[Press Release] Tampakan Forum hails denial of ECC for SMI copper-gold project

Tampakan Forum hails denial of ECC for SMI copper-gold project

Calls on DENR to bare the real negative impacts of Tampakan mine

 Tampakan Forum, a working group on the Tampakan mining issue composed of legal, social, economic, technical experts and organizations opposing mining in the country hails the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje’s decision to deny the issuance of an Environmental Clearance Certificate) ECC to mining proponent and applicant Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) for its Tampakan Copper-Gold project in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

DENR Secretary Paje’s decision through a memorandum dated January 3, 2012 rejected the recommendation of the Environmental Management Bureau’s (EMB) impact Assessment review committee for an issuance of ECC to SMI and its majority investor, Swiss-owned company Xstrata.

In a letter by Atty. Jose Miguel Cuna, OIC –Director of EMB to SMI President Mr. Peter Forrestal last January 9, 2012, the EMB Chief informed the latter about Sec. Paje’s decision of returning the application documents and to deny issuance of ECC, without prejudice to resubmission. SMI was also advised to refrain from taking any development activity in the applied area pending the issuance of the ECC and other permits from concerned government agencies.

An ECC is document that the DENR secretary or the Regional Executive Director issues after and through the recommendation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee (EIARC). It is supposed to be an assurance that the mining operation’s activities, installations and facilities do not have any significant impact destructible to the environment and that the proponent has complied with all the requirements set forth and claimed by its Environment Impact Statement.

SMI officially submitted its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) document to EMB last October 18, 2011.

Other than the South Cotabato provincial government ban on open pit mining method and the instruction Secretary Paje did not cite any further reason for not approving the recommendation of the EMB to issue the environmental clearance certificate to SMI that would have allowed the company to proceed with its plan for full swing operation byMarch 2012.

Fr. Gillarme Pelino, Social Action Director of the Diocese of Marbel, said that gleaning from the memorandum order which was mum about any of the flaws of the SMI’s ESIA as a basis for the denial, it was made to appear that it was the provision of the Environment Code on open pit ban alone that stood in the way of DENR, an executive branch, fromissuing an ECC to the mining company.”In the interest of the faithful and the people of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur people we call on the provincial government to uphold and stand firm on the open pit issue. The cancellation with finality of the Tampakan Mining Project is a must, the declaration, to ensure the continuing protection and rehabilitation of watershed must instead be pursued” Fr. Pelino added.

The Dioceses of Kidapawan, Marbel and Digos (KIDMADI) have been in the forefront of the opposition against the proposed mining project and initiated a petition signed by 10, 000 people from its various communities which was delivered to Malacanang last December 13, 2011.

Atty. Ipat Luna, an environmental lawyer and member of Tampakan Forum mused that “ while we commend the DENR for honoring local authority over resources, we also firmly believe there should have been other reasons for the denial, such as the risk to life and property and the prohibition against mining in old growth and mossy forests.”

“Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA ) and co-convenor of Philippine Misereor Partnership lauded the DENR decision and urged the PNoy administration “ to sustain policy change that considers and prioritizes the protection of our ecosystems over and above the profit of transnational mining companies. “

Tampakan Forum’s technical experts who critiqued the ESIA document of SMI already said during the public forum held in Marbel last September 23 , 2011 and attended by about 5, 000 people, that it is unbelievable that these mega-disaster causing risks can simply be solved or mitigated through designing dams that will hold the highly toxic materials in perpetuity to the highest international standards.

The mining company’s engineers themselves cited in the ESIA document that “the Tampakan mine has a high potential for loss of life and high environmental damage if a failure of Dams or Rock Storage facilities occurs .

Environmental experts already warned that probable billion tons of toxic waste rocks and tailings that will permanently pollute their water and annihilate agricultural production. In South Cotabato alone, there are 80,000 farmers whose main source of livelihood are largely dependent on farming 200,000 .

Tampakan Forum sent a pamphlet, a compilation of its experts’ critique to EMB last November 2011 to refute what the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA ) of SMI so that it can be taken into consideration by the review committee.

In an earlier press release issued by Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) also a member of the Tampakan Forum, ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera, reiterated that no ECC is valid for the Tampakan Copper Gold Mine Project of the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI); this call was made as Tampakan Forum anticipated the release of DENR’s action on the ECC application of SMI during a year-start meeting last January 10, 2012.

“The Tampakan Forum will still continue with its advocacy in support of the communities in South Cotabato to oppose the Tampakan Mining Project of SMI because we expect them to resort to existing legal remedies to continue with the project “said Atty. Mario Maderazo, project officer of Philippine Misereor Partnership Anti-Mining Campaign (PMP-AMC). Maderazo noted that the decision of the DENR is simply passing the buck to the provincial government.“ It sets aside the crucial environment issues like the permanent hazard to be imposed by the mine tailings dam on the communities which also increases the vulnerabilities of the mining-affected communities to potential man-made and natural disaster among others. The real basis why this mining project should be denied will be the focus of our continued advocacy because the basis for the denial by DENR is very precarious and it serves reason for us to be more vigilant,” he further added.

Tampakan Forum is a technical working group on the Tampakan mining issue convened by the Philippine MisereorPartnership Anti-Mining Inc. (PMPI) in collaboration with Social Action Marbel, AlyansaTigil Mina (ATM), Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID), Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Friends of Earth Philippines (LRC-KSK), Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links ( PIPLINKS) and the London Working Group on Mining in the Philippines and IUCN CESP-SEAPRISE

Contact information:
Atty. Mario Maderazo 0922-850-1873 email at :pmpsecretariat@yahoo.com
Fr. GillarmePelino 09192444267 email at : sacmarbel@yahoo.com

Press Release
January 14, 2011

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