MAC: Mines and Communities

South Cot Diocese: Still No To Mining

Published by MAC on 2007-01-23
Source: MindaNews

South Cot Diocese: still no to mining


23rd January 2007

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Efforts to get the local Catholic Church to support the huge mining venture in Tampakan, South Cotabato have proved futile as calls to stop the project were repeatedly aired instead. Bishop Dinualdo Guttierez of the Diocese of Marbel repeatedly urged the public to oppose the copper and gold project of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).

The Bishop's appeal has been a regular feature played minutes apart over the Diocesan-owned DXCP radio station here. The station's broadcast can be heard in neighboring South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat provinces. Earlier, Rolando Doria, Sagittarius project coordinator, said they extended a conciliatory hand to the Catholic religious leaders in connection with the firm's planned exploitation of world class mineral deposits in the area.

Gutierrez warned of poisoning, livelihood displacement, food insecurity and environmental catastrophe when the firm goes into full blast operations. "If the firm will excavate the resources in Tampakan, they will cut the trees and it will cause floods. They will also use cyanide to process the resources and it will poison the fishes like tilapia," he added, referring to the water outflow from the project site ending towards Lake Buluan, where tilapia-raising is a multi-million industry.

He said food security depends on care for the environment. Gutierrez stressed that if the environment will be abused, she will later unleash her wrath at humans with "inconceivable damage." The bishop discussed the "ecology of peace," where man and nature are related to each other.

Despite the rejection of the Catholic religious leaders, Doria said they are still open to dialogues in the hope of convincing the Church to support the venture that SMI claims will boost the area's economy.

"Our doors are always open. We respect the position of any sector even [if] they are adversely against us," he said. The Tampakan project straddles the towns of Tampakan, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

Ownership changes swept the venture last month after major global firm Xstrata Queensland Limited or Xstrata Copper exercised its option.

Before the option was exercised, Indophil Resources NL owned 95% of the venture and 5% by local firm Alsons Corp.

Now, the beneficial ownership interest in the project is A class shareholders - Xstrata Copper 62.5%, Indophil 32.5% and Filipino partner Alsons Corporation 5% - with B class shareholders (limited voting and capped dividend rights) to the Tampakan Mining Corporation and Southcot Mining Corporation (the Tampakan Group of Companies).

Tony Robbins, Indophil managing director, appeared unfazed by the opposition from the Catholic Church, claiming in a recent press release that the affected communities are fully supporting the project.

Robbins also pointed out the support from the national and local governments that the venture generated. The mining industry is projected by the national government to rejuvenate the country's economy following Supreme Court rulings on the constitutionality of the 1995 Mining Act.

SMI is expected to conduct full blast operations in early 2011. Presently, the firm is on the stage of a definitive feasibility study with funding of US$ 30 million or about P1.5 billion.

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