creative commons

Philippine Court Upholds Open-Pit Mining Ban In Mindanao

The article was written by Bong S. Sarmiento and published by Mongabay on 19 October 2020. Sarmiento describes the impact of a court decision to uphold a ban on a particularly destructive form of mining.

  • A court has upheld a ban on open-pit mining in the Philippine province of South Cotabato, home to the largest known untapped deposits of copper and gold in Southeast Asia.
  • The ruling is the latest setback for Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), which holds the mining permit, coming on the heels of the municipality where the deposits are located scrapping its development permit in August.
  • Supporters of SMI lodged a petition in January 2019 seeking an injunction against the mining ban that has been in place since 2010.
  • But the court ruled the ban is consistent with prevailing laws and regulations, including the Philippine Constitution, in a decision widely hailed by environmental, religious and Indigenous rights advocates.

SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines — A court in the Philippines has dealt another setback to the company looking to mine Southeast Asia’s largest untapped deposits of copper and gold, ruling to uphold a ban on the type of destructive mining being proposed.

In its Oct. 12 ruling, the court in South Cotabato province dismissed a petition for an injunction against the ban on open-pit mining that has been in effect in the province for the past 10 years. Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), the developer of the planned mine in the South Cotabato town of Tampakan, was not a petitioner in the case.

The ruling comes two months after councilors in Tampakan, where the deposits are located, terminated the town’s municipal principal agreement (MPA) with SMI. The agreement, governing the development of the proposed mine, laid out the rental rates for the land under the Indigenous Blaan communities, among the company’s other financial and social obligations.

In its Aug. 10 resolution, the municipal council announced it was no longer interested in reviewing or updating the 2009 MPA with the company, but was still open to creating or formulating a new agreement, which meant SMI could still pursue the $5.9 billion Tampakan project under a new municipal agreement.

But the recent court ruling makes that prospect less likely. It comes in response to a petition lodged in January 2019 by pro-mining groups seeking to rescind the ban on open-pit mining that’s been enshrined in South Cotabato’s environmental code since 2010. SMI had acknowledged before the ban was imposed that the most viable way to get at the copper and gold reserves in Tampakan would be through open-pit mining. Despite being awarded its permit in 1995, the company but has never begun operations.

The dismissed petition was filed by the original Tampakan concession holders from the 1980s, SouthCot Mining Corp. and Tampakan Mining Corp., along with the government-recognized “Indigenous cultural communities” of Bongmal, Danlag and Fulo Bato. The latter are not necessarily the formal leadership structures as recognized by the Indigenous communities. Another petitioner is Kiblawan CADT-26, the titled holder of a certificate of ancestral domain for part of the land that the project would occupy.

Featured image: Creative Commons

You can read the full article here.


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