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Officials Quash Plan, For Now, To Develop Philippines’ Biggest Copper Mine

In this excerpt from the original article, written by Bong S. Sarmiento  and published in Mongabay on 30 August 2020, Gong describes how ‘authorities’ have yet to approve plans for a copper mine in the Tampakan are of the Philippines. The mines would affect ancestoral land and the lives of the mountain people. 


By Bong S. Sarmiento/Mongabay

Officials Quash Plan, For Now, To Develop Philippines’ Biggest Copper Mine

  • The Philippine municipality of Tampakan has canceled an agreement with Sagittarius Mines, Inc. to develop a $5.9 billion copper and gold mine on the island of Mindanao.
  • Municipal councilors criticized the “lopsided” nature of the deal that they said had not been periodically reviewed as required and had sold the community short.
  • The Tampakan project has faced opposition since mineral reserves were discovered there in the ’90s, with pushback coming from various levels of government, Indigenous communities, the Catholic church, environmentalists, and even communist rebels.
  • An Indigenous group that has taken up arms against the project has warned of more bloodshed should the project go ahead on their ancestral lands.

SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines

Officials in the southern Philippines have canceled a $5.9 billion project to exploit Southeast Asia’s largest known undeveloped copper and gold reserves, but have left open the possibility of the venture being revived.

The municipal council of Tampakan, home to 40,000 people in the province of South Cotabato, alleges that Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) failed to honor its side of the agreement governing the development of the mine. That deal, the municipal principal agreement (MPA), is supposed to be reviewed and updated every four years, but this hasn’t been done since 2009. There were attempts to review the MPA, but the mayor and other municipal representatives were excluded from the negotiations, the council said.

“After scrutiny, there are provisions in the MPA that are considered vague, disadvantageous to inhabitants of Tampakan and unduly tie the hands of the local government unit [LGU] of Tampakan,” the council said in a resolution dated August 10 but made public on August 14. “As such, the LGU cannot sit and fold its arms not to intervene in any action initiated by its people if, indeed, their rights have been violated contrary to some provisions of the agreement.”

The MPA was already a done deal rather than being negotiated with the government, the resolution said.

Municipal legislators say they’re no longer interested in reviewing or updating the 2009 MPA with the company but are open to creating or formulating a new agreement, which means SMI could still pursue the mammoth Tampakan project under a new municipal agreement.

The resolution has been sent to relevant government agencies but SMI has yet to issue a statement as of the time this article was published. Mongabay sought comment from SMI officials but did not receive a response from the mining firm.

‘Lopsided,’ ‘no justice’

If approved, the Tampakan project would be the largest copper mine in the Philippines and among the largest in the world. The site is predicted to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate per year over a 17-year period. In 1995, the Philippine government granted the Tampakan project the contract to explore and develop the area’s mineral deposits through a financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA).

The MPA took effect in 1997, and since then SMI has paid Tampakan municipality at least 40 million pesos ($822,370 at current rates), or an average of 2.5 million pesos ($51,400) a year as part of its financial commitments, according to a 2013 state audit. But the terms of the deal are “lopsided,” the council noted in its recent decision.

Days before the council published its resolution, Tampakan Mayor Leonard Escobillo criticized the rental rate that SMI was set to pay for the ancestral lands of the Blaan, the ethnic tribal group whose mountain home will be affected by the project.


Featured image: Creative Commons

This article was originally published in Mongabay on the 30 AUGUST 2020, you can find the full and original article here:

Officials quash plan, for now, to develop Philippines’ biggest copper mine

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