MAC: Mines and Communities

Tampakan mine criticised in Philippines

Published by MAC on 2010-09-20
Source: Mindanews, GMANews.TV, statements

A fact-finding mission has uncovered further evidence that the Xstrata-operated Tampakan mine in the Philippines did not have the Free, Prior, Informed Consent of the affected B'laan communities.

Despite this, and the recent provincial ordinance against open-pit mining, the company continues to move forward with the project. Research is being done to create 'buffer-zones' around the proposed mine.

The province is also coming under continued pressure from the national government to reverse the ban on open-pit mining. Bishop Gutierrez has written to the new Governor asking them to stand by his decision. Meanwhile, one of the municipalities, in a neighbouring province but, bordering the project has approved a resolution rejecting the project.

Gov't neglect allowed easy entry of Tampakan miner in communities, mission asserts


29 August 2010

DIGOS CITY - "Essentially, those who embraced the mining project did so because of the failure of the government to provide basic social services such as education, health and road networks. Government neglect made it easier for the entry of (Sagittarius Mines, Inc.)," Meggy Nolasco, national spokesperson of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, said at the press conference here Saturday, after the group's two-day fact-finding mission.

"Many of the tribesmen within the mining area are not really aware of the negative impact of the Tampakan project...There's actually no real social acceptability of the project," she added.

The environmental investigative mission, composed of experts as well as foreign volunteers, visited two sites of the mining project-Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Malalag in Davao del Sur-on Thursday and Friday.

Columbio is part of the mines development site while Malalag is being eyed by the company as host of its coal-fired plant to run the mining project once it goes into commercial operation targeted for 2016.

Catherine C. Abon, a geologist from the Advocates of Science and Technology for Peace, said the operation of Sagittarius Mines, which intends to extract deposits in the Tampakan project using open-pit method, poses tremendous risk to water sources.

"It would not only pollute [rivers] but will eventually (destroy) the sources of ground water in the mountains," she said, adding that livelihood in the farming sector will also suffer in case the company will be allowed to proceed.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius corporate communications manager, could not be contacted Sunday for comments.

But earlier on several occasions, the company claimed they are welcomed by the communities in the mining site because of the economic and social benefits the project will bring.

Sagittarius has sponsored thousands of scholars in all school levels, conducted medical missions, and employed tribesmen in their labor force.

Arnaldo earlier said that Sagittarius Mines is also conducting extensive studies to minimize the impact of the mining project to the environment.

Sagittarius Mines is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world's fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the minority equity holder.

Touted as the largest undeveloped copper deposit in Southeast Asia, the Tampakan project has the potential to yield 13.5 million tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold, according to the company's latest study. (MindaNews)

Tampakan Gold-Copper project to aggravate food security in Southern Mindanao

EIM Press release

30 August 2010

High probability of water and land pollution to negatively affect the livelihood and way of life of communities surrounding mine area

National and local environmental groups, NGOs and people's organizations conducted an environmental investigative mission (EIM) on August 26-28, 2010 on Xtstrata-SMI mining operations in Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat. The mission wanted a first hand assessment of the initial and potential impacts of the Tampakan Gold-copper Mining Project of foreign transnational corporations- Xstrata and Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI).

The EIM teams were composed of representatives from local and national organizations to determine the sentiments of the locals and mining-affected communities and assess the possible impacts of the large-scale mining project to the livelihood, socio-political conditions, and environment particularly in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat where part of the open pit area would be located and Malalag, Davao del Sur where the port and power plant facilities are proposed to be constructed.

The EIM found out that there important issues that need to be resolved such as the lack of social acceptability and the grave environmental and socio-economic impacts of the mining operations. The group recommended that as long as these issues are not resolved, mining operations should not be allowed in the area.

Dire threat to Food Security

Catherine Abon, a geologist from the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP NIGS), and a member of Agham headed the team that looked into the possible environmental impacts of the mining operations in Malalag and Columbio. Her team surveyed the area and collected soil and sediment samples for a baseline assessment of the physical and chemical characteristics of the land and water of the said areas.

