Aquino urged to issue moratorium on Tampakan project

KORONADAL CITY(MindaNews/17 February)— Leaders of communities affected by mining in four Mindanao provinces on Friday urged President Benigno C. Aquino III to issue a moratorium against the massive Tampakan copper-gold project.

In a manifesto issued here after the three-day forum dubbed “Regional Gathering of Mining Affected Communities,” the group pressed for a temporary suspension of the Tampakan project pursued by Sagittarius Mines Inc. until the passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill pending before Congress.

The bill seeks to replace Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which critics said “fostered environmental degradation, human rights violations, and social unrest in communities where mining promised development and increased standards of living.”

At least 25 leaders from the religious sector, tribal communities and nongovernment organizations graced the regional conference.

In a manifesto written in Filipino, they expressed opposition to the Tampakan project on concerns over the environment, food security, human rights and disrespect to tribal culture, among others.

Danny Arias, advocacy officer for Mindanao of Alyansa Tigil Mina, which organized the event, said the participants agreed to continue their opposition to the Tampakan project.

“We hope to come up with consolidated information and education campaign that will be waged in the local and national level,” he said.

Rene Pamplona, advocacy officer of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, said the strategy would likewise involve community-based petitions against the mining company.

The Tampakan project straddles the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and, according to critics, Malungon in Sarangani.

Last month, Sagittarius Mines suffered a major blow after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources denied its application for an environmental compliance certificate.

An ECC is one of the requirements before the mining company may operate commercially, which is slated in 2016.

John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, has assured critics that environmental protection is a key area that the company is giving vital focus.

“We will operate based on acceptable standards not just observed in the country but internationally,” he said in previous interviews.

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

Based on the latest company study, the total estimated mineral resources for the Tampakan deposit rose to 2.94 billion tons at 0.51% copper at a 0.2% copper cut-off grade, from 2.49 billion tons at 0.6% copper at a 0.3 copper cut-off grade.

On the basis of the new information, the estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 MT to 15 MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)