Mining firms form group in Central Mindanao

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/11 June) – Mining companies in SOCCSKSARGEN region or Southwestern Mindanao have organized themselves into an association in a bid to strengthen the industry and to push for “responsible mining” among the members, an official said.

Constancio A. Paye Jr., regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said the SOCCSKSARGEN Mining Association (SMA) was formed recently and consists of six major mining companies in the region.

“The association vows to showcase and advocate responsible mining for a sustainable development,” he said.

Paye identified the members as Sagittarius Mines Inc., Tribal Mining Corp., Epochina Mining Corp., GRCO Isulan Mining Corp., Kiamba Mining Corp., RX11 Mineral Development Corp. and South Davao Development Co. Inc.

Joel Bernales of Epochina Mining was chosen as the interim president of SMA, a statement from the MGB regional office said.

“The SMA will be responsible in delivering vital information and services to its host mining and neighboring communities,” it added.

Paye said the MGB regional office has already collaborated with SMA in conducting a forum for evangelical groups in South Cotabato, which hosts the massive Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines.

He doused fears that mining activities will cause serious destruction of the environment, claiming that the Mining Act of 1995 outlines provisions for environmental protection.

President Benigno C. Aquino III was reportedly expected to announce this week mining policy changes as the government seeks to ensure stricter environment protection and get an optimal revenue share from the industry.

The country has untapped mineral deposits with an estimated value of a staggering $840 billion, the US Department of State said in an earlier report on the Philippine economy.

It hosts the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia via the Tampakan project of Sagittarius Mines, which is staunchly being opposed by the local Catholic Church and other groups on concern over the environment, human health and food security, among others.

The estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 million metric tons to 15 million MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz, according to the latest company study.

Last month, the appeal of Sagittarius Mines to secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) was turned down by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The Environment department rejected the ECC last January, citing the open-pit mining ban imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

Sagittarius Mines plans to excavate the massive deposits using open-pit mining.

It is potentially the largest single foreign direct investment in the country with an estimated $5.9-billion requirement for the production stage targeted in 2016. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)