Sagittarius bent on open pit mining

John Arnaldo, SMI corporate communications manager, said in a press statement that the results of the extended pre-feasibility delivered by the company to its funding shareholders last Friday outlined a potential operation based on open-pit mining.

But he clarified that the results of their latest study are still subject to a final feasibility study.

Arnaldo said the completed extended pre-feasibility study showed “a potential schedule for development with commissioning and first production in early 2016.”

He said the company, which is now controlled by Swiss-backed mining player Xstrata Copper, expects an annual average copper production of 340,000 tons per year and 350,000 ounces per year of gold, based on a proposed 20-year operation.

Arnaldo said such production is based on mill recovery rates of 83-90 percent for copper and 60-80 percent for gold, with a copper concentrate grade of 37-34 percent.

He said the company is expecting total investments of US$5.2 billion during its initial stage of operations that includes provision for associated infrastructure. 

Peter Forrestal, SMI president, said representatives of the company's funding shareholders Xstrata Copper, Indophil Resource NL and Alsons Corporation, are currently evaluating the results of this study.

“SMI is planning to commence the public consultation phase for the project’s environmental and social impact assessment process later this year,” he said.

He said such phase will involve “a series of extensive, open and transparent public consultations with the project’s stakeholders.”

Forrestal said the consultation will cover the proposed mining process, the scale and extent of the proposed project, including the infrastructure requirements, the potential environmental and social impacts and benefits of the project, SMI’s planned environmental management systems and socio-economic development programs. 

“Most importantly, it will give our stakeholders the opportunity to understand the project better, and to express their views and any suggestions they may have in respect of the proposed project,” he said.

Forrestal reiterated that the company aims to develop the Tampakan mining project in line with leading environmental and social practices, “working in partnership with our stakeholders to create mutual benefits for shareholders, the communities associated with the project and the Philippines.” 

The extended pre-feasibility study was the third activity completed by SMI since it took over the mining project in early 2003 under the management of the Australian Indophil Resources.

The company launched another pre-feasibility study in 2007 when Indophil relinquished control of the firm to Xstrata Copper. Xstrata later extended the study's duration to further validate Indophil's earlier findings. 

SMI holds a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) with the Philippine government to explore copper and gold deposits in the area, which has been described as the second largest in Asia.

The mineral development area of SMI cuts across scores of villages in the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)