Reject pols supporting open-pit mining—bishop

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/ 12 October)—Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel has called on voters to reject politicians supporting the open-pit mining project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc.

“Do not vote those who favor open-pit mining because they’re “villains” of the environment,” the bishop said on Thursday, a week after the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2013 midterm elections.

Sagittarius Mines earlier announced it will extract massive copper and gold deposits in the town of Tampakan, South Cotabato using open-pit method.

Gutierrez said the diocese will conduct a voter’s education drive in the diocesan jurisdiction that covers the entire provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani and part of Sultan Kudarat. Koronadal and General Santos cities are also under the Diocese of Marbel.

There are 25 parishes under the diocese.

In discouraging candidates to support the venture of Sagittarius Mines, Gutierrez stressed that “environment is life,” apparently referring to the destruction feared to be wrought by the mining project on the environment.

Sought for comment, John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines spokesperson, said that “as always, we respect the right of all concerned stakeholders to express their views and position on the project.”

South Cotabato banned the open-pit mining method in 2010, which Gutierrez earlier said must stay in place.

He has urged President Benigno Aquino to stop the Tampakan project, despite the President’s initial expression of support to the big-ticket mining venture.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has rejected the application of Sagittarius Mines for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), a requisite before commercial production could commence.

Sagittarius Mines has appealed the DENR decision, which was anchored on the open-pit ban imposed by South Cotabato, before the Office of the President.

The Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942, however, does not ban open-pit mining method.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr., which is seeking reelection, vowed to implement the open-pit ban ordinance unless a court revokes it.

So far, no case has been filed in a court challenging the open-pit ban of South Cotabato.

The prohibition on open-pit mining method was signed by former governor and now second district Rep. Daisy P. Avance Fuentes.

Fuentes is one of the gubernatorial candidates in the 2013 elections.

The Tampakan project is touted as the largest undeveloped copper-gold reserve in Southeast Asia, with an estimated 15 million metric tons and 17.9 million ounces of copper and gold, respectively. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)