Mining plan disclosure sought in South Cotabato

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/11 October) — A move to require mining companies to submit their operational plans has gained ground at the South Cotabato Sangguniang Panlalawigan amid pronouncements by the local Catholic Church it will intensify its anti-mining campaign in the area.

Board member Agustin Dema-ala said on Tuesday the bill he sponsored requiring transparency from mining firms has been referred to the committee on environmental protection for deliberation.

“The resolution seeks mining firms to bare their overall plan like social preparation, feasibility study and exploration, among others,” he said in a radio interview.

Dema-ala, a retired military general, noted that many mining firms have shown interest to operate in South Cotabato, hence a disclosure to the provincial government should be a requisite in line with the efforts to protect the environment.

He stressed that the provincial government should be made aware of the environmental and social impacts of prospective and existing mining projects in the area, through the Provincial Environmental Management Office.

Batting for the passage of the resolution, Dema-ala cited the bid of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) to operate a coalmine in Lake Sebu town, saying the provincial government did not have a concrete idea on the firm’s mining plans.

SMC earlier bought three coal operating contracts in the village of Ned, which hosts huge coal deposits reportedly just near the ground surface.

SMC officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Dema-ala reminded that South Cotabato has a standing ordinance that bans open-pit mining, contained in the provincial environment code approved last year.

The open-pit ban was seen as an obstacle to the Tampakan copper-gold venture of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc., which is slated to go on commercial stream in 2016.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel said they will continue with their signature campaign, which has gathered at least 80,000 signatures, against Sagittarius Mines that will be submitted to Malacanang.

In line with the opposition against the Tampakan project, the bishop said they are still arranging a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III.

“The Tampakan project of Sagittarius Mines has no social acceptability,” Gutierrez said, citing a forum here last month organized by the provincial government in which anti-mining groups dominated the estimated 6,000 people who attended.

Gutierrez warned that 1,300 hectares of rainforest, which serves as water catchment, will be destroyed if Sagittarius Mines will be allowed to proceed.

Based on the summary of the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, after 17 years of mining, the pit at the Tampakan project would be 2.5 kilometers wide by three kilometers long and close to 800 meters deep.

Approximately 1,300 hectares of forest would need to be cleared, it admitted.

Claiming that it is “very serious with its environmental responsibilities,” the company EIA briefer outlined mitigating measures such as reforestation to offset any cleared forest and creation of vegetation corridors.

Sagittarius Mines is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the junior equity partner. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)