MANILA, Philippines – Xstrata-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. is seeking clarifications on some of the conditions laid down by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the provision of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the $5.9 billion copper-gold project in South Cotabato, its spokesman said on Thursday, February 21.
“The majority (of the conditions) is acceptable. There are just a few that need discussion and clarification,” said SMI spokesperson John Arnaldo.
He said the company is still reviewing the ECC signed by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje on February 19 and would be preparing for a dialogue with the DENR.
Under the rules for the issuance of an ECC, the document should be signed by both parties before it is considered enforced.
Among the conditions set by the DENR were:
- Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from occupants of ancestral domain
- land access permits from the Department of Agrarian Reform
- endorsement from the local government units comprised by its tenement
SMI shall also have “continuing liability” for any environmental damage that will occur within its tenement. Paje said the company cannot invoke force majeur in the event of a disaster within its tenement.
Paje said failure to comply with these conditions may result to cancellation of the clearance.
SMI declined to identify the conditions that it is seeking clarification for pending the conduct of dialogue with the department.
“We’re very hopeful that with the dialogue, we will arrive at a common understanding with the DENR,” said Arnaldo.
Open mining pit ban
The company is still struggling with the open-pit mining ban imposed by the South Cotabato provincial government, which refuses to lift the ordinance despite the issuance of the ECC.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has also issued a memorandum circular asking all local government units (LGUs) to comply with the provision in the new mining policy stipulating that local ordinances pertaining to mining activities should be consistent with national laws governing the extractive industry.
The Justice Department has also issued a legal opinion citing the primacy of national laws over local ordinances.
Arnaldo said the company is still attempting to dialogue with the South Cotabato government but is keeping its option of filing a case against the local government unit if necessary.
SMI is also dealing with legal obstacles arising from land access issues raised by some 3,000 beneficiaries of agrarian reform who claim that the land awarded to them is within the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) area of the prospective mine.
The ECC covers the project located in Tampakan, South Cotabato; Malungon, Sarangani; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.
SMI is largely owned by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth 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. – Rappler.com
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