The Philippines Government has given Sagittarius Mines an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for its $5.9 billion Tampakan mine, bringing the company a step closer to bringing the highly anticipated project to fruition. Sagittarius is primarily owned by Xstrata with Australia’s Indophil Resources holding a 37.5% interest.  1

Development of the project, which is touted as South East Asia’s largest copper-gold prospect, has been delayed by a ban on open-pit mining imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato in 2010. The ban is not in line with national mining laws which do not restrict exploration methods.

The ECC means Sagittarius can move forward with construction of the project if the ban is lifted. The company still needs at least three more local permits before construction can begin.

“We received an official notification that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has signed the ECC for our Tampakan mine project,” says Sagittarius’ manager of contracts and procurement Nick Treweeke.

The Tampakan mine is expected to yield 15 million tonnes of copper and 17.6 million ounces of gold over a 17-year lifespan. The proposed mine site covers about 10,000 hectares and is between the towns of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur in southern Mindanao.

If approved, the is mine estimated to yield an average 375,000 tonnes per annum of copper and 360,000 ounces per annum of gold in concentrate.

Mining companies affected by the ban are pinning hopes on a change in governor at the May local elections which may herald a more mining-friendly council.

Due to the hurdles, Sagittarius has pushed back the target date to start production at Tampakan by three years to 2019, in a bid to gain the necessary approvals. The project delay means actual mining investments between 2012 and 2016 will be short of a previous government forecast of $12 billion for the period.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said the government had included certain conditions in the ECC granted to Sagittarius ‘in order to protect and mitigate possible adverse impacts of the project on the community health, welfare and the environment’.

Sagittarius had filed for an ECC in 2010, shortly before the local council of South Cotabato banned open-pit mining, which is the extraction method the company plans to use.

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