A provincial government review of a ban on open pit mining in South Cotabato province has been welcomed by the mining industry and in particular proponents of the $5.2 billion Tampakan copper-gold project.
The South Cotabato provincial government is reviewing its own ban imposed in June that threatened development of Tampakan as well as other mining and quarrying operations in this area of southern Mindanao.
The provincial board passed an environmental code that banned open pit mining. The ordinance was signed by former Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes before moving on to represent the second district of her province in Congress.
The Tampakan project straddles the municipalities of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.
New Governor Arthur Pingoy Jr says, “There are some lawyers who have said the ban is illegal and there are some who say it is not, so the Minerals Development Council is seeking a review of the ban as specified in the province’s environment code."
He says many members of the council have expressed willingness to review the ban or at least qualify which projects should be affected.
Philippines Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) officials, along with representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, have met with provincial leaders over the matter.
In July, environment secretary Ramon Jesus P Paje said the government would try to facilitate a compromise on the open pit mining ban in an attempt to protect the Tampakan investment.
Tampakan is likely to bring in the largest foreign investment into the Philippines. The $5.2 billion investment only pertains to the development cost until the project reaches commercial production.
When the mine operates from 2015 to 2033, the Philippine economy stands to gain around $7 billion in taxes and royalties over the course of its life.
Sagittarius Mines, the company implementing the Tampakan project supported by Xstrata Copper and Indophil Resources, says it has the most extensive environmental baseline studies done in the country’s mining history, a claim that has been supported by the MGB.