Business News

SMI, the economy and environment–THE DURIAN BEAT column by Roger Balanza

TheDurianBeat

By ROGER M. BALANZA

The multinational mining firm Sagittarius Mining Inc. contributed P2.5 billion to Mindanao and the Philippine economies in 2010, through employment, annual wages, purchase of goods and services and the payment of taxes to the government, power and fuel charges, as well as community partnerships, donations and sponsorships.

If there are questions about how SMI can help local economy is best answered by the above paragraph.

But the billions of dollars from SMI should not be a reason to end discussions about concerns over its environmental impact in South Cotabato and the neighboring provinces.

We heard however that there maybe no reason to be afraid of SMI. The  environmental impact assessment for SMI’s Tampakan mine project is unprecedented in the Philippines.

The extent of the environmental impact assessment for the Tampakan mine is unprecedented in that its range of data and field works conducted for a single project in the country.

SMI ENGINEERS DOING EXPLORATION WORKS

Years of baseline data were used, in particular the water study, while the air monitoring study on the other hand used data collected since 2009. Data from other sources were also used including 19 years worth of data on the water demand from the Mal River collected by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

For the flora and fauna impact assessment, the data was derived from one of the most extensive field researches ever conducted in Mindanao, which involved extensive field visits from 2009 to 2010.

Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) Corporate Communications Manager John Arnaldo said the extensive studies conducted were used to assess the environmental impact of the proposed mine.

“These studies provided us with detail to develop mitigation plans for the proposed Mine that we believe will help establish a blueprint for the ethical, responsible, and modern mineral development in the Philippines” said Mr Arnaldo.

 “We want to be sure that before we even start construction, we will have extensive mitigation plans to manage the environmental impacts that have been identified by all these baseline studies.”

The EIS was prepared using technical studies on land use and classification, geology, geomorphology and geohazards, soils and agricultural suitability, terrestrial ecology, groundwater and surface water resources, aquatic ecology, air quality and greenhouse gases, noise, blasting and vibration, social impact, economic benefits, traffic, and visual amenity.

In an interview with South Cotabato media, Tampakan Vice Mayor Rely Leysa confirmed that they had received the Draft EIS for the proposed mine.Vice Mayor Leysa said there needs to be a balance between the economic benefits and protection of the environment, specifically when it comes to protecting local water sources from the impact of the mine.

“We trust the good intention of the project proponent, and we believe in their financial capability to address the environmental impact with their mitigating measures but we still need to assess the Draft EIS.

“We are already convinced that the economic benefit from the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project will be significant not only for us but for the entire country. The question now is in validating the mitigating measures and if the proposed measure can work,” said Vice Mayor Leysa.

AECOM, a US-based company, and Australian company Hansen Bailey prepared the third party assessment in the form of the Draft EIS for the Tampakan mine to meet Philippine government regulatory requirements.

The draft Mine EIS was then peer-reviewed by an external specialist for compliance with Philippine EIA requirements.

Stakeholder and public feedback on the draft EIS will then be consolidated and finalized by AECOM Philippines Inc. as a third party and submit to Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) and Environment Management Bureau (EMB) for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the Mine Project.

Following this, DENR will then decide on the ECC approval based on the expert, impartial advice provided by the Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee (EIARC).

Should the project be approved it has the potential to be the largest mine in the Philippines and one of the largest copper mine in the world.

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