MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Tuesday issued a conditional environmental compliance certificate to the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mining Inc. (SMI) in Southern Mindanao.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said his department issued the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the SMI project upon the recommendation of the Environmental Management Bureau, an agency attached to the DENR.
But he said the grant of the ECC to SMI was “subject to certain conditions,” and failure to comply could result in its revocation.
The conditions were the following, he said; the question of “social acceptability,” referring to the open pit mining ban in South Cotabato, protection of the rights of indigenous people, land access under the agrarian reform department, and the “willingness to assume continuing liability” over any environmental damage.
It was not clear however how much time SMI was given to comply with those conditions.
An official of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau had said earlier that to obtain an ECC, SMI should first obtain the consent of the indigenous people to be affected by the mining operations as well as approval by the various provincial boards, primarily that of South Cotabato, which has imposed a ban on open-pit mining in the province.
The ECC covers the project located in Tampakan, South Cotabato; Malungon, Sarangani; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.
“The EMB has reviewed the requirements of the application for the project and has recommended the issuance of the ECC subject to the implementation of certain conditions presented in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to protect and mitigate possible adverse impacts of the project on the community health, welfare and the environment,” Paje said.
The environment chief directed the EMB to strictly monitor SMI’s compliance with the conditions stipulated in the ECC to ensure that environmental considerations were incorporated in all phases and aspects of the Tampakan project.
“SMI should make public the feasibility of the project, ensure that the area does not cover those where mining is prohibited, and ensure social acceptability through consultation with stakeholders,” Paje said.
He also clarified that SMI could only proceed with the implementation of the project after submitting all other necessary government permits and clearances to the EMB, particularly those involving indigenous peoples, the agriculture and agrarian reform departments, and local government units.
Under the ECC, SMI is directed to conform to the provisions involving toxic and solid wastes of several laws on clean air and water and mining.
SMI must also observe appropriate practices on vegetative restoration, engineering structure, land use, and soil and water management, as well as ensuring proper stockpiling and disposal of generated waste materials and erosion control, the ECC stated.
The mining company is also instructed to protect headwaters, implement an efficient water management system to ensure sustainable use of water, and provide the community with alternative sources of potable water supply, if needed.
Citing provisions of the Philippine Mining Act, the DENR directed the SMI to set up a Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) and submit an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) that would integrate a final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning plan for when the project is terminated or completed. This includes the setting up of contingent and trust funds that would address future concerns for mine rehabilitation, wastes and tailings, and final decommissioning.
SMI was also told to establish a Mine Environmental Protection and Enhancement Office (MEPEO) that would handle environment-related aspects of the project. The MEPEO is also to monitor the project’s actual impacts vis-à-vis predicted ones.
Additionally, the SMI shall also submit a Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) to the regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau and implement it in coordination with affected barangays.
Meanwhile, the regional offices of the EMB and MGB were directed to coordinate with SMI on conducting an information and education campaign on open-pit mining, which is the technology to be used for the project.
SMI is largely owned by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer. The 9,605-hectare Tampakan project is expected to produce an average annual yield of 375,000 metric tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold per year.