Abon noted that, "The main water sources of - Hagonoy, Padada, Matan-ao and Columbio, the Mal River and Dalul River respectively, flow from the mountainous areas where the mine operation will be situated. Any degradation in this region will potentially result to the increased siltation of the rivers, decrease in the water level and high risk of being contaminated by toxic materials coming from the mine operation upstream."

This would have grave implications to the people who depend on these rivers and its tributaries for irrigation and domestic use, Abon explained. This possible scenario is seconded by Feny Cosico, agriculturist and also member of Agham, who headed the team to look into the impacts of mining on the economy and livelihood of the people.

"Based from the interviews and field visits, we have gathered that the primary economic activity of the locals is farming. What was striking is that majority of the people still lack the machinery and tools to efficiently till the lands and the patches of landslides which the residents reported to occur in during heavy rainfall. These conditions, the glaring poverty, backward agriculture and degraded lands, would be further aggravated once mining operations become full blown and drastically alter the landscape and affect the water quality in the area," said Feny Cosico.

Contravention of FPIC of B'laans

The teams conducted focus group discussions (FGD) with the vulnerable sectors to be impacted by the mining operations: peasants, irrigators, fisherfolk, women, residents and indigenous people particularly the B'laan tribe in Columbio. Interviews were also conducted with some key local officials of the areas.

"The common perception of the B'laan community, as they were told by the mining company, is that they would not be affected by the operations. On the other hand, the company promised to provide scholarships, livelihood programs and whatever it is that they need or would help in their development. The residents admitted that as long as their ancestral lands would not be affected, they are willing to support the mining company as it provides incentives that the communities need but lack," said Pia Malayao, spokesperson of KAMP.

"These bribes being given by the company and its failure to disclose the possible negative impacts and other information about their operation violate the principles of the Free, Informed and Prior Consent (FPIC). The FPIC needs to be obtained by the mining company before the start of any project and not resort to giving favors to win the approval of the communities," Malayao added.

The groups are calling that the Tampakan project will not be the solution to the underdevelopment and poverty of the affected areas and will in fact worsen the degradation of the environment and communities as proven by the experiences of other mining areas in the country.

The environmental investigative mission was organized by the local groups to secure information other than those that the mining company will provide through its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) being conducted by Xstrata-SMI.

The final EIM report is targeted to be released this September and be submitted to the office of the president, concerned agencies and other organizations so it may be taken into account before the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of the mining be released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The said mining project is the biggest in the Philippines so far with a worth of $5.2 billion. It is owned by SMI-Xstrata which holds a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) that covers a total of 31,599.64 hectares in the quad-boundary of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani Province and Davao del Sur in South Central Mindanao, believed to contain one of the biggest untapped copper resources in Southeast Asia.

The teams were composed of representatives from national organizations Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment, Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines Philippines (CEC Phils), AGHAM - Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) and Defend Patrimony! Alliance.

Local organizations include the SocCSkSarGenDs-AGENDA (Alliance for Genuine Development Inc.), Tingog ug Gugma Alang sa Kinaiyahan (TUGASKA), Columbio Multi-Sectoral Ecology Movement (CMEM), Columbio Parish, Save Taplan River Movement (STAR-M), and Panalipdan Youth,Save Malaglag Bay Movement, Church Peoples Advocacy for the integrity of God's Creation and other concerned religious groups, individuals and Business sector.

Reference: Feny Cosico, EIM coordinator, 9209099.

Davao Sur town joins opposition vs Sagittarius Mines


16 September 2010

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/15 Sept) - The municipality of Matanao in Davao del Sur has joined the opposition against the proposed massive mining venture of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. due to environment, livelihood and food security concerns.

The Sangguniang Bayan approved a resolution rejecting Sagittarius's Tampakan mining project, fearing it will jeopardize the Mal River Irrigation System.

"Matanao is a primarily agricultural locality, as such and based from studies and actual experiences of provinces with mining operations like Marinduque, any mining activity would jeopardize food security and place Matanao and the neighboring communities into the risk of imminent danger of disaster," the resolution said.

