Mining collections in Southwestern Mindanao double

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/15 December)—Collections from mining tenement applications have more than doubled in mineral-rich Southwestern Mindanao region, records from the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau showed.

Constancio A. Paye, Jr., MGB regional director, said the area continues to attract investors’ interest despite the controversy generated by the Environment Code of South Cotabato that bans open pit mining method.

“There remains a bullish sentiment as shown by the increase in collections from mining tenement applications,” he said, hoping for the ban’s lifting.

From January to November this year, collections from mining applications rose by 122% to P4.9 million, from P2.2 million in 2009, the agency’s records showed.

It also showed that there were eight mining tenement applications from January to November this year, half of which was filed after South Cotabato approved an ordinance banning open pit mining in June.

Requests to review the controversial environment code, which was seen as a stumbling block to the Tampakan project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc., remain pending before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato.

Last month, the national government, through the Department of Interior and Local Government, ordered South Cotabato officials to suspend the implementation of its environment code saying it contradicts the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942.

But South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Y. Pingoy Jr. said he would defy the memorandum signed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo, noting that only the court can issue a stoppage order or that it can only be stopped if and when the Sangguniang Panlalawigan decides to amend the environment code.

The Regional Mineral Development Council, which Paye also chairs, has strongly pushed for the abolition of the ban on pen pit mining method in South Cotabato.

Applications this year straddle nine towns in three of the four provinces of the region, covering 80,000 hectares supposedly containing copper, gold, silver, zinc and magnetite.

Eyed for mineral exploitation were the towns of Malungon, Alabel, Glan, Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani; T’boli in South Cotabato; and Columbio, Palimbang and Kalamansig in Sultan Kudarat.

To date, a total of 76 mining tenement applications have been pending before the MGB regional office, Paye said.

Of the 76 applications, however, 15 have been rejected for failure to comply with the requirements, particularly the submission of the Free and Prior Informed Consent, a document where indigenous peoples give their consent for companies to operate in their ancestral lands.

The purging was in line with the “use it or lose it” policy the agency hopes to fully implement to give serious investors the chance to utilize prospective mineralized zones, Paye said.

The policy also covers non-performing mining contracts, meaning those with approved permits but have no mining-related activities to show. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)