General Santos—The $5.9-billion copper-gold mining project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Tampakan, South Cotabato, is expected to go in full swing in the coming months, with the fresh endorsement from the national government reportedly coming out soon.
Engineer Felizardo Gacad Jr., director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Region 12, revealed over the weekend that a timeline has been released for the reactivation of SMI’s Environmental Compliance Certificate.
“As of the latest, there is already a timeline for the lifting of the suspension of the ECC because the Office of the President has already decided to that effect,” he said in an interview over radio station Radyo Bida in Koronadal City.
He did not provide further details on the timeline but noted that the resumption of the project is already in the works.
The company’s ECC was revoked three years ago after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a country-wide ban on open-pit mining as recommended by the late former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
SMI, which is controlled by the Alcantara Group, had signified to utilize the open-pit mining method for the project that straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and Davao del Sur.
Gacad said they are set to hold dialogues with the provincial government of South Cotabato and other stakeholders regarding the prevailing open-mining ban in the province as what has been set in the province’s Environment Code.
He reiterated that the open-mining ban in the area runs contrary to national laws, referring to the provisions of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Gacad said they are treating the existing provincial Environment Code as a major obstacle to the Tampakan mining project.
“There are instances that local ordinances go against our national laws. We, in the DENR, believe that national laws should prevail,” he said.
South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr. earlier said he has no problem with mining projects as long as they are done “responsibly” and under the existing laws.
But he said any request to review the Environment Code, which was approved in 2010, will not be coming from him.
For his part, Vice Governor Vicente de Jesus said they are still waiting for official requests regarding the amendment of the code.
“I think there have been moves to review it and we are open to any possibility,” he said.
SMI and local tribal councils of Tampakan had filed a case before a local court challenging the legality of the province’s open-pit mining ban.
The Diocese of Marbel, headed by Bishop Cerilo Casicas, launched a renewed campaign last month opposing the Tampakan mining project over its detrimental effects on the environment and local communities.
Early this month, a group of pro-mining advocates from Tampakan also held a rally in front of the Hall of Justice in Koronadal City asking the government to proceed with the mining project.