Hundreds march vs open-pit mining in South Cotabato


Posted at May 19 2022 01:06 PM

Photo by Chat Ansagay
Photo by Chat Ansagay

KORONADAL CITY — Hundreds of individuals on Thursday joined a solidarity march against open-pit mining in South Cotabato.

Initiated by the Diocese of Marbel, the march along Alunan Avenue, Koronadal City was a call to South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. to veto a resolution by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to lift the ban on open-pit mining in the province.

On Monday, the council agreed to amend the province's environment law to allow open-cut mining, particularly in the town of Tampakan. 

"The barangay (village) wanted the project, the municipality wanted the project, only the provincial level of the council had the problem," said Wilfredo Moncano, director of industry regulator Mines and Geosciences Bureau. 

"With this lifting of the ban, there's no more problem."

The Tampakan project had been described by its developer Sagittarius Mines as "one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world."

The said project, which began in 1995, has an estimated value of $5.9 billion, but has been delayed by the said ban. It needs go signal from the provincial government so that it could secure a Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility.

Rene Pamplona of the Alliance to Stop Mining accused the South Cotabato government of ignoring warnings about the negative effects of the mine on the local community, particularly farmers who rely on irrigation for their crops.

"They railroaded the whole process. They made themselves technical experts," Pamplona said. 

"The amendment allows all forms of mining, including open-pit, in the province. And the future of the province was decided in less than 15 minutes," Father Jerome Millan of the Diocese of Marbel earlier said. 

Photo by Chat Ansagay
Photo by Chat Ansagay

Open-pit mining directly extracts minerals on the ground and differs from other methods that require tunneling or underground mining.

The Philippines is one of the world's biggest suppliers of nickel ore and is also rich in copper and gold, but the government estimates 95 percent of its mineral resources remain untapped.

Mining revenues contribute less than one percent of GDP to the economy, according to the latest available government data.

A nationwide ban on open-pit mines was lifted last year in a bid to revitalize the country's coronavirus-battered economy. 

It was imposed in 2017 when the then-environment minister blamed the sector for widespread ecological damage.

Manila has since reversed course, encouraging mining investments to shore up government revenues as lockdowns and quarantine restrictions ravaged the economy.

In April 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte -- who had previously threatened to shut down the sector completely -- lifted a 9-year ban on new mining deals set by his predecessor following public backlash over a series of devastating accidents.

— With reports from Chat Ansagay and Agence France-Presse