South Cotabato calls off EIS review on Tampakan copper-gold project

November 2, 2012 10:36 am 

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Nov. 2 — The provincial government of South Cotabato is no longer pursuing a review of the environmental impact study (EIS) of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) after the German team it earlier tapped for its expertise has reportedly backed out.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said the DeutscheGesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH or German Development Cooperation in Manila decided to back off after drawing criticism from environmental groups.

“It created a controversy when it came out in the news, that’s why GIZ called it off,” Pingoy said.

The governor said the proposed EIS review initially came up after his trip to Germany last June.

The review would have “answer all our questions and concerns regarding the Tampakan project,” Rudy Jimenia, Pingoy’s executive assistant earlier said.

The local government was also hoping the GIZ study could break the impasse between SMI and the Diocese of Marbel, which is staunchly opposing the company’s planned large-scale copper and gold mining project in the mountains of Tampakan town.

While saying that the botched study is not a review of the provincial ordinance that banned open pit mining, Pingoy said its results could weigh on the possible review of the controversial South Cotabato Provincial Environment Code.

Pingoy said the proposed cost of the study was very minimal and would have been paid for by the League of Province in the Philippines.

SMI owns the Tampakan Copper and Gold Project that is said to contain the largest untapped deposits of copper and gold in Asia with estimated deposits of up to 15 million metric tons and 17.9 million ounces of copper and gold, respectively.

SMI-Xstrata has repeatedly announced it would pour in US$ 5.9 billion in investments to extract copper and gold deposits in the village of Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato and the neighboring villages.

SMI said “if approved, the mine (is) estimated to yield an average of 375,000 tonnes per annum of copper and 360,000 ounces per annum of gold in concentrate over the 17 year period of mining and ore production.”

If developed, the mine will contribute an average of P134 billion (US$ 2.8 billion) to the country’s annual GDP and 10.4 percent of the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) of Regions 11 and 12, according to SMI corporate affairs superintendent Roy Antonio.

But the project’s development is being challenged by the denial of its application for Environmental Compliance Certificate or ECC by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last January.

The DENR cited the standing ban on open-pit mining, which SMI had signified to utilize, as reason for the ECC application’s denial.(PNA)

FFC/AVE/EGE/PJN

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