KORONADAL CITY / MindaNews / December 30, 2012 – A group of environmental groups in the country were shocked at the decision of Secretary Roy Cimatu of Department of Environment and Natural Resources to reverse the ban against open-pit mining. This was described among other things as a cruel holiday present and a step backwards in the wake of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Odette.
This is a cruel Christmas gift by DENR and a truly ironic act in cowardice, betrayal from Secretary Cimatu.
Open pit mining ban lifted at a time of climate change bringing devastating typhoons, such as Odette. This is a shortsighted and misplaced government development priority. The Duterte regime once again gives more weight to its flawed economic agenda that categorizes destructive mining as an important industry as part the pandemic recovery.
Gina Lopez (the late environment secretary), who died in 2019, banned open-pit mines in 2017 due to their destructive nature and potential for triggering disasters.
Duterte had supported Lopez’ order until this year, when he issued Executive Order No. 130, which lifted a moratorium on mineral deals.
“In addition to ushering significant economic benefits to the country, the mining industry can support government projects, such as Build, Build, and Build Program, by providing raw material for the construction and development other industries; Balik Probinsiya, Bagong Pag-asa Program, by increasing employment opportunities in remote rural areas where there are mining activities thereby stimulating countryside development,” EO 130 stated.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines welcomes the Cimatus order. The miners group wanted Lopezs order to be rescinded, claiming that such policies discourage mining investments from the country.
Lawyer Mai Taqueban described Cimatus lifting the ban on open-pit mines as a step backwards in environmental protection.
We were turning a new page (for 2022), without learning our lessons. How many more typhoons will we need to learn our lessons? MindaNews spoke to her in a telephone interview about the Cimatus order.
She cited the recent typhoon Odette, which decimated Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte province and Dinagat Islands. Mining has an impact on the environment as well as contributing to climate change.
Pro-mining groups viewed Cimatus order as a positive sign for the $5.9 million Tampakan project in South Cotabato. This is a minefield that has been referred to as the largest undeveloped copper/gold minefield in Southeast Asia, and one of the largest in the entire world.
South Cotabato has banned open-pit mining from 2010 to date. This is contained in the environment code.
Taqueban argued Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1992, should prevail over the Cimatu administrative order regarding open-pit mining.
She stated that the Local Government Code gives LGUs priority to protect their environment and ensure the welfare of their constituents.
Sagittarius Mines, Inc., (SMI) is developing the Tampakan Project through a financial or technological assistance agreement that was granted to the national government. In an earlier study, the company stated that open-pit mining was the only viable way to extract the deposits because they are near the surface. Open-pit mining is allowed under the Philippine Mining Act of 2015.
According to the study, the Tampakan project could yield an average of 375,000 tonnes of copper per year and 360,000 ounces in concentrate of gold over the mine’s lifetime.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan in South Cotabato held hearings recently after petitions from supporters to repeal the provincial ban on open pit mining.
Roy Antonio, SMI corporate links manager, stated that the firm will use responsible mining once it is cleared to go into commercial operations.
Antonio noted that the Tampakan Project will significantly contribute to the local and national economies through taxes, employment, and businesses that it will encourage.
Diocese of Marbel Bishop Cirilo Casicas announced that the local Catholic Church would continue to oppose the open pit mining project in the municipality Tampakan, South Cotabato based on concerns about the environment, food security, and human rights for indigenous peoples living in the mining tenement.
According to the prelate, Tampakan’s project does not have social acceptance.
Last August, the diocese launched a signature drive to support the provincial ban on open-pit mining.
Casicas claimed that they have collected at most 93,000 signatures thus far, 40,000 of which were from within the diocese. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)