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NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Leaders of the Catholic Church in Negros Occidental under the Diocese of San Carlos issued a collective statement strongly opposing the chalcocite copper deposit mining project in Barangay Lopez Jaena in Sagay City.
“We express deep concern over Tambuli Mining Company Incorporated’s (TMCI) failure to address vital issues raised, particularly the potential impacts on soil, air, water, and the overall community well-being,” a portion of the statement released by the group read.
The statement was signed by the Reverend Father Julius Tormis, director of the Lunhaw Ecology Ministry; Reverend Father Joferson Garces, parish priest of the Saint Joseph Church in Sagay; Reverend Father Ricky Beboso, director of the Diocesan Social Action Center; and San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza.
The church leaders also pointed out the proximity of the proposed mining project to the Tan-ao and Himogaan rivers, which play an essential role in the lives of the people living in the area who rely on fishing, vegetable gardening, irrigation, and fishponds.
Aside from the two rivers, they said, the project also poses harm to the Sagay Marine Reserve, which receives the discharge of water from the communities near the proposed project site.
“To date, the company’s inability to provide satisfactory responses underscores the urgent need for a thorough examination of potential impacts on the community’s natural resources. The burden of addressing these concerns responsibly and comprehensively, prioritizing the community’s well-being and environmental preservation rests on Tambuli Mining Company Inc.,” the statement added.
Local church leaders also highlighted the cultural importance of the Himogaan River. They said it is where the annual Adlaw sa Suba (River Day) is being held aimed at raising appreciation and love for the river.
In a document submitted to the Environment Management Bureau (EMB), it was learned that TMCI was organized in 2008 as a company handling mining projects and exploration in the country. Since then, TMCI has engaged in different projects, including copper mining in Sagay City, which aims to generate 8.4 million tons of Chalcocite.
In Sagay, TMCI has an area of 4,584 hectares covered by an exploration permit.
The first phase of its geological exploration work was conducted by Freeport-MacMoRan in June-December 2008, which included geological mapping, gridlines preparations, soil and rock sampling, and geophysical surveys consisting of induced polarization, resistivity, and ground magnetics.
Based on the project brief of the TMCI, the drilling program started in 2012 at Sherman Hill and later at Nabiga-a Hill – all in Sagay City.
As of 2016, a total of 31 drill holes were completed with an aggregate meterage of 25,076.20 meters.
“Several mineralization styles were observed in the entire exploration area, but most of the drilling activities were focused in Nabiga-a Hill, with significant intercepts of porphyry copper-gold mineralization,” the brief read in part.
The proposed Chalcocite Copper mining project covers just 60 hectares out of the 4,584 hectares determined by the exploration permit granted to TMCI by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
According to TMCI, the project will have a mining capacity of 2.5 million metric tons (MT) of ore and waste, and a processing capacity of 900,000 MT per year, or 130,000 tons per month, using surface mining techniques.
The Chalcocite deposit in Sagay is estimated by TMCI to be 8.4 million tons in November 2022, which they claim to be sufficient to establish a sustainable and financially viable operation to meet the growing demand for copper worldwide, which is fueled by its critical role in the electronics, construction, renewable energy, and transportation industries.
With all the cited benefits of the project, Negros church leaders insisted that development should be integral and should cover all aspects of humanity and not just economically and politically-centered.
Thus, they urged all political leaders and policy-makers to be pro-poor, pro-people, and pro-environment, reflecting a commitment to justice, compassion, and sustainability. – Rappler.com