DENR thumbs down Tampakan mine project

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

Lopez firm on stand

MANILA, Philippines – The $5.9-billion Tampakan project in South Cotabato, dubbed as potentially the country’s biggest foreign investment and believed to be one of the largest gold prospects in the world, will not materialize as Environment Secretary Gina Lopez remained firm in her decision not to allow operations even before it has started.

“I really don’t like Tampakan at all. There’s no way I would ever allow (an open pit mine the size of 700 football fields) on top of agricultural lands,” Lopez said in a press conference.

“There will be no Tampakan mine operations under my term.”

Upon her appointment, Lopez was firm on her stand against open pit mining in the country.

“I’m targeting companies that have complaints against them. I don’t care whether it’s nickel or gold, they should not disadvantage farmlands,” she said.

Operator Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) has already secured the declaration of mining feasibility and is a few step closer to operations.

The Tampakan mine development is targeted to start operations in the next two years, as part of the aggregate $14.75 billion pegged investments for 2018.

“Why do we even consider it at all? Many poor people living there are farmers and it is not right to put their lives at risk,” Lopez said.

Lopez emphasized that all permits earlier granted would undergo review, but as the DENR chief, she has to follow the rule of the common good.

“I will never ever allow this because it’s immoral. It’s socially unjust to allow companies to put the lives of all the farmers and indigenous people at risk,” the Environment chief said.

The SMI is yet to release a statement on Lopez’s decision.

Meanwhile, Mines and Geosciences Bureau director Leo Jasareno said private investors who think the government is not doing it right should file a complaint.

“They can ask for reconsideration from the government,” he said.

The Tampakan deposit contains an estimated 2.94 billion tons of mineral resource containing 15 million tons of copper and 18 million ounces of gold.

The prospective mine is projected to produce 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold per year in the initial mine-life of 17 years, with potential for mine-life extension.

The project has been on hold since the province banned open-pit mining in mid-2010.

The project site covers an area of around 10,000 hectares covering Tampakan, South Cotabato; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; Kiblawan in Davao del Sur; and Malungon in Sarangani.

Value of the mine’s production is estimated at $37 billion over a period of 20 years.

To recall, the new DENR administration called for the official audit of all operating mines and the moratorium on the approval of new mining projects.

Lopez reiterated that technical audit alone is not enough, as social, environmental, and health aspects are being considered as well.

The DENR is set to release the result of the mining audit of large and small-scale companies next month. —With Mary Grace Padin

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