South Cotabato won’t review mining code

Inquirer Mindanao –

25 November 2014

KORONADAL CITY—South Cotabato has shut the door on a possible review of
the 2010 provincial environment code that bans open-pit mining and other
mining practices.

Governor Daisy Fuentes made the pronouncement on Saturday shortly after
the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR) endorsed for further review and evaluation a
project feasibility study undertaken by Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI)

Fuentes said the provincial government was standing firm on the ban on
open-pit mining, which SMI wants to use in its $5.9-billion project to
extract copper and gold in Tampakan town. She said she would not tinker
with the local environment code just to accommodate SMI.

The feasibility study, covering South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao
del Sur provinces, mainly focused on the economic, social and
environmental viability of the planned large-scale mining project.

SMI is exploring gold and copper deposits at the boundaries of the three
provinces. The Tampakan mine is considered one of Southeast Asia’s
largest untapped resources, with an estimated yield of 11.6 million tons
of copper and 14.6 million ounces of gold.

“The firm spends huge amount of money to operate its business but it was
not spending to mitigate the effects. If not for the water issues, we
might have allowed them and I myself would have the courage to lift the
ban,” Fuentes told the Inquirer.

She said that while the provincial government wanted to help SMI realize
its business, it could not allow farmers to suffer.

“I got the documents from the DENR, including a study they commissioned.
It confirms that anything, whether on the ground or below ground, that
flows to Lake Buluan will be affected,” Fuentes said.

She said President Aquino had also asked her about the provincial
government’s stand on a review of the environment code. “I told him it’s
impossible to reverse,” she said.

Fuentes said SMI had been insisting that its operation would not affect
the province’s watershed. “But if you look at the map, they are going to
dig from the top. How can you say it will not affect the [water
sources]?” she asked.

She said she would not mind facing a legal battle over the ban.“I will
not feel bad if they bring to court the matter once and for all to
determine if we have a stand on this issue,” she said.