives of dozens of pro- and anti-mining advocates in the past three decades, on concerns over the environment, food security, and human rights.