Church remains firm on anti-mining stance

The Tampakan mining project, which also covers the towns of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur, is being operated by foreign-owned Sagittarius Mines Inc.

A company report obtained Monday said that Sagittarius has spent some P4.7 billion, or an average of P940 million annually, on the project since the launch about five years ago of its exploration venture.

Project manager Gerardo P. Laviste said Sagittarius has spent $100.4 million ($1=P46.83) since taking over the project from Western Mining Corp.

But Fr. Romeo Q. Catedral, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel, slammed the company and urged it to abandon the project.

“The Tampakan project has caused divisiveness among the locals,” the priest said, citing the various protest actions against the company in the last few years, some of which were staged by town residents and the firm’s employees themselves.

In addition to opposition from the church and environment groups the mining venture has to deal with threats coming from the New People’s Army. 

On New Year’s Day last year, the NPA attacked the firm’s base camp and burned equipment worth at least P12 million.

The communist-led rebel group has since warned the company of future attacks.

Swiss miner Xstrata Copper owns 62.5% of the stake in the Tampakan project and Australian company Indophil Resources NL most of the remaining interest.

Then called the Tampakan Mineral Resources Corp, the project was commenced on January 17, 2004, with hopes flying high among mining supporters that the venture could stimulate the lethargic economy of this town and neighboring areas.

But five years later, this town remains visibly bereft of improvement, with only a rural bank, a couple of new buildings and an improved municipal hall dotting the poblacion area.

Of the P4.5 billion investment expenditures, the bulk went to administrative functions at P1.56 billion, edging out exploration expenditures pegged at P1.28 billion, the company report submitted to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Central Mindanao showed.

Mine and infrastructure development or construction spending totaled to P980 million, dwarfing expenses shelled for the environment pegged at only P124 million, it added.

Payments to indigenous peoples and social development expenditures stood at P331.8 million, the company’s report said.

Taxes, fees and royalties paid to the government summed to P221.6 million in almost five years of operations, Mr. Laviste said.

Sagittarius acquired the rights to the mines site after then environment secretary Heherson T. Alvarez ordered in December 2001 the transfer of the financial and technical assistance agreement from WMC.

An FTAA certificate gives a holder exclusive rights to conduct mineral exploration in a contract area, which in the case of Sagittarius is FTAA 02-95-XI. (MindaNews)