Sagittarius Mines to knock on Palace door on $6B Tampakan rowBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), the operator of the $6-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in Mindanao, may have to turn to Malacañang “before the end of the month,” to resolve problems involving its permit, according to a top official of the company.
SMI general manager for operations and external affairs Mark Williams told reporters that the firm had received word that its appeal had been denied last Thursday.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) stood by its decision to reject SMI’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC) application as the ban on open-pit mining remains in place in South Cotabato, one of the host provinces of the Tampakan project.
The ECC serves as a guarantee that a project will not lead to environmental degradation. A miner is required to secure the permit before it can operate.
“We are still following administrative process, and one of the steps that we are evaluating at the moment is to (take the) appeal to the next level, which is the Office of the President,” Williams said. Another option for SMI is to question in local courts the validity and constitutionality of the provincial ordinance cited.
Anglo-Swiss firm Xstrata PLC holds a substantial stake in SMI.
“While the decision itself is disappointing…it does state clearly that SMI’s environmental impact statement and appeal for an ECC fully complied with rules and regulations. It also said that the EMB [Environmental Management Bureau] and the independent review committee recommended that the ECC be issued,” the executive said.
According to Williams, the firm will still pursue the project and continue to discuss matters, such as the open-pit ban, with stakeholders, including the provincial board of South Cotabato.
Sagittarius Mines has said it expects to hurdle South Cotabato’s ban on open pit mining when President Aquino signs the new mining policy.
In a decision dated May 22, the DENR denied SMI’s appeal concerning its ECC application. The DENR said that while SMI challenges the constitutionality of the open-pit ban, the issue of constitutionality is outside the department’s purview.
The DENR said the issue of the open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato would have to be “resolved” first before it could reconsider SMI’s ECC application for the Tampakan project.
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