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The good news is that the Philippine government finally gave an environmental clearance to Xstrata’s $5.9 billion mining project on southern Mindanao island. The bad news is that the approval is so riddled with political considerations the project will be fortunate to start operations in 2019.
The Tampakan mine project is being run by Sagittarius Mining, a unit owned by Xstrata, one of the world’s biggest and diversified mining outfits. The 9,605-hectare project is expected to produce an average haul of 375,000 metric tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold per year.
The company has already delayed the start of operations to 2019 because of the political cost of doing business in the Philippines and a government under Benigno Aquino III which has been notably feckless toward its position on mining.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje was thinking along political lines when he said the clearance could be cancelled if the mining company failed to meet “certain conditions.”
The government said Sagittarius Mining, which is running the Tampakan project, “could only proceed with the implementation of the project after submitting all other necessary government permits and clearances to the EMB (Environmental Management Bureau), particularly those involving indigenous peoples, the agriculture and agrarian reform departments, and local government units.”
This raises a simple question. Why can’t all these permits be handled by a single office in the Philippine government if mining is that important to its economy?
The whole thing is bureaucratic and wasteful.
Sagittarius should be developing Tampakan mine. It should not be wasting its time chasing paper ghosts through the maze of Philippine bureaucracy.
Another useless requirement is to order the mining company “to set up a Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) and submit an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) that would integrate a final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning plan for when the project is terminated or completed.”
Again, another redundant rule because such a panel is required under the Philippine mining law. The government said the mine should “conform to the provisions involving toxic and solid wastes of several laws on clean air and water and mining” and other provisions on waste disposal and providing communities with good water supplies.
This is redundant because the law on mining should contain the same provisions, and it goes without saying that this is already present in Philippine law.
The only reasons for these provisions is really political by providing the government cover from anti-mining activists. When you throw in the fact that mid-term congressional elections are scheduled for May, then you can understand why all the hot air is being blown up by Manila for voters there. – Rappler.com
Note: The author is with Philippine Commodities Digest, a weekly publication of New Jersey-based A & V Media that provides a comprehensive roundup of developments and trends in the country’s key farming and mining sectors.