GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy said he is no longer pursuing a review of the environmental impact statement (EIS) that Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) submitted for the US$5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project, after the German experts he tapped to conduct it backed out.
Pingoy said the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH or German Development Cooperation in Manila decided to drop the review after drawing flak from environmental groups.
“Nag-create kadto sang controversy kay naggula man sa news, amo na nga gin-call off sang GIZ (It created a controversy when it came out in the news, that’s why GIZ called it off),” he said.
The review would have “answered all our questions and concerns regarding the Tampakan project,” Rudy Jimenia, executive assistant of the governor, said in an earlier interview with www.mindanews.com.
The Tampakan mine project hit a roadblock after South Cotabato passed an environment code that banned open-pit mining in the province.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), despite having approved SMI's EIS for Tampakan, denied the company's application for an environmental compliance certificate because of the ban.
Pingoy earlier said the GIZ review could justify the DENR's approval of SMI's EIS.
He said the proposal to assess the truthfulness of the EIS came after his trip to Germany, where he participated in a study tour on new global development strategies. The tour, which focused on the fields of economic development, policy planning and environmental concerns, was part of programs supported by GIZ.
Pingoy said he was hoping to learn more about how the German local governments dealt with open-pit mining in the past and what measures they imposed to mitigate its negative impact on the environment and communities.
Review of code
Pingoy said the results of the GIZ review would have broken the impasse between SMI and Catholic Church leaders who are opposing the Tampakan project.
He said the results would have also weighed on the controversial South Cotabato environment code.
The provincial edict was passed in 2010 and signed two months before former governor Daisy Fuentes stepped down from office. Fuentes won in the 2010 elections to reclaim a seat in the House of Representatives.
Fuentes is running for governor in the 2013 mid-term polls, pitting her against Pingoy, who is seeking re-election.
Fuentes said she found the German review very suspicious.
“Nakaduda (It’s suspicious). Saan sila kukuha ng pera (Where will they get the money) to pay for the Germans,” Fuentes asked adding that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan did not authorize such review nor did it allocate funds for the purpose.
Pingoy earlier said the cost of the review was very minimal and would be shouldered by the League of Provinces of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez also dismissed the German review, saying it would not have changed his and the local church's position on Tampakan.
SMI is the local partner of Xstrata, the world's 4th largest copper producer, in the Tampakan project, which is said to contain the largest untapped deposits of copper and gold in Asia. The project has estimated deposits of up to 15 million metric tons and 17.9 million ounces of copper and gold, respectively.
Xstrata has repeatedly announced it would spend $5.9 billion to extract copper and gold deposits in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
SMI said “if approved, the mine (is) estimated to yield an average of 375,000 tons per annum of copper and 360,000 ounces per annum of gold in concentrate over the 17-year period of mining and ore production.”
If developed, the mine will contribute an average of P134 billion (US$2.8 billion) to the Philippines' annual gross domestic product (GDP) and account for 10.4 % of the GDPs of Regions 11 and 12, according to SMI corporate affairs superintendent Roy Antonio. - Rappler.com
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