Independent review on Tampakan EIS to proceed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/ 20 October) — The provincial government of South Cotabato has started the preparatory works for the planned independent review by German experts of the environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted by foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) for its large-scale copper and gold mining project in Tampakan town.

Rudy Jimenea, executive assistant of the provincial governor’s office, said South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. recently met with officials of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH or German Development Cooperation in Manila to finalize the details of the third-party EIS review.

“This (review) will hopefully answer all our questions and concerns regarding the Tampakan project,” he said.

Jimenea said the EIS review, which will be conducted by GIZ experts, will look into the potential environmental impacts of the project as well as the planned interventions of SMI.

He said the planned review of SMI’s EIS was supported by the Diocese of Marbel, which is staunchly opposing the $5.9 billion project.

The provincial government earlier commissioned the GIZ to examine SMI’s EIS to ensure an “independent and credible” assessment on the matter.

Aside from GIZ, the local government also tapped Geos Mining, another German consultancy firm, to assist in the review.

Pingoy said the German experts will look into the correctness of the findings of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau, which earlier approved the EIS submitted by SMI.

In June, Pingoy toured several mining areas in Germany as part of a two-week study sponsored by GIZ.

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.

But the project’s development is being challenged by the ban on open-pit mining imposed in 2010 by the provincial government.

In January, the DENR rejected SMI’s application for Environmental Compliance Certificate due to the standing open-pit ban.

The company had filed an appeal before the Office of the President and is presently awaiting the results of the latter’s review on the matter. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)