Laviste told stakeholders in a forum here that the firm is currently simultaneously doing the extended pre-feasibility and feasibility study stages.
“If plans go on as targeted, we can complete both next year…and by early 2010, the construction of facilities will start. Production stage is projected to commence late 2011 or early 2012,” he said.
Backed by foreign firms Xstrata Copper and Indophil Resources NL, Sagittarius is eyeing copper and gold deposits estimated at two billion tons, containing 11.6 million tons of copper and 14.6 ounces of gold at a 0.3% copper cut-off grade.
Earlier estimates floated by the company showed that at least $600 million is needed for infrastructure investments in this sleepy town, where Sagittarius is holding its principal headquarters.
Fears of arsenic poisoning were brought up during the forum as one of the mountains straddled by the mines development site is said to have high arsenic content. This is reportedly one of the reasons why Western Mining Corp, the original proponent of the Tampakan project, backed out.
But Constancio Paye, Jr., regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau – Central Mindanao, allayed fears of an arsenic poisoning, saying this can be addressed through the environmental impact assessment (EIA).
An environmental impact assessment is one of the requisites before the Environment department issues an Environmental Clearance Certificate, the document that allows the mining firm to excavate the deposits.
Paye noted that if arsenic content is really high, mitigating measures will be put in place by the proponent.
“Only after (government) experts are convinced of the corrective measures will they recommend to the secretary (of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to give clearance to the firm to excavate the resources,” he explained.
Laviste said there “is still no concrete data” on the arsenic level within the mines development site although there are company efforts to ascertain it.
Despite the staunch opposition aired by the local Catholic Church, Paye called on the l public to support the project of Sagittarius, which spans the towns of Tampakan, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
“Tampakan is blessed because it houses huge resources. It should be excavated through responsible mining methods,” he added.
Paye conceded, however, that there is “always a risk in any mining venture,” but stressed this can be minimized through sound mitigating measures.
Laviste said they are not just conducting an environmental impact assessment but also a social impact assessment in affected communities. He added they expect to complete both assessments by 2009. (MindaNews)