Councilor Edgardo D. Tilud, who heads the council's committee for environmental protection, ecology and natural resources, said the Tampakan project will affect agricultural production and infrastructure projects as the watershed serving the Mal River will be threatened.

The Mal River, he noted, supplies two major irrigation systems and 22 communal irrigation systems covering 13,968 hectares and involving 7,421 farmers.

Some P1.9 billion of projects will be affected by the activities of the mining firm, Tilud added, referring to infrastructure and livelihood projects.

Sagittarius is planning to establish a tailing storage facility in Matanao straddling 1,018 hectares that will serve as dumping site of mining wastes, according to the resolution also signed by Mayor Vicente A. Fernandez.

The unanimously approved resolution cited the Local Government Code of 1991 or Republic Act 7160 as basis for opposing the Tampakan project.

It noted that Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 does not allow mining operations in old growth or virgin forests, proclaimed watershed forest reserves, wilderness areas, mangrove forests, mossy forests, national parks, provincial/municipal forests, parks, greenbelts, game refuge and bird sanctuaries as defined by law in areas expressly prohibited under the National Integrated Protected Areas System or Republic Act 7586.

John B. Arnaldo, the mining firm's corporate communications manager, said the company "respects the sentiment of stakeholders" and that the firm will continue to hold dialogues for the project to proceed.

The Matanao LGU's move was not the first opposition to meet the Tampakan project.

Last June, the South Cotabato provincial government approved a landmark environment code that bans open-pit mining method. The publication requirement in a local newspaper to make it operative as a local law is yet to be complied, however.

Sagittarius Mines has announced that excavation of copper and gold resources will be done through open-pit method in the project area straddling the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

Sagittarius Mines is currently in the exploration stage for the Tampakan project, touted as the largest undeveloped copper deposit in Southeast Asia with potentials to yield 12.8 million tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold. (MindaNews)

RP, Australian consultants propose buffer for Tampakan mines


25 August 2010

Technical consultants from Australia's University of Queensland and the Visayas State University have proposed a "green" buffer zone plan for Sagittarius Mines Inc.'s Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in South Cotabato.

"The purpose of the plan was to specify the design and location of the buffers and some suggested species to be grown in it," said Dr. Carl Smith of UQ's School of Integrative Studies, when he formally presented the plan to Sagittarius Mines.

Smith completed his 15-month study on the buffer zone plan in South Cotabato, with the help of the Visayas State's College of Forestry and Natural Resources.

He said that several buffer zones at the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project would serve as noise, dust, and visual screens, and eventually turn into erosion and sediment buffers.

Trees in the buffer zones, Smith said, would help reduce the project's carbon footprint.

Buffer zones "trap sediment, and enhance filtration of nutrients and pesticides by slowing down runoff that could enter the local surface waters," Smith said.

"The root systems of the planted vegetation in these buffers hold soil particles together which alleviate the soil of wind erosion and stabilize stream banks providing protection against substantial erosion and landslides," he explained.

Smith described the method in constructing the proposed buffer zone plan for the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project. "We did a review of literature on vegetative buffer design specifications for noise, dust, screening, and sediment control.

"Not surprisingly, there was virtually nothing done in the tropics. Most of the information came from North America and Australia. We also did an [geographic information system] analysis to identify mining infrastructure that may require vegetative buffers for different purposes," he said.

"And then we did analysis of those tree and shrub species suited to different elevation zones on the mine lease," he continued.

The Tampakan Copper-Gold Project is set to develop one of the largest copper-gold deposits in the world, with Sagittarius Mines as project contractor, explorer, developer, and operator. -JE, GMANews.TV

SouthCot legislature told review Environment Code


7 September 2010

GENERAL SANTOS CITY— A regional mining development policy-making body has formally asked the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato to review the controversial Environment Code that bans open-pit mining in the area.

Constancio A. Paye, Jr., regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, also head of the Regional Mineral Development Council (RMDC), said the latter submitted last Wednesday a resolution requesting for a review of the Environment Code on the grounds that it was contrary to Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and to a great extent, Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.

We hope they will act on it, said Paye. The ban on open-pit mining method is contained in Section 22 of the South Cotabato Environment Code.

