MAC: Mines and Communities

Tampakan project driven on, while brakes applied elsewhere in Philippines

Published by MAC on 2011-06-28
Source: Sun Star, Business World, Inquirer

The partners in the Tampakan project, Xstrata and Indophil, have been pushing ahead as planned despite the local government's open-pit mining ban (see: Philippine campaigners are not on Minister's page).

Dr Gerry Ortega of the Philippines
Dr Gerry Ortega - Source: Cathnews Asia

The project's environmental impact statement (EIS) has recently been released, and the companies will be engaged in yet more "stakeholder consultation" despite the widespread opposition.

While national government seems to be supporting Xstrata against the local government in Tampapkan, it has agreed to support the mining ban in Romblon Province, following a municipal resolution denying social acceptance for Ivanhoe Philippines to conduct mining exploration on Romblon's Tablas Island.

To the anger of relatives and activists, the Department of Justice has cleared ex-governor of Palawan, Joel Reyes, of master-minding the murder of the anti mining activist Dr Gerry Ortega, despite some clear evidence. (See: Two anti-mining advocates shot in the Philippines)

New consultation on mine project gaining ground

By Bong S. Sarmiento

Sun Star Davao

22 June 2011

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. has started a new round of stakeholder consultation to run for three months to win public support for the controversial Tampakan copper-gold project.

The company's move immediately got a response from critics, with a local Catholic Church leader expressing doubt on the environmental soundness of the Tampakan project.

"We'll ask our own experts to validate their studies," Fr. Romeo Q. Catedral, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel, said.

Even if Sagittarius Mines could prove that its mining project would not harm the environment, it has to live with an opposing force if it would not change its open-pit mining method in extracting the deposits.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, said they have completed the draft of the mining project's environmental impact statement (EIS), and that the consultations in the next 12 weeks would seek to get the stakeholders' feedback for possible inclusion in the final draft.

The EIS is a document containing the company's environmental and social impact assessments. The final draft is expected to be submitted to the Philippine government before the end of the year. It is part of the requirements for the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate, which would allow the company to go on commercial stream.

"During this time SMI will consult with more than 1,200 stakeholders through approximately 50 briefing sessions followed by four public meetings in the provinces of South Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Sarangani, and Sultan Kudarat," Arnaldo said in a statement.

This latest round of stakeholder consultation is a follow-up to SMI's previous engagement activities held between September and December 2009 when stakeholder input was sought for the development of the proposed mine plan and EIS through a series of small, private consultation meetings and four public scoping meetings, he added.

Fr. Catedral said they are trying to secure a full copy of the EIS to give them time to study it, at the same time stressing their resistance is not only limited to the environmental aspect of the Tampakan project.

Our opposition also covers social and sustainable economic issues, he added.

The Tampakan project, which is threatened by a ban on open-pit mining imposed by the South Cotabato provincial government, is also facing security threats from the communist New People's Army, which launched two successful offensives against the company since 2008.

Peter Forrestal, Sagittarius Mines president, described the completion of the EIS "as a significant milestone for the Tampakan project."

The EIS has been prepared by Filipino specialists and international experts, identifies the potential environmental and social impacts of the proposed mining operation, and details SMI's comprehensive mitigation strategies.

"We take our environmental and social responsibilities very seriously and, in line with Philippine government regulation, we have consulted extensively with our host communities and other key stakeholders over the past two years regarding our plans for the project," he said in the same statement.

"Their feedback, together with the results of our environmental impact assessment studies, has been incorporated into our project designs and management plans which have been developed in accordance with leading environmental and industry practices," he added.

Forrestal said they are now looking forward to sharing these plans with the stakeholders and receiving further feedback in order to finalize the EIS for formal submission to the Philippine government later this year.

If approved, he said, the project "will be a blueprint for ethical modern mineral development in the Philippines and represents an unprecedented opportunity for the Philippines to benefit from its natural resources."

A separate environmental impact assessment studies for related off-site infrastructure, including a port facility, power station, transmission lines and concentrate pipeline, are currently underway and are expected to be completed in 2012.

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

Tampakan investors stick to mining schedule despite ban

Business World

15 June 2011

SYDNEY -- Investors in the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project will keep their schedule of starting mine development next year and commercial operations by 2016 despite delays caused by a local ordinance banning open-pit mining.

Andrew Pickford, general manager for the Tampakan project of main shareholder Xstrata Copper, said at the sidelines of the Philippines-Australia Business Council meeting Tuesday night his firm expects the Aquino administration to resolve the issue ahead of a decision by the mining consortium on the project next year.

