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Finally, Tampakan mine environmental clearance okayed

Rappler.com
The environmental permit necessary to start commercial operations at the Tampakan gold-copper mine took over a year long

MINING OPERATIONS. It took over a year for the government to grant the operator of the Tampakan mine in Mindanao its environmental clearance. Photo shows a visualization of the Tampakan mining site by Parsons Brinckerhoff for Swiss miner Xstrata

MANILA, Philippines – The government has finally granted an environmental clearance to the operator of the Tampakan mine in Mindanao. the country’s potentially biggest foreign investment. 

On Tuesday, February 19, Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), the local unit of Swiss firm Xstrata, said it received notice that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has finally granted it the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). 

The ECC is one of the last crucial requirements before a mining firm can start commercial operations. The process took over a year for SMI, which had to elevate its denied appeal at the DENR all the way to Malacañang.

“We have received official communication with the DENR this morning informing us that the ECC has been approved,” Sagitarius Mining Manolo Labor told reporters in a text message. 

“We will issue a more detailed statement when we receive the ECC and have reviewed its subsequent conditions,” Labor added.

Another hurdle 

Even with the ECC in the bag, commercial operations at Tampakan is still scheduled to commence only in 2019 — after the term of President Benigno Aquino III.  

Tampakan is covered by the no-new-mining-contract scheme imposed by the Aquino government’s new mining policy, Executive Order No. 79 (EO-79). 

The start of commercial operations of the Tampakan project was previously pushed to 2019 as it faced various challenges, including regulatory and operational difficulties, and controversies such as violence errupting in the area, as well as the August 2012 death of former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo who was working on harmonizing local and national concerns.

The Tampakan issue has been widely cited as a case study of conflicting national and local laws. 

On January 21, the provincial board of South Cotabato, the host of the Tampakan mine, stood by its position banning open pit mining in the province. Tampakan’s mineral extraction is via open pit mode. 

National vs. local 

DENR’s grant of the ECC came after Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr’s February 4 decision rebuffing the DENR for flip-flopping on its decision to grant the ECC.

Acting on the appeal elevated to Malacañang, Ochoa noted that Xstrata’s Philippine unit followed all the requirements for an environmental permit necessary to start commercial operations in its Tampakan gold-copper mine.

If it pushes through, the US$5.9 billion Tampakan project is expected to contribute at least 1% to gross domestic product per year of operation. – Rappler.com