The Philippine Mining Act and its implementing rules and regulations allow for, and regulate, the use of open-pit method in the Philippines. Section 22 therefore purports to prohibit an activitythat is expressly permitted and regulated by a law duly enacted by the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines, the resolution read.

Also, the RDMC argued, Section 22 denies the inherent right of indigenous peoples within the province of South Cotabato to self-determination with respect to the use of natural resources within their ancestral domain, contrary to their rights under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

Other lawyers have argued that the provincial governments decision to ban open-pit mining is within its powers under the Local Government Code which is also a national law.

Paye said they are still waiting for the official reply of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan whether it would act on the petition positively. Earlier, the local Catholic Church and other environmental groups vowed protest actions once the Environment Code is overruled.

But board member Jose M. Madanguit, vice-chair of the environment committee, said it is still premature to review the Environment Code as it has not become a law since the publication requirement in a local newspaper has not been met due to lack of budget.

He said the provincial board will study the RMDC resolution and also the calls from local government leaders in the mines development site to reconsider the open-pit ban.

Madanguit, environment committee chair in the previous provincial board that approved the environment code, said they are prepared to defend the Environment Code.

The current composition of the provincial board is reportedly still dominated by the allies of Rep. Daisy P. Avance-Fuentes, who signed the Environment Code shortly before stepping down on June 30 as three-term governor of the province.

The Environment Code was seen as a stumbling block to the massive investment of foreign-back Sagittarius Mines Inc. to develop the Tampakan project.

Controlled by Xstrata Copper, the worlds fourth largest copper producer, Sagittarius Mines announced it will pour in an investment of $5.2 billion for the commercial operation of the Tampakan project targeted to start in 2016.

Sagittarius Mines is currently in the exploration stage for the Tampakan project, touted as the largest undeveloped copper deposit in Southeast Asia with potentials to yield 12.8 million tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold.

 A Letter from Bishop Gutierrez to Governor Pingoy - Standing for the Environment Code: A Lasting Legacy

13 September 2010

Province of South Cotabato

Dear Gov. Pingoy:

Standing for the Environment Code: A Lasting Legacy

Recent developments on the newly signed Environment Code alarm the people of South Cotabato.

The non-publication of the environment code more than two months after it was signed is sending a mixed signal. The national government claims that a breakthrough is forthcoming in its desire to lift the open pit ban.

New resolutions have been submitted to the provincial government asking that the Environment Code be reviewed and amended. They claim that open pit ban is economically disastrous to the people of South Cotabato. These are the same claims that have already been heard, discussed and considered before the Environment Code was passed. The Code was deliberated for MORE THAN FIVE YEARS. Yet, none of these resolutions has ever mentioned about the negative impacts of open pit mining method to the environment, agriculture, culture and peace and order of the province. Even international experts on environment have visited the mining site of SMI and declared that open pit mining would be disastrous not only to the people of South Cotabato, but also, to the whole region.

To consider reviewing, and worse, amending the Environment Code before its publication, manifests a yielding to pressure. It is hope that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan members stand for the majority of the people in the province.

The open pit ban should stay or else, the whole effort on environmental protection will be undermined. If the best technologies of industrialized countries like the USA cannot protect their citizenry from onslaughts of hurricanes and bushfires, as well as environmentally damaging accidents like oil spills that cause them billions of dollars, what will save the people of South Cotabato from the potential disasters due to open pit mining method?

Recent calamities that hit our province like tornados, flashfloods and landslides have not yet rehabilitated the victims. We do no want to face the prospect of spending more than whatever economic contribution of open pit mining will be to our infrastructure, livelihood and our people.

The people of South Cotabato continue to remember your commitment during the campaign period to oppose open pit mining and support the passage of the Environment Code.

Let us not be the laughing stock by becoming the first local government unit who amended a well-crafted ordinance, which has yet to be published.

Let those who question the wisdom of the Code burden themselves by proving that they are morally and legally right. Take the side of majority of the people by leaving a legacy for the present and the future generations of the province. There are more important matters that our province needs to address.

Diocese of Marbel

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