[MINDANAO 2022] Tampakan mines: ban on open pit mining lifted, vetoed

KORONADAL,  South Cotabato (MindaNews / 01 January) — Outrage gripped South Cotabato in May as the Sangguniang Panlalawigan lifted the controversial ban on open pit mining,  removing the decade-long thorn in the throat of the $5.9-billion Tampakan project, Southeast Asia’s largest untapped copper-gold minefield.

Without objection or dissenting opinion from the SP members present, the plenary approved the amendment of the 2010 Environment Code of South Cotabato on May 16, particularly the removal of the prohibition on open-pit mining.

Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas described as “parang may betrayal” the decision of the provincial board to lift the ban, noting, among others, that results of the public consultation in February were not tackled by the plenary.

Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas addresses the crowd during the solidarity march against the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato on Thursday, 19 May 2022, in Koronadal City. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

“The future of the province was decided this morning in 15 minutes,” the Bishop said in a press conference that same day, stressing the members present did not even explain their vote. 

The session was presided by board member Glycel Mariano-Trabado asVice Gov. Vicente de Jesus was on leave.

Anti-open pit mining advocates led by the local Catholic Church hold a prayer march rally in the streets of Koronadal City on Wednesday (1 June 2022). MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Present during the plenary session were board members Hilario De Pedro VI, principal author of the proposal to remove the ban on open pit mining; Edgar Sambog, Dardanilo Dar, Noel Escobillo, Antonio Fungan, Eamon Gabriel Mati, Henry Ladot, Rolando Malabuyoc, Alyssa Marie Fale and Rose Grace Achurra.

Since 2010, the open-pit mining ban has been hounding the giant Tampakan project, which Sagittarius Mines, Inc. has been pursuing since the early 2000s.

SMI has repeatedly vowed to employ “responsible mining” in the Tampakan project.

The Catholic Church-led protest march and online petition prompted South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr. to veto the measure in June, saying “it was hastily decided and includes questionable provisions.” (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)