DIGOS CITY — Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc., operator of the Tampakan copper-gold project, is nailing a wedge between community groups and should not be allowed to proceed with the venture, an environmental investigative team from civil society claimed after a two-day mission.
In a press conference here on Saturday, members of the fact-finding team blamed the government for allowing the mining firm to operate.
“Essentially, those who embraced the mining project did so because of the failure of the government to provide basic social services such as education, health and road networks,” said Meggie Nolasco, national spokesman of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
“Government neglect made it easier for the entry of the mining firm,” she said. “Many of the tribesmen within the mining area are not really aware of the negative impact of the Tampakan project… There’s actually no real social acceptability of the project,” she added.
The environmental mission is composed of experts as well as foreign volunteers.
The team visited two sites of the mining project — Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Malalag in Davao del Sur — on Thursday and Friday.
Columbio is part of the mines development site while Malalag is being eyed by the company as host of its coal-fired plant to run the mining project once it goes into commercial operation in 2016.
Catherine C. Abon, a geologist from AGHAM, or Advocates of Science and Technology for Peace, said the operation of Sagittarius Mines, which intends to extract deposits in the Tampakan project using open-pit method, poses tremendous risks to water sources.
“It would not only pollute [rivers] but will eventually vanish sources of groundwater in the mountains,” she said, adding that livelihood in the farming sector will also suffer in case the company will be allowed to proceed.
John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius corporate communications manager, could not be contacted on Sunday for comment.
But in earlier statements, the company claimed it is welcomed by the communities in the mining site because of the projects’ attendant economic and social benefits.
Sagittarius has sponsored thousands of scholars in all school levels, conducted medical missions and employed tribesmen in their labor force.
Mr. Arnaldo earlier said that Sagittarius Mines is also conducting extensive studies to minimize the impact of the mining project to the environment.
Sagittarius Mines is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the minority partner.
Touted as the largest undeveloped copper deposit in Southeast Asia, the Tampakan project has the potential to yield 13.5 million tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold, according to the company’s latest study. (Romer S. Sarmiento / BICOLTODAY.com)