At the forum in Westin Sydney hotel, hosted by the business council and Xstrata Copper, Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo said President Benigno S. Aquino III had vowed to directly tackle the Tampakan dispute.

Last year, South Cotabato passed a new environmental code banning open-pit mining. On Tuesday, Sagitarrius Mines, Inc. (SMI) the consortium behind the Tampakan copper-gold project, began forwarding to local officials an environment impact study said to be the key to overturning the mining ban covering the site.

Mr. Pickford said consultations would take 3-6 months, after which SMI would lodge an application to get an environmental compliance certificate. SMI hopes to get a declaration of mining feasibility from the national government after that, he said.

The Tampakan issue will be raised by businessmen in a dialogue with Australian and Philippines officials as part of a ministerial meeting in Canberra today, he added.

Indophil Resources NL, which holds a 37.5% stake in the mine, said it would stay put in the meantime, after San Miguel Corp. decided to let go of an exclusive period to launch a takeover bid.

"We have raised funds up to 2012. Indophil is there to maintain its position in the project," said Gavan Collery, vice-president at Indophil Resources.

The $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project, said to cover the largest undeveloped copper- gold deposit in Southeast Asia, has been described as having the potential to be the largest mine in the Philippines and the fifth-largest copper mine in the world by 2016.

It is likewise projected to add 1% to gross domestic product yearly after 2016. -- Felipe F. Salvosa II

Romblon gets backing on mining ban

By Maricar Cinco

Inquirer Southern Luzon

18 June 2011

Local officials in Romblon welcomed the support of two Cabinet members in enforcing a total ban on all forms of mining on the island-province.

This was after the local officials sought an audience with Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to present the long list of resolutions and ordinances by the local governments of Romblon to oppose small- and large-scale mining on the island.

Provincial information officer Wilson Fortaleza on Friday said Robredo, in a meeting with Romblon Vice Gov. Manuel Madrid and the town mayors of San Fernando, Magdiwang and Cajidiocan on Sibuyan Island, gave the assurance that he would "enforce the mining ban."

San Fernando Mayor Dindo Rios by phone on Friday also said that based on their meeting on June 15 at the VIP lounge of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport III, Robredo particularly cited the ban on small-scale mining operations in Magdiwang town.

"He said he was bringing in police forces to help enforce the mining ban," Rios quoted Robredo as saying.

Robredo, however, wanted a careful planning of alternative livelihood for the 500 families dependent on small-scale mining.

"He is tapping other government agencies (for instance the Department of Agriculture) to help people find other sources of livelihood and asked the local government units to improve their ecotourism projects," Rios said in the phone interview.

Small-scale mining thrives on Sibuyan Island, specifically in the village of Dulangan in Magdiwang town.

The village came to be known as such because of the practice of using the dulang, a device for manual recovery of gold. Use of mercury to pan the gold from the ore also remains rampant based on earlier tests showing a high concentration of the toxic chemical.

As an alternative to gold mining, Rios said they wanted to develop ecotourism in Romblon, banking on the natural parks, night bird-watching activities, and the rich marine culture of Sibuyan Island.

The island is home to Mt. Guiting-guiting, a popular trekking site.

In a separate meeting with Paje, Romblon officials were reportedly assured by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary that he would stop issuing permits for large-scale mining operations in the entire province.

"He (Paje) made the commitment that he would not sign mining permits in Romblon but he called on the municipal mayors to also make a commitment to stop mining in their areas," said provincial board member Felix Ylagan.

Ylagan said he was present at the dialogue with Paje together with Romblon Gov. Eduardo Firmalo, environment advocate Gina Lopez, and other local officials and environmental groups at the DENR office in Quezon City on June 10.

Paje was also looking into bringing in a composite team from the Armed Forces and the Philippine Navy to enforce the mining ban, particularly on Sibuyan Island, said Ylagan.

DILG, DENR to enforce mining ban in Romblon

By Ogie Salvador and Wilson Fortaleza

PIA Press Release

18 June 2011

ROMBLON, Romblon - The people of Romblon scored double breakthroughs on the mining issue early this week after the provincial government gained the full backing of the national government in enforcing its mining ban.

"We will enforce the mining ban in Romblon," Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jessie Robredo told provincial officials led by Romblon Vice Governor Manuel "Mel" Madrid in a meeting held at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport III the other day.

Also present were Mayors Dindo Rios of the municipality of San Fernando, Ibarra Mansala of Magdiwang, and Festo Galang of Cajidiocan.

Last January, Governor Eduardo Firmalo issued Executive Order No. 1 imposing an indefinite moratorium on all metallic mining in the province after several mining areas, particularly in Sibuyan Island, were tested positive for high level of mercury concentration. Mercury is a toxic chemical used in mining specifically for separating gold from ore.

Two months after, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Romblon passed a resolution denying social acceptance for Ivanhoe Philippines to conduct mining exploration in Romblon's Tablas Island. Sangguniang Bayan resolutions from different municipalities were likewise passed opposing all mining applications in their respective towns and in the whole province. A bill has also been filed and passed the committee level in the House of Representatives declaring the whole province of Romblon as a no mining zone.

Reports however indicate some degree of confusion, with some people resorting to guerrilla-type small-scale mining in defiance of the ban.

During the meeting, Secretary Robredo advised the LGU heads present on the need to address not just the problems of effective enforcement but also the livelihood concerns of those who will be displaced immediately by the ban - about 500 families in Sibuyan Island whose livelihood are highly dependent on small scale mining.

On effective enforcement of the ban, the Secretary said he would instruct the Provincial Police Office to strictly implement the ban in cooperation with the LGUs. On the economic side, he assured the delegation that he will help the province secure assistance from different government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and the Department of Labor and Employment for immediate and long term livelihood projects.

Last week, Romblon officials and civic leaders likewise got the assurance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that it will not issue any permit to mining applicants in the province.

"We will not sign any mining permit in the province of Romblon," declared DENR Sec. Ramon Paje and Director Leo Jasareno during a meeting with Governor Firmalo, Ms. Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN Foundation, Board Members Felix Ylagan and Abner Perez, and Mayors Festo Galang of Cajidiocan, Limuel Cipriano of Concepcion, Eddie Lota of Alcantara, and Artemio Madrid of Sta. Maria.

Other officials and civic leaders who attended the dialogue include Odiongan Sangguniang Bayan member Bonbon Fernandez of Odiongan, Bishop Ronel Fabriquer of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Church, General Orville Gabuna of the Commission on Appointments, Alyansa Tigil Mina representative Rodne Galicha, and Protected Area Management Board head Dr. Art Tansiongco.

Resolutions expressing concerns and opposition to mining compiled through the efforts of Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM) and Alliance of Students Against Mining (ASAM) were submitted by the delegation to the DENR. The Secretary in response told the group that an administrative order will soon follow to enforce the department's new policy for Romblon.

Pleased with the outcome, Governor Firmalo thanked the collective effort of all concerned Romblomanons and their hardworking officials for facilitating these breakthroughs on the mining issue. He reminded everyone however that many things are yet to be done in ensuring the sustainable development of the province.

"Marami pa tayong magagagawa basta't tulong-tulong," stated the Governor.

Environmental activists denounce DOJ clearing of Palawan ex-governor Joel Reyes in the assassination of Dr. Gerry Ortega

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

14 June 2011

"We strongly condemn the decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) clearing Palawan ex-governor Joel Reyes in the killing of environmental activist and anti-mining leader Dr. Gerry Ortega. We believe this is a cover-up to let the masterminds of Dr. Ortega's murder to get scot-free," said Marjorie Pamintuan, convenor of Task Force Justice for Environmental Defenders.

Dr. Gerry Ortega was killed on January 24 by hired assassin Marlon Recamata, who was immediately captured by the local police. Dr. Ortega's killing is believed to be connected to his strong critique on large-scale mining projects and grave corruption by provincial officials in Palawan.

"The confession of Rolando ‘Bomar' Edrad Jr., a close aide of Reyes, that the Palawan ex-governor was the mastermind of the murder is damning evidence which warrants Reyes as the primary suspect," Pamintuan added.

Edrad surrendered to authorities and confessed to creating the group that assassinated Dr. Ortega. He also pointed to Reyes as the mastermind of the killing.

"Once again the Aquino administration and the justice system show utter failure to provide justice or even remedies to the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the country. The DOJ decision sends a message to perpetrators of EJK that as long as you are powerful and moneyed you can evade prosecution in the country."

"President Noynoy Aquino should not remain inutile and must act on the case. We demand an impartial re-investigation. We will continue to support the quest for justice for Dr. Ortega and also for the other victims of EJK."

According to the monitoring of environmental group Kalikasan-PNE, there are already seven (7) environmentalists killed under the Aquino administration. The list includes world-renowned botanist Leonard Co and Dr. Gerry Ortega. All seven (7) cases remain unsolved up to this day. The Aquino administration also failed to resolve the cases of 33 killings and two (2) enforced disappearances of environmentalists that occurred during the Arroyo administration.

National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099

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