Davao Sur town joins opposition vs Sagittarius Mines

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/15 Sept) – The municipality of Matanao in Davao del Sur has joined the opposition against the proposed massive mining venture of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. due to environment, livelihood and food security concerns.

The Sangguniang Bayan approved a resolution rejecting Sagittarius’s Tampakan mining project, fearing it will jeopardize the Mal River Irrigation System.

“Matanao is a primarily agricultural locality, as such and based from studies and actual experiences of provinces with mining operations like Marinduque, any mining activity would jeopardize food security and place Matanao and the neighboring communities into the risk of imminent danger of disaster,” the resolution said.

Councilor Edgardo D. Tilud, who heads the council’s committee for environmental protection, ecology and natural resources, said the Tampakan project will affect agricultural production and infrastructure projects as the watershed serving the Mal River will be threatened.

The Mal River, he noted, supplies two major irrigation systems and 22 communal irrigation systems covering 13,968 hectares and involving 7,421 farmers.

Some P1.9 billion of projects will be affected by the activities of the mining firm, Tilud added, referring to infrastructure and livelihood projects.

Sagittarius is planning to establish a tailing storage facility in Matanao straddling 1,018 hectares that will serve as dumping site of mining wastes, according to the resolution also signed by Mayor Vicente A. Fernandez.

The unanimously approved resolution cited the Local Government Code of 1991 or Republic Act 7160 as basis for opposing the Tampakan project.

It noted that Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 does not allow mining operations in old growth or virgin forests, proclaimed watershed forest reserves, wilderness areas, mangrove forests, mossy forests, national parks, provincial/municipal forests, parks, greenbelts, game refuge and bird sanctuaries as defined by law in areas expressly prohibited under the National Integrated Protected Areas System or Republic Act 7586.

John B. Arnaldo, the mining firm’s corporate communications manager, said the company “respects the sentiment of stakeholders” and that the firm will continue to hold dialogues for the project to proceed.

The Matanao LGU’s move was not the first opposition to meet the Tampakan project.

Last June, the South Cotabato provincial government approved a landmark environment code that bans open-pit mining method. The publication requirement in a local newspaper to make it operative as a local law is yet to be complied, however.

Sagittarius Mines has announced that excavation of copper and gold resources will be done through open-pit method in the project area straddling the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

Sagittarius Mines is currently in the exploration stage for the Tampakan project, touted as the largest undeveloped copper deposit in Southeast Asia with potentials to yield 12.8 million tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold. (MindaNews)