SMI may obtain mining permit-A A +A
Saturday, February 9, 2013
DAVAO CITY -- Malacanang has ordered the environment agency to resolve the mining application of a multi-billion mining project in Mindanao, based only on existing national policies.
Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) is applying for a permit for its $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato, but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) denied the application due to a provincial ordinance banning open-pit mining.
Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr., in a February 4, 2013 decision, ordered the DENR "to resolve the above-mentioned application for an ECC (environmental compliance certificate) without any consideration of requirements other than those imposed under the EIS System itself."
The decision stemmed from the appeal made by SMI on July 27, 2012 regarding the earlier decision of DENR Secretary denying the issuance of the ECC to SMI on the grounds that there is an existing ordinance banning open-pit mining in South Cotabato where the mining operation of SMI is located.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje earlier said "the same (decision) involves a delicate interplay between the local autonomy and national policy". He said "the denial of the application was grounded on the issue of the open-pit mining as prohibited by the Provincial Government".
SMI argued that both the Environmental Management Bureau and the Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee have recommended the issuance of an ECC as it has complied with all the requirements.
But Paje denied the application based on the provision of a local ordinance that bans open-pit mining in South Cotabato.
The Office of the President, however, stated that "there is no question that SMI had fully complied with the requirements of the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) System" as attested by no less than the DENR secretary.
Ochoa said the existence of the ordinance banning open-pit mining in South Cotabato "is irrelevant to the issuance of the DENR of an ECC".
The Palace decision that seems favorable to the SMI is however not an assurance that the mining operation would already be in full throttle.
As stated by Ochoa in the same decision, "nothing in the definition of an ECC allows the proponent, upon the issuance of its ECC, to embark on performing what it has to do in furtherance of its purpose which, in this case, is mining. SMI, despite a grant of an ECC to it, will have yet to secure a permit from the local governments concerned to legally mine, and if successful, then proceed to implement, enforce and abide by the covenants of the ECC previously issued to it."
"The DENR may take refuge in the same Memorandum Circular No. 2007-06 which dictates that the issuance of an ECC or CNC for a project under the EIS System does not exempt the proponent from securing other government permits and clearances as required by other laws," Ochoa said.
SMI is developing the $5.9 billion Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in the tri-boundaries of South Cotabato, Sarangani and Davao del Sur involving one of the world's largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits.
The project however faced opposition from the church that eventually led to the passing of the South Cotabato Environment Code that bans open-pit mining operation in the province.
SMI in a statement said, "we look forward to the issuance of the environmental compliance certificate by the DENR."
Despite the setbacks though, SMI announced it would start commercial operations in 2018, two years behind its earlier target of 2016. (BOT of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 10, 2013.