SMI files appeal on rejected ECC

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/30 January) – Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. has formally filed a reconsideration for its rejected application for environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to bring the Tampakan copper-gold project into commercial phase, mining executives confirmed on Monday.

Richard Laufmann, chief executive officer of Indophil Resources NL, said that Sagittarius Mines lodged the motion for reconsideration with the Philippine government last Friday.

In its 2011 fourth quarter report released on Monday, Indophil noted that SMI, last January 13, stated its intention to file an appeal for reconsideration of the decision, as permitted under the ECC application process.

Indophil is the minority equity holder (37.5%) at Sagittarius Mines that is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, through its 62.5% stake.

Indophil did not provide the details of the motion for reconsideration.

John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, separately confirmed that they have filed the appeal before the office of Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje last Friday.

“The administrative process allows us that remedy,” he said on the phone.

But Arnaldo also declined to give the details of their appeal pending a consultation with the company’s legal department.

Last January 3, Paje issued an order to the Environmental Management Bureau to deny the ECC application of Sagittarius Mines.

“We are returning herewith the application documents with instruction to deny the same, without prejudice to resubmission, until the issues and concern on the use of open-pit mining method shall have been clarified and resolved by the company[SMI] with the provincial government of South Cotabato,” Paje directed.

Last week, Paje reportedly said in Manila that Sagittarius Mines, apparently instead of seeking a reconsideration of the decision, should ask a court to overturn the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato.

South Cotabato Vice Gov. Elmo Tolosa said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, where he is the presiding officer, was surprised by the decision of the DENR junking the ECC application of the mining company.

Asked if this would have a bearing on the pending appeal before the SP by pro-mining groups to lift the ban on open-pit, he said the provincial board are still studying the proposal and that they have not set a deadline to settle the matter.

But he told MindaNews last Saturday that the “provincial board maintains the stand that local governments have the autonomy to impose measures as provided by the Local Government Code of 1991.”

The local Catholic Church and other environment groups have strongly demanded that the open-pit mining ban must stay in place.

Sagittarius Mines plans to bring the Tampakan project into commercial production in 2016 with an estimated capital requirement of $5.9 billion.

Based on the latest mineral resource estimate for the Tampakan project, copper deposit has risen from 13.9 million tons to 15.0Mt, while gold increased from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)