Catholic-backed lobby says Philippines mine "will turn mountain upside down"

Three Philippines Catholic diocesan centres are backing opposition to an Australian funded open cut copper and gold mine in the country's south that has been described by community leaders as an "environmental catastrophe looming over heads".

The Philippines Sun-Star reports groups backed by the local Church, opposed to the project, have repeatedly warned that the proposed open cut mine will cause irreparable damage to the environment.

Eliezer Billanes, chairman of Soccsksargends Agenda, said open pit mining method will turn the mountains upside down.

Soccsksargends Agenda stands for South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City, Davao del Sur Alliance for Genuine Development.

Among the members of the Alliance are the Social Action Centres of the dioceses of Marbel, Kidapawan and Digos.

"An environmental catastrophe looms over our head and the future generation if such (open pit) method will be employed by the firm," Billanes said.

Billanes was responding to studies done on the Tampakan project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. suggested that open pit mining is the best method to extract copper and gold deposits in the area, company officials said.

Tony Robbins, managing director of Indophil Resources, said that based on the pre-feasibility study work program completed in September, open pit mining was the recommended scheme in extracting gold and copper deposits in the area.

According to the same study, the Tampakan project is a world class, two billion-tonne resource, containing 11.6 million tonnes of copper and 14.6 million ounces of gold at a 0.3 per cent copper cut-off grade.

"However, with a total resource estimate of almost two billion tonnes, it is not unreasonable to anticipate a considerably longer mine life. A block cave (underground) option has been investigated and has not been completely ruled out," clarified Robbins.

Indophil owns 95 percent of the Tampakan project and the rest by Filipino firm Alsons Corp.

Once full blast mining operations start possibly by 2009, Robbins said 3,500 people will be hired.

Presently, Sagittarius is gearing towards a definitive feasibility study stage, which would be funded by global mining giant Xstrata Queensland Limited (Xstrata Copper) at a tune of $30 million.

Xstrata Copper has an option to acquire 62.5 per cent of the Tampakan project, the Sun-Star says.

Meanwhile, Bishop Warlito Cajandig of the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan in Oriental Mindoro and Provincial Governor Arnan C. Panaligan have sent a joint letter to the National Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Angelo T. Reyes, to protest against another environmentally sensitive project to develop a nickel mine.

Open pit mining likely in Tampakan project (Philippines Sun-Star, 13/11/06)
Letter to Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Angelo T. Reyes (18/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
National Secretariat of Social Action (Caritas Philippines)
Diocese of Marbel
Diocese of Kidapawan
Diocese of Digos
South Central Mindanao environmental alliance condemns and opposes foreign controlled-mines and plantations
Indophil Tampakan project
Xstrata Copper

Philippines priest appeals for fair media coverage of mine spill (CathNews, 2/11/06)
Priest threatens to take Aussie mine to court (CathNews, 8/9/06)
Oxfam weighs in on debate over Australian mine in Philippines (CathNews, 10/8/06)
Fish kill confirmed near Australian mine in Philippines, priest denies sabotage (CathNews, 16/8/06)
Lafayette rejects community claims over spill (CathNews 31/7/06)
Filipino Bishop disappointed over Lafayette mine decision (CathNews 14/6/06)

14 Nov 2006