RDC committee seeks to strengthen mining industry

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/16 March)—The economic development committee (EDC) of the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Southwestern Mindanao has proposed a two-pronged approach to strengthen the region’s mining industry, an official said on Wednesday.

Constancio Paye, Jr., regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said the proposals include setting up a body with functions similar to those of the defunct Regional Minerals Development Council (RMDC) and the clustering of regional mining industry players and stakeholders.

The RMDC has been abolished as an offshoot of Executive Order 18 issued by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III last December scrapping the Minerals Development Council, as part of the administration’s efforts to cut redundant agencies.

The functions of the proposed regional minerals body would be to harmonize policies and promote responsible mining in the area, said Paye, who is a member of the EDC.

On the other hand, the clustering of regional mining industry stakeholders would be more of addressing the networking aspect of industry players, he added.

“Both proposals will have to be submitted to the RDC for further deliberation and hopefully, their adoption for institutionalization,” Paye said.

Alfredo Hebrona, Jr., former president of the Sarangani Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Inc., moved for the creation of the regional minerals body during the EDC’s meeting here on Tuesday.

He earlier noted that mining is a potential major investment not just in the region but in the country as well, obviously referring to the Tampakan project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc.

Last year, Hebrona and others launched the Southern Mindanao Coalition for Sustainable Development, an association of seven groups promoting “responsible mining.”

Sagittarius Mines is currently winding exploration activities and could be the single largest direct foreign investment in the country should it undertake commercial operations.

The Tampakan project, which the RDC last year endorsed as the “flagship project for the region’s development,” faces an obstacle however with the passage in South Cotabato of an environment code that bans open-pit mining.

Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, said in a study released years ago that open-pit method is the only viable option to extract the huge copper and gold deposits in the area.

In promoting the mining industry, Paye stressed the country is blessed with rich mineral deposits—the third in volume for gold, fourth in copper, fifth in nickel and sixth in chromites with an estimated total value of $829 trillion.

It’s a matter of how we develop these God-given resources, he said, adding the Mining Act of the Philippines or Republic Act 7942 promotes sustainable development in that it has provisions to ensure environment protection, such as rehabilitation of mining areas.

The local Catholic Church and other environment groups are stoutly opposing the Tampakan project on concerns over human health, environment destruction, and food security, among others. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)

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