Illegal ore extraction continues in Tampakan mines

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/24 September) – Local officials of South Cotabato still have their hands full trying to stop the illegal extraction of copper ores in the mining area of the foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. with the arrest Thursday of eight suspects.

Gov. Arthur Y. Pingoy Jr. said the operation yielded roughly eight tons of copper ores that were extracted within the Tampakan project.

Some 100 metric tons of illegal copper ores from the mountains of Tampakan were confiscated by authorities in a series of raids in the area last month. Police tagged the financiers as Taiwanese nationals.

It was the first time that a huge volume of copper ores was seized by authorities in South Cotabato, although there have been persistent reports of illegal mining activities within the concession area of Sagittarius Mines.

Pingoy said they are planning to deputize village officials to man checkpoints in a bid to curb illegal mining activities in Tampakan town.

He, however, said the provincial government is reluctant to employ such measure due to information that some village officials are themselves allegedly involved in illegal mining activities there.

The governor said that Sagittarius Mines has the responsibility to protect its mines development site from illegal miners as required by the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement given by the National Government.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, earlier said they are coordinating with law enforcement agencies to combat illegal mining in their concession area.

Arnaldo said the company, although manned by scores of private security guards, “has no police powers to arrest illegal miners operating within the Tampakan project.”

The company, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, is eyeing the open-pit mining method in extracting the deposits within the mines development site.

Sagittarius Mines, however, is facing a stumbling block in pursuing the venture after the recent passage of the provincial environment code that bans open-pit mining.

According to a company study, the Tampakan project can yield 13.5 million metric tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold.

Sagittarius Mines said in an April advisory it has submitted its feasibility study to the national government. Its approval will depend on the review being conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Commercial operation is targeted to start in 2016. (MindaNews)