South Cotabato governor endorses retention of open-pit mining ban

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 23 March) – South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr. has endorsed a resolution for the retention of the 12-year-old ban on open-pit mining in the province.

Supporters of the open-pit mining ban during a protest in Koronadal City in October 2021. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Marbel

Green groups lauded Tamayo for endorsing the resolution favoring the retention of the ban on open-pit method approved by the Provincial Development Council (PDC) of South Cotabato to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, which is hearing petitions to lift the controversial prohibition on open-pit mining method.
 
In a virtual meeting on March 9, the PDC approved the resolutions passed by the body’s Social Development Committee, the Institutional Development Committee, and the Disaster Risk Reduction / Climate Change Adaptation Committee upholding the controversial ban on open-pit mining in the area.
 
“May this request warrant the preferential attention of this honorable body,” Tamayo said in his letter to the provincial board.
 
Tamayo chairs the PDC, which is composed of mayors, members of the House of Representatives and non-government organizations in the province.
 
Rene Pamplona, a resident of South Cotabato and chair of Alyansa Tigil Mina, welcomed Tamayo’s endorsement of the PDC resolution to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
 
“This is a welcome move as it represents the sentiments of the stakeholders in the province. We commend the provincial government for heeding the demands of the residents of South Cotabato. We have been anxious that by reviewing the ban on open-pit mining, the provincial government would cave in to corporate lobby. We are happy it stood with the people,” Pamplona said in a statement.
 
In a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan dated March 10, Tamayo endorsed PDC Resolution No. 2022-01 or  “PDC Resolution Supporting to Uphold the Environment Code in Banning the Open Pit Mining in the Province of South Cotabato.”
 
The governor also endorsed to the SP the adoption and approval of PDC-ENRM-DRR/CCA Committee Resolution 2022-01, PDC Social Development Committee Resolution 2022-01, and PDC Institutional Development Committee Resolution 2022-01, all of which resolved to uphold the ban on open-pit mining.
 
“We call on the Sanggunian Panlalawigan of South Cotabato to listen to the clamor of the people as represented by the PDC. As officials directly elected by the people, the SP must heed the call to uphold the ban on open-pit mining in the province,” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM national coordinator.
 
Pamplona said that “the ban on open-pit mining is for the protection and for the general welfare of the people of South Cotabato.”

Protesters outside the venue of a hearing on the proposal to lift the open-pit mining ban in Koronadal City on 24 February 2022. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Spearheaded by the local Catholic Church, at least 93,453 signatures opposing the lifting of the open-pit mining method have been submitted to the provincial board.
 
Sagittarius Mines, Inc., operator of the Tampakan project, earlier revealed in a study that the most viable way to extract the minerals is through open-pit mining.
 
The Tampakan project is touted as the largest undeveloped copper-gold minefield in Southeast Asia and among the biggest of its kind in the world. It has the potential to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate per annum in the expected 17-year-life of the mine.
 
Sagittarius Mines has repeatedly vowed to employ “responsible mining” in the Tampakan project.
 
The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), which campaigned for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, stressed that “only the ban stands in the way of the Tampakan project, one of the largest open-pit projects in Asia that residents fear will destroy the environment.”
  
“This resolution is a good sign that the provincial government itself will eventually uphold the open-pit ban enshrined in the landmark environmental code of South Cotabato,” said Maya Quirino, LRC advocacy coordinator. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)