Indophil hurdles ownership obstacle in mining venture

Gavan Collery, Indophil Resources NL corporate affairs manager, said that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the rights of Indophil’s operating associate, Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), to the Columbio Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA). An FTAA certificate gives a holder exclusive rights to conduct mineral exploration in a contract area.


In December 2001, then Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez approved the granting of Columbio FTAA 02-95-XI from another Australian firm, Western Mining Corp.-Philippines, to Sagittarius.


Lepanto Consolidated Mining, Inc. later on questioned the transfer of the rights before the Court of Appeals, but was dismissed in 2003. It was then brought to the Supreme Court.


But recently, Collery said the SC dismissed the last outstanding petition brought by Lepanto challenging the 2001 transfer of the Tampakan project interest to Sagittarius.


Previous court decisions in 2004 and 2005 had declared “with finality” that the Columbio-FTAA is valid and constitutional.


Before these decisions, Lepanto had made a separate administrative appeal to the Supreme Court to have the Court of Appeals reconsider the transfer, and this last course of action has now been dismissed, Collery said.


Tampakan Vice Mayor Pedro Cagas said the Tampakan municipal council passed a resolution in 2002 asking President Arroyo to recognize Alvarez’s decision granting the FTAA to Sagittarius despite protests from Lepanto.


Indophil managing director Tony Robbins welcomed the development, saying that the SC decision was a pleasing outcome which reconfirms that Indophil and its Philippine partners are free to continue to advance the Tampakan copper-gold project.”


“Indophil has now resolved favorably every legal hurdle to ownership of the title to the Tampakan copper-gold project,” he added.


The Tampakan project, which is meeting strong oppositions from various groups that include the local Catholic church, straddles the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.


Indophil recently completed an $27 million (Australian) pre-feasibility study on the Tampakan copper-gold project. Robbins claimed that if the Tampakan deposit is in production now, it would rank among the top 20 copper producers in the world.