Commercial production for T’boli gold-silver project starts

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/26 December)— A Canadian-backed mining company in T’boli, South Cotabato has started embarking on commercial gold and silver production and is planning to go full-blast operations next year, an executive said on Wednesday.

Eumir Ernesto Tiamzon, TMC Tribal Mining Corp. president, said they have already acquired the interim Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility (DMPF) from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) that allows them to go into production stage.

“We’re starting slowly and hopefully next year, we can go into full-blast operation,” Tiamzon, a lawyer, told MindaNews.

Constancio Paye Jr., MGB-Region 12 director, said their main office issued the interim DMPF after determining that Tribal Mining has complied with the “crucial requirements.”

The permanent DMPF will be issued once the MGB approves the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program, which Tribal Mining already submitted to the MGB main office, said Paye.

He said the interim DMPF already authorizes the company to proceed to the development and operating periods, including the extraction and commercial disposition of gold and associated minerals in the contract area.

The DMPF is filed within the term of the exploration period if the results of the exploration reveal the presence of mineral deposits economically and technically feasible for mining operations.

Citing the environmental compliance certificate issued by the Environmental Management Bureau, Paye said that Tribal Mining is allowed to mine and mill only up to 70,000 metric tons of ore from the project area annually.

But Tiamzon said that small-scale miners within their tenement are posing a problem to their commercial mining operation.

Tribal Mining was granted the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement 090-97-XI covering 84.20 hectares in 1997. The T’boli gold silver project, however, straddles the “minahang bayan” or people’s mining area, covering 21 hectares, that was declared over a decade ago by the provincial government, under then governor Hilario de Pedro III.

Canadian firm Cadan Resources, Inc. is a major investor in the T’boli project.

Tiamzon said they hope that the problem with the small-scale miners will be resolved so that the company’s full-scale mining operation will proceed smoothly.

“We hope it can be settled because we want to co-exist peacefully with the small-scale miners,” he added.

The provincial government earlier reported that there are at least 300 tunnels operated by small-scale miners in the area.

Last year, Tiamzon said the Court of Appeals had ruled that the conflict over rights between the mining firm and the small-scale miners involving the disputed area shall be resolved by a Regional Panel of Arbitrators, which is a quasi-judicial body annexed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He said Wednesday that the mining firm has yet to pursue the case with the quasi-judicial body.

Tiamzon had claimed that under the Small-Scale Mining Act of 1992, small-scale mining operators should ask the consent of the company that holds the tenement.

An earlier company study showed that the T’boli project has deposits of 2.4 million tons, containing 420,000 ounces of gold and 1.6 million ounces of silver.

Tribal Mining will excavate the deposits using the tunneling method. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)