A public hearing was held here late last week attended mostly by pro-mining supporters.
Rumors have it that the foreign executives of Xstrata Copper, which manage the mining project, are contemplating on abandoning the venture if the open-pit ban will not be stricken off the final version of the code.
“We will wait for the code before we can answer that question,” Roy D. Antonio, Sagittarius senior coordinator for corporate affairs, answered when reporters asked if they were, indeed, packing up.
Although his company had announced earlier that they will likely use open pit mining based on a study, Antonio said they will make the announcement as to the final method to use later this year.
The mining firm, however, is getting the backing of Tampakan acting Mayor Pedro A. Cagas who said they are fully backing the project of Sagittarius.
Even pro-mining supporters were surprised at Cagas’s pronouncements since there was an apparent agreement that he was not to reveal the local government unit’s stand on the issue.
“If studies eventually show that open pit is the most appropriate method, the proposed ban on open pit will automatically put a stop to the Tampakan Project,” Cagas stressed
“To pass this provision is to deny us of a rare chance for development. Our people are having jobs, many children now can go to school because of the assistance of SMI. Business is thriving in Tampakan because of the Tampakan project. If the project stops, all these will stop, and our development will slide back,” he added.
Busloads of mining supporters came at the hearing venue even though they said they did not know what the gathering was all about.
Board member Jose M. Madanguit, chair of the environment committee who presided over the public hearing, told reporters “there is a slim chance” that the Sangguaniang Panlalawigan would strike out the provision prohibiting open pit mining in South Cotabato.
Anti-mining advocates expressed dismay at the proceedings of the public hearing, noting there was no open forum held.
“The voices heard were overwhelmingly in favor of the operations of Sagittarius,” lamented critic Eliezer S. Billanes.
Fr. Romeo Catedral, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel, asked the board members to retain the ban on open pit, stressing this endangers the environment, human health and food security. He was the only one who expressed such views in the hearing.
Constancio A. Paye Jr., Mines and Geosciences Bureau director for Central Mindanao, noted that the proposed ban on open pit mining goes against the policy of the national government to revitalize mining in the country. “This provision is also a violation of a national law that allows the use of open pit. We all know that a local ordinance cannot legally amend a national law,” he added. (MindaNews)