The group, Soccsksargends Agenda, stands for South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City, Davao del Sur Alliance for Genuine Development.
Eliezer S. Billanes, the group’s chair, noted that the provincial board’s resolution of May 14, 1996, opposed the operation of Western Mining Corp., the precursor of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI). Behind SMI is Xstrata Copper, a major global mining player.
The provincial board is now in the process of passing an environmental code. Article II, Section 21 (c) of the proposed law states that “open-pit mining method shall not be allowed in the province of South Cotabato.”
Earlier, SMI revealed that based on its preliminary studies, the open-pit method is best suited to excavate the massive copper and gold deposits in the towns of Tampakan, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.
The SP’s 1996 resolution noted that “open-pit mining will certainly render sustainable development impossible as said system involves bulldozing of vast areas of land that will destroy surface vegetation and top soil, forests and watersheds and dries up nearby water resources due to siltation even as chemicals used in the operation produced toxic wastes and dusts hazardous to health.”
Furthermore, it said that “balancing everything, South Cotabato will stand to lose more economically and politically if Western Mining is allowed to operate its mining venture specifically in terms of inevitable loss of soil fertility and productivity, displacement of tribal groups and other legitimate owners and occupants of the areas affected, irreversible damage to environment including loss of clean air, potable water and good climactic condition essential to good and long life and to the continued and unhampered growth and progress of the province’s agro-industrial based economy.”
Billanes said that the most critical aspect of mining is “tailings disposal.”
“Their release into the environment continues to make them the main source of land and water pollution. Mine tailings are toxic and hazardous to health that contain high concentration of heavy metals such as lead, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, cyanide, mercury and copper,” he stressed.
Billanes noted that so far, there is “no known rehabilitation activity of any open-pit mining site that has become suitable environmentally or for human living.”
Jose Madanguit Jr., chair of the provincial board’s environment committee, said the issue of open-pit mining will generate heated debates on the floor. He said, too, that the passing of an environment code is one of the SP’s top priorities this year.
SMI took over the operations of Western Mining in 2003. Officials have repeatedly said they will be employing “responsible and sustainable mining” in the project site. (MindaNews)