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MANILA, Philippines – Leaders of several indigenous communities have asked Malacañang to clear the obstacles in the commercial operation of the Tampakan mine in South Cotabato.
They fear that the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project will not push through after the mining operator formally announced in August that it will downsize its pre-commercial operations.
The leaders of the indigenous groups who stand to directly benefit from the venture wrote that they were spooked by the “absence of clear information” on the direction of the project.
The South Cotabato provincial government’s standing ban on open pit mining, the mode of extraction in Tampakan mine, is the main hindrance to the implementation of the project.
“Discontinuance of the project will adversely impact the lives of the ICCS (indigenous cultural communities), depriving and denying our children and their children’s children of the benefits from productively developing our ancestral domain,” the resolution said.
“We support the Tampakan project as we believe that the project is our passport to a better quality of life for ourselves, our children and our future generations,” it added.
Their resolution was signed on July 26 by the tribal chiefs of the indigenous groups in the municipalities of Kiblawan and Tampakan, headed by Fulong Libon Dalena Samling, chief of the Danlag tribal council.
Not all tribes in the area had agreed to the Tampakan mining operations. Also divided are other stakeholders, including the Church.
The operator of the project, Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), announced in August 12 that it is cutting down expenditure in the tenement as it struggles to complete the requirements for government approval of the project.
SMI officials said that with the challenges experienced by the company in securing the permits to begin operations, it would be difficult to determine the specific timetable for the commencement of operations, which was set for 2019.
The company said it will adopt a revised work plan, which involves trimming the company’s 1,060- strong workforce by 85%. About 300 regular and 620 contract workers are to be laid off.
This will reduce expenditures per month to $1 million per month, compared to $4 million under the current work plan. – Rappler.com