SMI pushes back production target to 2018

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 Aug) – Mining firm Sagittarius Mines, Inc. has moved its target for commercial operations to 2018 following the rejection of its application for government permit and changes in the location of its port and power plant facilities.

The Xstrata Plc-controlled company earlier announced it would start commercial operations in 2016.

The company however suffered a setback following the passage of the South Cotabato Provincial Environment Code which bans open-pit mining.

The Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources cited the ordinance in rejecting the SMI-Xstrata bid for an environmental clearance certificate, a government requirement before it can proceed with its mining operations.

SMI-Xstrata is already done with its exploration activities.

The company said its studies reveal an exploration “potential for a copper deposit in the range of 80-90 million tonnes grading 0.6-0.7% copper and 0.2-0.3g/t gold plus exploration potential for a gold deposit in the range of 0.8-1.2 million tonnes grading 10-15g/t gold.”

The mine site however sits atop the mountainous village of Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato where a ban on open pit mining is in effect.

SMI is hoping Executive Order No. 79, signed by President Benigno Simeon Aquino last month, will reconcile national mining policies with conflicting local ordinances. SMI has been pushing for a review of the provincial environment code.

Also, SMI revealed it has shifted focus to Maasim for its port and power plant facilities following security problems the company encountered in Malalag, Davao del Sur where it initially planned to locate them.

In September last year, SMI offsite land acquisition superintendent Cris Bual was gunned down in Davao City while jogging near his house. Police believed his slaying was work-related.

On Wednesday, SMI regional affairs manager Elvie Grace Ganchero confirmed they have pushed forward their production schedule to 2018 and is also scouting for location for the company’s off-site infrastructure.

Ganchero said the company will build a 100-kilometer 12-inch underground pipeline to move copper concentrates from its mine site in Tampakan to Maasim in Sarangani. The pipeline will run through three South Cotabato towns and six villages in General Santos City.

A filter plant will also be built adjacent to its port facilities.

Ganchero said the copper concentrate will be 55 percent water, suggesting pressurized water will push the slurry to the filter plant.

She further disclosed that SMI recently entered into an agreement with Alsons Energy Development Corporation for a feasibility study for the development of a proposed coal-fired power plant which will be dedicated solely to SMI.

SMI earlier stated that it will need at least 400 megawatts of power supply to run its mining operations.

The company also said it will put up its own transmission lines from the power plant to its mining development area in Tampakan. (Edwin Espejo / MindaNews contributor)