COTABATO, Philippines – The governor of South Cotabato province, which hosts the Tampakan copper-gold project, rejected the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued on February 19.
The ECC allows Sagittarius Mining Inc. (SMI) to start commercial operations at the US$5.9 billion mine. The grant of the ECC was delayed for over a year largely due to the open pit ban imposed by the local government of South Cotabato.
“We have existing environmental code for the province and it includes ban on open pit mining. It’s still legal. Unless the government declare it illegal, then we will continue to implement it,” Governor Arthur Pinggoy said by phone when asked to comment on the latest development.
“If the government will nullify our environmental code, I am going to gather the people and those who are supporting our code to get their views about our possible next steps,” he added.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje told reporters in Manila on Tuesday, February 19, that they issued the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the SMI project upon the recommendation of the Environmental Management Bureau, an agency attached to the DENR.
The conditions includes the question of “social acceptability,” referring to the open pit mining ban in South Cotabato, protection of the rights of indigenous people, land access under the agrarian reform department, and the “willingness to assume continuing liability” over any environmental damage.
But a staff of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples said their agency has not yet issued certificate of pre-cognition for SMI.
“It’s a long process. We will ask for the consent of tribal people in areas covered by the SMI,” the source said.
Members of church-based group Philippine-Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) criticized DENR’s for granting ECC to SMI.
“This clearance is the beginning of wanton environmental destruction and human rights violations in Tampakan. Still fresh in the minds of the Filipino people are the mining disasters in Padcal and Semirara, and both these operations were given ECCs. If such destructive and deadly disasters will not stop the DENR, we wonder what will make them think rationally,” said Mario Maderazo, Advocacy and Legal Officer of PMPI.
Also, he noted nearly 4,000 hectares of forest will be affected once SMI starts its operation,
SMI is largely owned by Xstrata Copper, the world’s 4TH largest copper producer. The 9,605-hectare Tampakan project is expected to produce an average annual yield of 375,000 metric tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold per year. – Jeoffrey Maitem/Rappler.com
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