QUEZON CITY — Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez has rejected a gold and copper mining operation by the Sagittarius Mining Inc. in Tampakan, South Cotabato which has been denounced by the native Lumads and residents of the area along with other mining operations in nearby provinces
“I will not allow the Tampakan project as long as it is planned as an open-pit mine,” said Lopez.
The DENR chief said she would stand against any move to lift South Cotabato’s ban on open pit mining, which is Tampakan’s preferred extraction method, describing it as “horrible”.
“Tampakan is on top of hundreds of hectares of agricultural land, the food basket of Mindanao, and you want to put a 700-hectare open-pit mine? I don’t care how much money they give us. It’s not worth it. Who is making the money here and who is taking the risk?” she lamented.
Lopez, however, said all permits given to the project will be reviewed “but we will observe due process.”
Sagittarius Mining Inc. (SMI) has a pending proposal to spend US$5.9 billion to dig into one of Southeast Asia’s largest untapped resources with an estimated yield of 11.6 million tons of copper and 14.6 million ounces of gold.
The project, which would also encompass Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur, has been opposed by residents because of its massive impact on their water source Lake Buluan.
Lopez, in an earlier dialogue with the Lumad or indigenous peoples of Mindanao, assured that mining operations in the region found in violation of mining and environmental laws and regulations would be suspended.
“Sususpindihin natin ang mga mining company na lumalabag sa batas,” she told the Lumads.
During the dialogue, the Lumad representatives complained about the new open pit mines and tailings ponds constructed in their areas, which have severely affected their livelihoods.
The group cited Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Tampakan, Sultan Kudarat; SR Metals Inc. in Tubay, Agusan del Sur; and Greenstone Mining and Taganito Mining, both in Surigao del Norte, as among those whose operations have seriously affected IP communities due to siltation, open pit mining and stockpiles.
The Lumad also appealed to Lopez to halt illegal logging and encroachment in watershed areas, and stop militarization in their areas which they claimed was related to the plan of large-scale mining companies to setup new businesses.
They likewise called for the return of all the Lumad displaced from their ancestral lands because of mining and illegal logging activities