Opposition to Tampakan mining project in South Cotabato mounts

Published November 14, 2020, 10:37 AM

by Zea Capistrano

DAVAO CITY – Civil society organizations, led by environmental groups and Catholic organizations in Mindanao, are gathering signatures for a unity statement, expressing opposition to the Tampakan gold and copper project in South Cotabato.

The project’s developer, Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), was given a certification precondition (CP) by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to extract minerals in an area of approximately 10,000 hectares.  

According to the Unity Statement titled “Protect Tampakan… Defend Mindanao: SMI Tampakan, Leave MindaNOW”, the project “will leave irreversible impact on food security, peoples and biodiversity, and is a serious threat to peace and security including Mindanao’s resilience to climate change.” 

“We do not want another Marcopper disaster: dead rivers, a heavily silted and toxic Calancan Bay, heavy metals flowing in the bloodstream of children, tailings-laced rice fields, from nearly 25 years ago until today,” it said.

The statement was referring to the disaster in Marinduque province brought about by the spillage of the mine tailings of the Marcopper Mining Corporation in 1996.

“Adverse impacts will be felt not only in Tampakan and the entire island of Mindanao – potentially for 2,000 years. As Mindanao is the food basket of the country, a national food crisis in the middle of a pandemic looms,” it said.

Among the groups’ calls are to “recall the 12-year extension of the FTAA (Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement) of SMI Tampakan mining; to respect the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato and ensure the safety of the peoples and environment in all provinces.”

A copy of the Unity Statement posted on Saturday, November 14 by the Ateneo de Davao University online shows that 452 individual and 92 organizations have so far signed it

Pleas to the President

Diocese of Marbel Bishop Cerilo Alan Casicas said he was hoping President Duterte will continue his commitment “that he would never allow particularly open pit mining in Mindanao.”

“My firm hope for the president (is) that he continues that commitment and I pray that this could be shown in his concrete decisions especially as this is reflected in his secretary’s and other offices under him,” Casicas shared during a virtual press conference on Thursday.

Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) President Joel Tabora said they were optimistic with the President’s “clear opposition in the past to open pit mining that is so destructive on the environment.”

“We take heart in his having seen the effects of open pit mining here in Mindanao and we hope and pray that he would protect South Cotabato and the neighboring provinces from the devastations of this open pit mining here,” Tabora added.

“We have to get more people nationwide to understand the implications of such violation of environment and people’s rights,” Tabora said, adding that they will be talking with other Catholic schools as well.

The groups believe that the experience of the people with the typhoons battering the country will bring in the support for the campaign.

Carmela Santos, Director of the Ecoteneo said ”the resurgence of the Tampakan mining project carries with it the resurgence of the support of the people, not just our school and not just our network.”

“I also foresee a revival of the campaign because as we speak now, there is an onslaught of the typhoons opening the Christmas season,” Santos added.

Among the largest copper mine globally
According to the SMI’s website, if approved, “the mine would be the largest in the Philippines and among the largest copper mines in the world. “

The area is located “between the towns of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur in southern Mindanao.”

”The mineral resource estimate defined by the exploration work undertaken to date comprises a total of 2.94 billion tonnes at a grade of 0.51% copper and 0.19 grams per tonne gold, using a cut-off grade of 0.2%. This represents 15.0 million tonnes of copper and 17.6 million ounces of gold,” it said.

The Tampakan Project 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.”

The SMI said they take “environmental responsibilities very seriously.”

“We understand that mine waste and water management are important issues for our stakeholders and they form an important part of our design, operation and rehabilitation plans for the Project,” it added. 

Based on the primer on Mineral Processing Permit by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) a CP from the NCIP is among the additional requirements “submitted after the acceptance of the application but prior to the issuance of the Mineral Processing Permit.”

A CP is issued by the NCIP, signed by the Chairperson, attesting to the grant of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) by the Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs).