S. Cotabato governor vows to block open pit mining | Inquirer News

S. Cotabato governor vows to block open pit mining

/ 05:51 PM September 25, 2011

KORONADAL City, Philippines—Governor Arthur Pingoy has vowed not to allow any open-pit mining operations in his province unless a court declares as illegal a landmark local legislation, which bans such a mining practice.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial board) here passed an ordinance banning open-pit mine in 2010.

Pingoy issued the statement on Friday during the conduct of the environmental impact assessment forum of the Tampakan Copper-Gold project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI).


The provincial government requested SMI to hold the forum to further enlighten the local officials and residents about the project and how it would affect the people and the environment.


The provincial government also invited the diocese of Marbel led by Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez and other environment groups to express their views on the issue.

“I am determined to implement (the ordinance) that no open-pit mine will operate in the province unless the pertinent provision of the ordinance will be nullified by the proper court,” Pingoy said.


Clive Wicks, who has 27 years of experience in engineering and agriculture and another 26 years of work in environmental protection, said during the forum that the SMI’s “stakeholder and economic analysis, risk assessment and resettlement plans are badly flawed.”

Wicks co-wrote with Dr. Robert Goodland a book published in 2009 titled “Philippines: Mining or Food?” The two are environmental consultants and members of the Working Group on Mining in the Philippines (WGMP).

Wicks asked the SMI whether, in its study, it came up with an estimated figure how many people in the mining area and downstream would die and how much was the estimated cost of the damage on agriculture and environment in case of a mining disaster.

Instead of giving an answer, Elvie Ganchero, SMI corporate community and sustainability department manager, assailed Wicks for raising such kind of question.

Wicks, however, said his question was legitimate and required a legitimate answer from the project proponent.

“It was a legitimate question and you should give us those data so the people will know the estimated cost of potential damage on people, agriculture and environment,” Wicks said.

According to Wicks, there is no 100 percent damage-proof engineering design especially since the mining site lies on an identified fault line and since climate change has posed new risks to consider.

He even said Central Mindanao would have 20 percent less water in 20 years and this might worsen due to the destruction of the watershed in the mining area.

SMI plans to clear 3,935 hectares of forest, including identified old growth rainforest for the construction of an 800-meter deep and 500-hectare wide open-pit.

It has a 300-meter high and 500-hectare wide waste rock storage where an estimated 1.6 billion tons of toxic waste rock will be dumped.

Wicks said that the environmental impact study and assessment failed to explain why the toxic waste rock could not be stored in the mine pit itself instead of being placed in a dumpsite, which would increase the risks of cancer to surrounding communities.

SMI representatives allayed fears of the public, saying the company would employ engineering technology and mitigating measures based on international standards.

Tailings dam covering 1,300 hectares will be built to accommodate 1.1 billion of mine tailings.

Wicks said waste rock and tailings would have high arsenic content and might cause acid to reach a tributary of the Mal river, the region’s biggest river system.

According to the British expert, the mine project violates Presidential Executive Order 23, which imposed a moratorium on the cutting of all natural and residual forests.

In a statement, Wicks said, “The mine will seriously undermine the government’s plans for water supply, agriculture, irrigation and forestry.”

Fr. Joy Pelinio, social action director of the diocese of Marbel, bared that the three dioceses of Kidapawan (North Cotabato), Digos (Davao del Sur) and Marbel (South Cotabato) have initiated a signature campaign against the Tampakan Copper-Gold project since last month.

“We are going to submit this to President Aquino to convince his administration to stop the mining project in the area,” Pelinio said.

Pelinio said that if the mining operations were allowed, six major rivers would be affected, including Lake Buluan and Liguasan Marsh, which have been vital to the livelihood and survival of thousands of people in the region.

Buluan Lake alone produces fish worth US$100,000 per week, according to Pelinio.

Pelinio said they have gathered 80,000 signatures against mining operations from the three dioceses.

Their group, he said, has been targeting to gather 100,000 signatures and would file a petition with the Supreme Court for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan to stop the operation of SMI.

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“Our legal team is closely studying right now the plan to file writ of kalikasan before the Supreme Court,” he said.

TAGS: Cancer, forests, Health, INC, mine tailings, Pollution, rivers

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