ECC for Tampakan mining project still under review

TAMPAKAN, South Cotabato (MindaNews/3 Jan) – Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. has failed to secure an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) last year, as was the target, for its massive Tampakan copper-gold project, a company executive confirmed on Monday.

John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, told MindaNews that the ECC application for the Tampakan mine is still pending and that the company continues to await the government’s decision.

He expressed confidence, however, that they can acquire the ECC from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, noting the assurance from Environment Secretary Ramon Paje that his office is “reviewing our ECC application for all its merits and that, according to the secretary, this thorough review ‘will not compromise the project’s proposed timetable’.”

“We will seek further clarification from the office of Secretary Paje in order to progress the status of our ECC application,” Arnaldo said.

Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, targets to start commercial production in 2016, with an estimated capital requirement of $5.9 billion.

In a disclosure to the Australian bourse last December 29, Indophil Resources, the junior equity partner, said that Xstrata Copper had advised them that the ECC was scheduled for issuance last December 15.

Indophil noted that formal written approval had not been received at the date of issuing the Australian Stock Exchange announcement.

Constancio Paye Jr., Mines and Geosciences Bureau director for Region 12, said the ECC is needed before Sagittarius Mines is allowed to proceed into commercial operation.

“That (ECC) is a requirement before they can secure the final declaration of mining project feasibility from the government,” Paye said in a separate interview on Monday.

Sagittarius Mines has submitted its Tampakan Mine Project Feasibility Study to the Philippine Government in April 2010, for review by the MGB main office.

Paye said he has yet to receive a word from the MGB central office if the review of the MPFS has been completed.

The Tampakan copper-gold project represents the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.

If developed, the mine could be the largest in the Philippines and among the largest copper mines in the world. Current estimates indicate it could yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold per year over a 17-year life of the mine site, a company study showed.

It is, however, hounded by the controversial environment code of South Cotabato that bans the open-pit mining method.

The Tampakan project is also facing social opposition from Church-backed groups as well as security threats from the communist New People’s Army. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)