Tampakan project permitting process continues despite open-pit mine ban

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/31 January)—Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. has completed the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the Tampakan copper-gold mining project, an Australian mining executive today disclosed.

Sagittarius Mines also continues to undertake other various activities, defying the threat posed by the open-pit mining ban imposed by South Cotabato province. The firm eyes open-pit mining in extracting the massive deposit the bulk of which lies in Tampakan town.

Richard Laufmann, chief executive officer and managing director of Indophil Resources NL, the minority equity holder at Sagittarius Mines, said the ESIA for the Tampakan mine was completed in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Started in 2009, the ESIA is one of the important documents that shall be submitted to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to obtain the Environment Compliance Certificate, a clearance for the company to go on commercial production.

A separate ESIA for the operation of a port and power station, which the company had proposed to put up in Malita town in Davao del Sur, is ongoing and expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year. The firm eyes putting up a $900-million dedicated power plant.

“Stakeholder engagement and consultation programs continue and will be a major focus in 2011. Technical studies to support the ESIA preparations, environmental approvals and permits continue,” Laufmann said in a disclosure to the Australian bourse.

Indophil holds a 37.5-percent stake in Sagittarius Mines, which is managed by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, through its 62.5-percent controlling equity.

A detailed study of water treatment options and plants have also commenced along with studies to enhance the Tampakan project, he added.

In its 2010 fourth quarter report, Indophil Resources, which is in talks with Filipino conglomerate San Miguel Corp for a possible takeover deal, noted the Tampakan project is not yet affected by the open-pit ban, a controversial measure that earlier triggered a Chinese firm to shy away from the Tampakan project.

Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd, China’s largest gold producer and third largest copper producer, has dropped $A545-million bid to acquire Indophil, which has a 37.5-percent interest in the Tampakan project, the Australian firm’s flagship asset.

Laufmann also revealed that the Mine Project Feasibility Study (MPFS), which was undertaken at a cost of $74 million, has been submitted to the National Government in April and is undergoing a review.

Constancio Paye, Jr. regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, confirmed the review but declined to give details.

The assessment is being done by personnel from the main office in Manila, said Paye, pointing to boxes of documents submitted by Sagittarius Mines piling up in his office.

Hernani Abdon, MGB records and licensing division chief, said the Central Office, in a meeting about two weeks ago, has asked the company to submit more documents related to the MPFS. He did not elaborate.

Sagittarius Mines targets going on commercial stream by 2016. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)