SMI says delayed target due to security concerns, open-pit ban

KORONADAL CITY(MindaNews/27 August)—Security concerns at the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. were among the major factors that forced the mining firm to delay its commercial production target, a company executive said.

“Our project has experienced a number of challenges, particularly in the past 12 months,” John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines external communications and media relations manager, said.

“[It includes] restrictions on field activities resulting from security issues in the project area,” he admitted.

Last Wednesday, Elvie Grace Ganchero, Sagittarius Mines regional affairs manager, said the company had revised its production target to 2018.

Sagittarius Mines earlier eyed 2016 to start the commercial production of copper and gold deposits in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

The company earlier said that construction activities for the Tampakan project should have started in 2012 to meet the 2016 target.

Security threats to Sagittarius Mines include the New People’s Army and tribal members who have armed themselves to fight the mining firm’s presence.

In 2008, the communist guerillas burned the base camp of the company in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan town. Since last year, armed tribesmen have killed several persons, including three workers of a construction company hired by Sagittarius Mines.

Arnaldo cited the other factors that delayed the project as the denial of its application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and the open-pit ban imposed by South Cotabato.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has rejected the ECC of Sagittarius Mines based on the open-pit ban of South Cotabato.

Arnaldo said the company is hopeful that the recently released mining policy of President Benigno Aquino III “will assist the project.”

Sagittarius Mines has appealed the DENR decision to the Office of the President, while the implementing rules and regulations for the new mining policy are still being crafted

Arnaldo also said the delay in the target production was due to the company’s reconsideration of its power supply options.

Originally, Sagittarius Mines eyed Malalag, Davao del Sur as host of its dedicated power plant and port facilities.

Recently, the mining company confirmed that Maasim, Sarangani is being considered as host of such facilities.

From the mining site in Tampakan, South Cotabato, Arnaldo said the firm will build an underground pipeline that would ferry the minerals towards Maasim for loading to the ships.

Alongside the pipeline, which will be one meter deep from the surface, will be the transmission lines of the power plant, he added.

This would span a length of 100 kilometers, Arnaldo said.

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

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 a company study. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)