Pangilinan confirms interest in Tampakan mining project but…

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/19 June) — Business leader Manuel V. Pangilinan, chair of the Philippine Long Distance Co. (PLDT) and Philex Mining corporation has expressed support to the development of the Tampakan copper-gold mining project but stressed that approval from local stakeholders must be sought by developers.

Pangilinan confirmed interest in the Tampakan project but said Philex Mining is not directly in talks with the owners of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), the Philippine company pursuing the Tampakan project.

“It’s a resource that the country should develop…a game changing investment for the country,” he told province-based journalists last week in Makati City.

SMI  is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as junior partner.
Xstrata holds a 62.5% controlling interest in the project.

Philex Mining has a 3% stake in Indophil, which owns 37.5% of the mining project.

But Pangilinan said investing directly in SMI is “not an immediate option” for Philex, noting the money involved would run into billions of dollars.

The local Catholic Church and environment groups are opposing the project, citing concerns for health, food security and the environment.

Earlier studies of  SMI showed the best way to extract the massive deposits is through open-pit mining method.

Early this year, the provincial board of South Cotabato year passed its Environment Code, banning open pit mining.

The communist New People’s Army also poses security threats to the Tampakan project.

SMI could be the largest single foreign direct investment in the country, with capital expenditures for commercial development pegged at $5.9 billion.

It plans to start commercial production by 2016.

Pangilinan said the period of waiting time, in case SMI is on track on its schedule, “would make the investment money asleep.”

Earlier, San Miguel Corp., another Filipino conglomerate, expressed direct interest in the Tampakan project, by attempting to acquire all of Indophil Resources.

San Miguel purchased 10.19% of Indophil for $10 million last October, and both parties entered into an exclusivity agreement for further acquisition talks that lapsed in February.

On the latest SMI estimate, the Tampakan project is a 2.4 billion ton mineral resource containing 13.9 million tons of copper and 16.2 million
ounces of gold.

According to the SMI website,  the mine would be “the largest in the Philippines and among the largest copper mines in the world.”  The mine is estimated to yield “an average of 375,000 tons per annum of copper and 360,000 ounces per annum of gold in concentrate over a 17 year
life of mine.” (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)