Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) said it was eagerly awaiting issuance of an Executive Order on new mining policies by President Benigno Aquino as the giant mining company continues to prepare the groundwork for its planned commercial operation in 2016.
We are still waiting for it, said Mark Williams, SMI general manager.
Williams was in Davao City late last month for the launch of the 2011 Tampakan Copper-Gold Project Sustainability Report as part of the company’s commitment to open and transparent business reporting.
President Aquino last year said the EO to be crafted by a Special Team led by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) would be out by January. But there has been no news so far on the EO that is being awaited by the mining industry.
The US$5.9 Million Tampakan Copper-Gold Project–the single biggest investment in the Philippines today— is situated on the boundaries of four provinces: South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur and is considered as one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits.
The Project is a 2.94 billion metric tonne deposit at a grade of 0.51% copper and 0.19 grams per tonne gold, using a cut-off grade of 0.2% copper. This represents 15 million tonnes of copper and 17.6 million ounces of gold.
The Tampakan Project is operated by SMI, whose 40% controlling equity is a joint venture among Xstrata Copper (62.5%) and Indophil Resources NL (37.5%). The 60% non-controlling equity shareholders of SMI are the Tampakan Mining Corporation and Southcot Mining Corporation (known as the Tampakan Group of Companies).
Malacañang earlier assured foreign and local businessmen and other stakeholders in the local mining industry that their concerns would be taken into consideration in President Aquino’s executive order outlining the government’s mining policy.
Foreign investors are interested in pursuing ventures, but policy bottlenecks are hampering them, and like SMI are eagerly awaiting the presidentail EO.
Aquino in March said various stakeholders are now going through the draft of the EO for their final inputs before he signs it.
On top of the pending presidential EO, SMI is also awaiting results of its appeal with the Department on Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which has temporarily denied approval of its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) on the basis of the ban on open-pit mining by the South Cotabato provincial government.
The DENR denial of its ECC and the South Cotabato open pit mining ban, including security risks to its personnel posed by communist rebels, however have not affected the schedule of SMI to start commercial operation in 2016, said John Arnaldo, corporate communications manager of SMI, which invested some P1.8 billion last year alone for its large-scale project in the mountains of Tampakan town in South Cotabato.
Arnaldo said that despite the delays in the permitting process, they are still hopeful to jumpstart the production of the Tampakan project on schedule.
“Admittedly, if there are delays in the approval process, it would have an effect [to the timeline]. But so far, we are still looking at 2016 for the production phase,” he said.
Peter Forrestal, SMI president, in his message embedded in the 2011 Tampakan Copper-Gold Project Sustainability Report said the company has continued with the development phase of the proposed mining project despite the challenges it faced.
“The sustainability report discloses our economic, safety, health, environmental and social performance for the year. Through this report we share our goals, achievements, successes and challenges, as well as case studies that illustrate best practice sustainable development (SD) programs, said Williams at the launch of the sustainability report held on May 28 at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao city.
Williams said that SMI was committed to applying leading sustainable
development standards in progressing the Tampakan Project, which were built on responsible partnerships with stakeholders.
“We believe the Tampakan Project can be a powerful vehicle to achieve the common goals we all have for southern Mindanao – namely a vibrant, multifaceted regional economy that provides people with the opportunity to access sustainable employment and agriculture, education and health services to enhance their own lives and those of their children. ROGER M. BALANZA