Sagittarius Mines banking on EO to secure mine certificateBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CITY OF KORONADAL—Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), the operator of the $6-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in Mindanao, is taking the government to task over its environmental compliance certificate (ECC) application following the release of Executive Order (EO) 79 on mining reforms, SMI general manager for operations and external affairs Mark Williams said at a briefing in General Santos City.
The Xstrata-led SMI is set to file with the Office of the President (OP) a full argument on why it should get an ECC and expects the executive order will strengthen its appeal, Williams said.
“We will work with the EO to strengthen the argument,” Williams added.
The SMI executive said the “preferred option” is to work with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato to amend the open-pit ban. Williams noted that several residents in host communities have also appealed for the lifting of the ban while more stakeholder groups are expected to lend more support to the project.
Williams said there “should not have to be an appeal” since SMI even went beyond compliance regarding the application process and also because the EO states there should be consistency between local and national laws. The open-pit ban is not consistent with the Mining Act of 1995, which does not ban open-pit mining, Williams said.
SMI needs the ECC before it can proceed with the construction phase of the Tampakan project, which entails what is considered to be the single largest foreign direct investment in the Philippines.
In a decision dated May 22, 2012, the DENR denied SMI’s appeal on the rejection of its ECC application for the project, saying that the ban on open-pit mining is in place in South Cotabato.
On Tuesday, South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy said the provincial environmental code, which includes the open-pit ban, is still valid even with the issuance of the EO unless the courts were to declare it invalid.
But Pingoy said that if an independent expert not associated with SMI would vouch for the environmental soundness of the Tampakan project, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan may still be convinced to lift the ban. “It’s about trust,” Pingoy said.
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