President’s men get no deal with SouthCot gov on open pit mining ban

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23 August) — The President’s men failed to strike a compromise deal with South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Y. Pingoy, Jr. on the controversial environment code that bans open-pit mining in the area.

Top executives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) met privately with  the governor on Friday following President Benigno Aquino III’s order  to find a middle ground in relation to the open-pit mining ban in the province where several mining projects are underway.

“The DENR executives requested me if there’s a chance to stay the implementation of the environment code.  (I told them) there’s no chance… and that I will implement it because it’s there already, unless a proper court nullifies the code,” Pingoy said.

The national DENR executives who met the governor behind closed doors were Jeremias L. Dolino, undersecretary for line bureaus; Ernesto D. Adobo, Jr., assistant secretary for field operation; and Edwin G. Domingo, Mines and Geosciences Bureau acting director.

Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus P. Paje wasn’t able to attend the meeting due to another commitment.

President Aquino last month said his administration will seek a compromise for the massive venture of Sagittarius Mines to proceed, a pronouncement that was hailed by the mining company.

“I will work towards getting them to meet on a common ground that will allay the fears and also afford us the benefits of this investment,” the President said.

Governor Pingoy said the DENR executives presented to him the impact of the open-pit ban in the country’s mining industry investments.

The governor said the ban could affect the single biggest investment in the country, referring to Sagittarius Mines’ announced capital outlay of $5.2 billion for its commercial operations targeted by 2016.

He advised the DENR executives to lobby the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, which is controlled by the allies of Rep. Daisy P. Avance-Fuentes of the second district, to have the open-pit ban revoked.

Ms Fuentes, the provincial governor from 2001 to June 30, 2010,  signed the environment code into an ordinance on June 29, a day before ending her last three-year term on June 30.

Constancio A. Paye, Jr., MGB regional director, said  a resolution recently approved by the Regional Mineral Development Council (RMDC) seeking a review of the controversial measure will be submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) for possible consideration.

The RMDC is composed of the heads of government line agencies in the region and representatives of local government units and the private sector.

“In fact, any stakeholder can file a petition with the SP,” said Paye, who was present during the meeting last Friday between the DENR executives and the governor.

Paye said representatives from Sagittarius Mines or anti-mining advocates were not invited to the meeting.

The meeting came even as the environment code is not yet in effect because the requirement to publish it in a local newspaper has not been met due to lack of funds for such purpose.

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.

It is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the minority equity partner. (MindaNews)