Priest off to Germany to talk about Tampakan mining issues

KORONADALCITY(MindaNews/ 09 September)— The director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel has been invited to present to German industrial stakeholders “the real situation on the ground” involving theTampakan copper-gold project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).

Fr.Gillarme Joy Pelino, will fly Monday (September 10) to Berlin to provide inputs on the impact of the copper-gold exploration of SMI on the communities in the mines development site.

Pelino told MindaNews he will detail, among others, the alleged “human rights abuses suffered by the community even while the company is still in the exploration stage as well as the environmental and agricultural impact of the project.”

Tribal residents in the mines development site have complained of alleged restrictions on hunting activities, increased military presence, and the desecration of the burial grounds of their dead, among others.

But John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines external communications and media relations manager, said the company observes “responsible business practices” in dealing with the communities.

Pelino said industrial stakeholders in Germany, a net importer of mineral products, want to know if raw materials produced or will be produced by mining companies are in accord with good business practices, including respect for human rights.

At least 50 participants from developing and emerging economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America are expected to grace the event dubbed “Mines and More: Development or Poverty?” on September 13.

It is organized by Miserior, the development arm of the German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation, and the Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), an agency for ecumenical development cooperation initiated by Protestant churches in Germany.

Aside from Pelino, two others from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazil will speak about mining in the South and its impact on the local population.

Organizers said in the invitation letter that mining conditions in these areas “concern all of us,” particularly because the vast majority of metallic raw materials in Germany are imported from emerging and developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Germany’s automotive industry will also be represented in the discussions.

Many residents living in poverty in these mineral-rich countries hope that the extraction and export of these resources would bring wealth, or at least a reduction of poverty, to their country, organizers said.

But the extraction of raw materials is often accompanied by human rights violations, environmental problems and violent conflicts, with only a few benefiting from the extraction of these resources, they added.

The Tampakan project of Sagittarius Mines 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 13.9million metric tons to 15 million MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9M oz, according to a company study.

The plan of Sagittarius Mines to go into commercial production has suffered a setback after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected its application for an environmental compliance certificate, citing the ban on open pit mining imposed by South Cotabato province. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)