Sagittarius Mines still seeking permits

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 April)—Buoyed by national government support, Sagittarius Mines, Inc., operator of the massive Tampakan copper-gold project, appeared keen on pushing ahead despite the open-pit ban imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

Constancio Paye, Jr., regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said the mining company is preparing to submit the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) within the second quarter of the year.

“The company has already submitted its feasibility study,” he said on Tuesday.

The ESIA will be scrutinized by an environmental impact review committee composed of government scientists and experts from the academe, and if positively assessed shall be among the documents that will be submitted to acquire the Environment Compliance Certificate, Paye said.

The ECC, which is granted by the Environmental Management Bureau, is among the requirements to secure the declaration of mining project feasibility, the key for the mining company to go on commercial stream, he explained.

Sagittarius Mines has been hounded by the open-pit ban of South Cotabato, but Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje reiterated during the Asia Mining Congress in Singapore last week that the national government is committed to pursue the $5.9-billion Tampakan project.

Paje said the Aquino administration vows to resolve the attendant issues prior to the implementation of the Tampakan project.

The official even noted the national government is seriously encouraging Sagittarius Mines to fast-track its commercial timetable from 2016 to 2013, despite also facing stout opposition from the local Catholic Church and security threats from the communist New People’s Army.

Sagittarius Mines, which is managed by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, earlier announced it plans to start commercial production in 2016.

Company officials welcomed the support shown by Aquino government even as South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy, Jr. stressed that he will implement the provincial environment code that bans open-pit mining.

Mark Williams, Sagittarius Mines general manager for operations and external relations, claimed that their venture “represents an unprecedented opportunity for the Philippines.”

The Tampakan copper-gold project represents the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in Southeast Asia. If developed, the mine could be the largest in the Philippines and among the largest copper mines in the world. Current estimates indicate it could yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold per year over a 17 year life of mine, the company said in a study.

“If developed, the Tampakan Project, will generate significant economic benefits that will stimulate the Philippine economy and will be potentially life-changing for many Filipinos,” said Williams. “With a required capital investment of US$5.9 billion, the Tampakan Project would be the largest foreign direct investment in the Philippines.”

Williams estimated that the Tampakan project would contribute an average of 1% to the annual gross domestic product of the Philippines, and provide around 10,000 jobs during construction, and approximately 2,000 during operation.

Sagittarius Mines is currently finalizing its ESIA for the proposed mine, he said.

Further environmental studies are underway for the associated infrastructure which includes a 500-megawatt power station, port, a copper-gold concentrate pipeline and power transmission lines, Williams said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)