KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/29 May) — Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. spent P1.8 billion for its controversial Tampakan copper-gold project in 2011, which the company described as a “bloody year.”
In its 2011 Sustainability Report launched here on Monday, Peter Forrestal, Sagittarius Mines president, noted that the company faced significant security challenges last year “that had been a puzzle to them.”
He cited the deadly ambush of three employees of a supplier company in March and the killing of SMI superintendent Cris Bual in September.
“After each of these tragic incidents, we immediately suspended activities in relevant parts of the project area, while we worked to gain a better understanding of the motivations behind those attacks and to improve security around the project area,” Forrestal said in the report.
The incidents particularly affected the drilling in the final mine area and all work associated with the proposed port, power station and filter plant facilities and off-lease linear infrastructure, he added.
“Although those suspensions of activity had an impact on specific components of the project schedule, we have continued to progress other essential aspects of the project work program,” stressed Forrestal, who was not seen during the launching.
In the 77-page 2011 Sustainability Report, Forestal also lamented the denial of their application for environmental compliance certificate (ECC) due to the open-pit mining ban imposed by the South Cotabato provincial government.
John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines external communications and media relations manager, said that despite the delays in the permitting process, they are still hopeful “to jumpstart the production of the Tampakan project on schedule.”
“Admittedly, if there are delays in the approval process, it would have an effect [on the timeline]. But so far, we are still looking at 2016 for the production phase,” he told reporters at the sidelines.
Arnaldo separately told MindaNews that they would also continue to dialogue with groups opposing the Tampakan project, claiming “they would not proceed with it if there is opposition from the communities.”
For his part, Jonathan Joson, Sagittarius Mines community relations manager, said that despite the challenges in 2011, the company “continued to make solid progress on many of the key targets and milestones” that were set.
He also referred to the denial of the ECC, security issues, and the open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato as the challenges the company faced.
Of the P1.8 billion spent last year, Joson stressed that P121 million went to community development programs, “providing real and long-term benefits for local communities.”
The Tampakan project straddles the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Malungon in Sarangani.
It is facing social opposition from the local Catholic Church and other groups on concerns over the environment, human health and food security.
Aside from armed tribal members who have opposed the project, it is also facing security threats from the communist New People’s Army.
The Tampakan project is touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.
The estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 million metric tons to 15 million MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz, according to the latest company study. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)