GENERAL SANTOS CITY – South Cotabato officials will take another look at the delayed USD5.9 billion copper and gold project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) in Tampakan town in the wake of the government’s move to accelerate its operations amid the continuing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said on Monday they will evaluate anew the proposed mining project even as he reiterated the local government’s stance to only allow “responsible mining” operations in the province.
He confirmed that he met late last week with officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) led by Undersecretary Jim Sampulna to discuss the status of the mining project.
“The government wants to push through with the pending mining projects, including the one in Tampakan, to help our economy recover,” he said in his weekly radio program.
Also present in the meeting were Assistant Secretary Nonita Caguioa, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) acting director Wilfredo Moncano, MGB-Mining Tenements Management Division chief Danilo Deleña, and MGB-Mine Safety, Environment and Social Development Division head Marcial Mateo.
Tamayo said he has no problem with mining as long as it is done responsibly, and that the people and the environment are protected in the process.
He said that has been his long-time stance and those of the previous top officials of the province, which has a standing ban on open-pit mining as set in the Provincial Environment Code approved in 2010.
But he said SMI officials declared in a recent meeting that they are no longer pursuing the controversial mining method.
Tamayo said he asked them to make another formal presentation to the provincial government, especially to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or provincial board, regarding their proposed mining operation.
“We want to see all the angles of what they are planning to do in Tampakan,” he said.
The Tampakan project, which started in 1995, failed to take off as planned due to various problems, among them the ban on open-pit mining in the province.
The Regional Trial Court Branch 24 in Koronadal City dismissed in October last year a petition for declaratory relief and injunction filed by pro-mining groups against the provincial government over the open-pit ban.
The mining project, once approved, “would be the largest in the Philippines and among the largest copper mines in the world,” a company briefer said.
It estimated an average yield of 375,000 tons per annum of copper and 360,000 ounces per annum of gold in concentrate over a 17-year period of mining and ore production.
The proposed mine site covers around 10,000 hectares situated in the boundaries of Tampakan, South Cotabato, and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur. (PNA)