Critics gird for face-off with Tampakan mine operator

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/15 Sept) – Critics of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc., operator of the massive Tampakan copper-gold project, are gearing to present their stance against the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study of the company.

Rene Pamplona, advocacy officer of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, said they expect to mobilize at least 5,000 people to fill the South Cotabato gymnasium in the scheduled face-off with the company on September 23.

“There are two foreign experts who will present in behalf of the anti-mining advocates. A 3-D [three dimension] map will also be presented involving the affected communities,” he told MindaNews on Tuesday.

Pamplona identified them as Clive Wicks and Robert Goodland, author of “Philippines: Mining or Food?” a book report that highlight the threats that mining poses to food security.

The report, which examined six mining sites in the country, including the Tampakan project, was a follow-up to “Mining in the Philippines: Concerns and Conflicts (January 2007),” which documented the negative effects of mining on the environment and peoples’ livelihood.

The latter report was based on the fact-finding mission led by Hon. Clare Short MP, a member of the British Parliament and former UK Minister for International Development.

In February 2008, the UK-based Working Group on Mining in the Philippines (WGMP), commissioned the two environmental experts to visit the Philippines in order to investigate more fully, document and map some key sites targeted for mining.

Goodland worked for the World Bank Group for 23 years, as senior environmental advisor. Wicks worked in the corporate sector for many years and then for the Worldwide Fund for Nature and served as the vice-chair of IUCN-Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (IUCN-CEESP). IUCN stands for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Y. Pingoy Jr. said the public forum was meant to hear the side of those against the Tampakan project, particularly their take on the EIA study of Sagittarius Mines.

“Hopefully, this will guide the Sangguniang Panlalawigan with regards to the request to review the environment code that bans open-pit mining,” he said earlier.

The ban on open-pit mining poses a risk to the Tampakan project, the method the mining firm eyes in extracting the shallow location of the minerals.

Pingoy, who repeatedly assured he will implement the ban on open-pit unless amended by the provincial board or nullified by a court, said they have invited Sagittarius Mines to also be a presenter.

Sagittarius Mines has been presenting its draft EIA to stakeholders, with the final document expected to be completed this year for submission to the Philippine government as part of the application for an environmental compliance certificate.

The Tampakan project is touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.

Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as junior partner, targets to start commercial operation in 2016. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)