Commercial prod’n phase of T’boli gold-silver project may start this year

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/26 July)—Commercial production of the T’boli gold and silver project might start this year with the anticipated issuance of the permit to operate after the filing in the next few days of its declaration of mining feasibility study, an official of the proponent firm said over the weekend.

“We’re confident we’ll be given the permit to operate by the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). The declaration of mining feasibility study will be submitted to the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau,” Edgar D. Martinez, president and chief executive officer of Tribal Mining Corp. said in a press briefing here.

The regional office of the MGB, an agency attached to the DENR, is expected to act on the mining feasibility declaration in five to 10 days from submission, Martinez said.

Constancio A. Paye Jr., regional Mines Bureau chief, said earlier the regional office, which forms part of the review committee, will make recommendations before forwarding the mining feasibility declaration to the main office.

He could not be contacted Monday to confirm if the company had  filed the document.

The feasibility study for the T’boli gold and silver project started in 2007, although exploration activities kicked off a long time ago, Martinez said.

Canadian miner Cadan Resources Corp. and Tribal Mining are pursuing the T’boli project, with the foreign firm holding a stake of 40%.

On June 24, the project was granted an environmental compliance certificate, which allows the proponents to extract ores up to 140,000 metric tons annually.

“This is more than sufficient for the currently projected phases of mining operations,” Brett Taylor, Cadan Resources chief executive officer, said in a recent statement.

The T’boli project has deposits of 2.4 million tons, containing  420,000 ounces of gold and 1.6 million ounces of silver, Cadan Resources said earlier. Excavation of deposits will employ the underground or tunneling method.

Paye said the project needs to have an approved mining feasibility study, aside from the ECC, before it can go into commercial production.

ECC No. 12-2006-0092 also gives environmental clearance for a processing plant to be constructed closer to the portal in a later development phase, Taylor said.

“Reaching this important milestone not only expedites our mine development program, it also releases resources to continue with the exploration and development phase of our highly prospective land package,” Taylor said in reference to the ECC.

An ECC from DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau specifies a project proponent’s commitment to “comply with environmental regulations or to operate within best environmental practices that are not currently covered by existing laws.”

The bureau’s website says an ECC contains “specific measures and conditions that [a] project proponent has to undertake before and during the operation of a project, and in some cases, during the project’s abandonment phase to mitigate [effects to the environment].”

In 1997, Tribal Mining acquired from the government a mineral production sharing agreement  (MPSA) covering 85 hectares. The agreement has a life span of 25 years.

The MPSA area, however, straddles the “minahang bayan” or small-scale mining area, covering 21 hectares, that was declared over a decade ago by the provincial government.

Eumir Ernesto P. Tiamzon, Tribal Mining counsel, said the “minahang bayan” declaration was questionable because it was not made by the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board.

Former Gov. Hilario de Pedro III, and not the PMRB, made the declaration through Executive Order 12, the company lawyer said.

Tiamzon insisted that Tribal Mining has rights over the area through MPSA 090-97-XI.

He said the Court of Appeals recently ruled the conflict over rights between Tribal Mining and the small-scale miners involving the 21 hectares shall be resolved by a Regional Panel of Arbitrators, which is a quasi-judicial body annexed to the DENR. (MindaNews)