SMI says deposits in Tampakan project higher

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/27 January) – Despite the debacle on its application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. has released a new study showing a significant increase in the volume of copper and gold deposits in the mines site, a mining executive said on Friday

Richard Laufmann, Indophil Resources NL, said the project manager of the Tampakan project, Xstrata Copper, has informed them that the total estimated mineral resources for the Tampakan deposit rose to 2.94 billion tons at 0.51% copper at a 0.2% copper cut-off grade, from 2.49 billion tons at 0.6% copper at a 0.3 copper cut-off grade.

This represents a tonnage increase of 18% over the previously reported October 2009 total resource estimates, said Indophil, which owns 37.5% of the controlling equity at Sagittarius Mines.

Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, holds the controlling equity of 62.5% in Sagittarius Mines.

“Even though the Tampakan deposit has already been acknowledged as world-class, the new information confirms its ranking as one of the most significant undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world,” Laufmann said in a disclosure to the Australian bourse.

“The enhanced level of confidence provided in this upgraded resource estimate for Tampakan is encouraging. It is timely, and serves to restate the significance of this deposit to minerals development in the Philippines as the project partners work towards securing the range of approvals required to bring this important development to production,” he added.

In terms of the measured and indicated category, the increase was pegged at 2.27 billion tons (0.55%) from 1.69 billion tons (0.6%), which represents a 34% hike in tonnage.

On the basis of the new information, the estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 MT to 15 MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz.

Sagittarius Mines will employ open-pit mining in extracting the deposits, a method banned by the provincial government of South Cotabato through its environment code that was approved in June 2010.

Early this month, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected the ECC application of Sagittarius Mines in deference to the open-pit mining ban of the province.

Peter Forrestal, Sagittarius Mines president, has expressed extreme disappointment with the decision of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

“We are concerned this decision was not made on the merits of our Mine Project Environmental Impact Statement, which fully complies with the requirements of the DENR’s own ECC process and is backed by a world-class environmental impact assessment study,” he said in an earlier statement.

Sagittarius Mines also noted that this lack of consistency by the national government poses “a very real threat to investment confidence in the Philippines and introduces significant uncertainty to national government approval processes.”

The Tampakan project, potentially the single largest foreign direct investment in the country with an estimated capital requirement of $5.9 billion, is vehemently opposed by the local Catholic church and other groups on concerns over the environment, human health and food security.

It is also facing security threats from the communist New People’s Army rebels, who have mounted two major successful attacks against the company since 2008. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)