Tampakan project is ‘catastrophe in the making,’ militant group says

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 Feb) – Describing the Tampakan copper-gold project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. as a “catastrophe in the making,” a militant group here has urged President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to stop the processing of mining applications nationwide.

Ryan Lariba, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Socsksargen spokesperson, cited Aquino’s reported promise when he visited Palawan recently that the government “would not process 300 applications for mining claims there.”

“P-Noy (Aquino) might as well do it nationwide,” Lariba said earlier this week.

He stressed that Sagittarius Mines must not be allowed to operate in Southwestern Mindanao as its project “is more than just plunder of natural resources, this is catastrophe in the making.”

Sagittarius Mines is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, through its 62.5% stake with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the minority equity holder.

According the militant group, Sagittarius Mines “is moving heaven and earth” to extract an estimated 13.5 million tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold.

Sagittarius, whose project straddles the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur, earlier said the most economical method to extract the minerals is only through open-pit mining.

The firm is in the process of acquiring an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), a right given by the government for a proponent to go on commercial production. Sagittarius completed in the fourth quarter of 2010 the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, one of the requirements in applying for ECC.

If President Aquino is saying that he will “listen” to the People of Palawan who oppose mining projects in their province, he should also listen to the people of Southwestern Mindanao who have long spoken against mining, Lariba said.

He recalled that Western Mining Corp., which originally discovered the Tampakan project, was forced to abandon the project because of the “people’s resistance.”

Lately, the province of South Cotabato also sent a strong signal by passing an environment code that bans open-pit mining method, Lariba added.

All the President needs to do is order Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to reject the ECC application of Sagittarius, he said.

Paje earlier said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources would purge the list of non-moving mining applications and projects to give serious investors the chance to pursue them.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius corporate communications manager, in various occasions repeatedly allayed the fears of critics that the project will cause danger to the environment and human health.

“We will employ the highest standards in the mining industry to mitigate the impact of the project to the environment,” Arnaldo said.

Sagittarius eyes to start commercial operations in 2016. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)