Gov. Pingoy sees hope in lifting of ban on open-pit mining

CALMING EFFECT. Submission by Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) of its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to an “independent” review, according to South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy may convince members of the Provincial Board to conduct a review and lift ban on open-pit mining. The scientific approach could also have a calming effect on protests, led by the Catholic Church and progressive militant groups,  over potential risk risk to environment by the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project.

South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy has told the national daily BusinessWorld that submission by Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) of its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to an “independent” review, on top of the Department of Environment and Natural Rsources (DENR)  positive assessment of the study, could open the door to a review of the ban on open-pit mining in the province by the Rnvironmental Code approved in 2010.
“I think coming to an agreement with SMI is better than taking the matter to court,” Pingoy said.
SMI’s submission  of the the environmental study for its planned $5.9-billion copper-gold venture in Tampakan, South Cotabato to third-party assessment has raised hopes the provincial government could rethink its open-pit mining ban.
The problem here is trust. I believe that if the company can address this, we will be able to think over our position, Pingoy said.
“Although we are saying that it (EIS) is comprehensive, we do not have the expertise to say that what the opposition fears will not happen…We can start with the verification of the EIS by an independent group to be commissioned by the provincial government and then go from there.”
The Tampakan project is a $5.9-billion investment described as the largest undeveloped copper-gold reserve in Southeast Asia. It is funded by Australia’s Indophil Resources NL and Swiss-based Xstrata Plc, both of which have a 40% controlling stake in SMI.
John B. Arnaldo, SMI corporate communications manager, said via e-mail on Monday that the firm is open to the provincial government’s condition.
“We are willing to have our environmental impact statement reviewed by an independent panel of experts commissioned by the South Cotabato government,” Arnaldo said.
“We have produced a world-class EIS for the Tampakan mine project that satisfies national guidelines and regulations,” he stressed.
“During the 40-day review period by the EIARC and the EMB, we had complied fully with and addressed the very few requests for additional information or comments received from the EIARC,” he added, noting that both government bodies had recommended that an ECC be issued.

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