The Truth about Tampakan

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The truth is, mining is an important industry. But the problem is, this is not the only truth that matters. I have pasted here word for word, an excerpt of a letter sent to one of the country’s (and world’s!) foremost environmental lawyers by a group of friends who grew up in Koronadal City, only 35 kilometers from Xtrata’sTampakan Mining Project. They were appealing for help to keep SMI and Xtrata from implementing the project. Here is the excerpt:

“The Tampakan Project operated by Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), is one of the most dangerous mining projects in the world, according to Clive Montgomery Wicks, conservation and development consultant specializing in the impact of extractive industries.

In Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ’s Mindanews commentary entitled The Dancing Elephant in the Crystal Shop: SMI, he wrote “SMI’s environmental impact statement itself states that the mining site is in an area of high seismic activity, just 12 kilometers away from Mt. Matutom, still classified as active.

 SMI will clear 3,935 hectares of forest – including 1,350 hectares of protected rainforest. It threatens 812 flora species, 247 of which are Philippine endemics and 52 of which are mainland Mindanao endemics. 55 species are under the Threatened Species list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. For amphibians and reptiles alone, 28% are Philippine endemics and 20% are Greater Mindanao endemics.


Tampakan Project Visualization by Parsons Brinckerhoff

With its 500-hectare large pit with the depth of two stacked Empire State Buildings and its similarly large fresh-water catchment, it will adversely affect the fresh water supply of the Koronadal Valley, including its irrigation system, and threaten its shallow aquafers with toxicity.”

The South Cotabato provincial government has a ban on open pit mining since June 2010.  This has prevented DENR from issuing an Environmental Compliance Certificate in the past. But on February 4 2013, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa intervened and signed a Palace document that says SMI has fully complied with the requirement of the Environment Impact Statement system that forced the DENR to eventually grant an ECC.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued a warning to the Provincial Government of South Cotabato on January 30, 2013 that it may face administrative charges for the enactment of its resolution to ban open pit mining in the province. De Lima reiterated her November 2012 legal opinion “supporting the DILG’s plan to initiate administrative cases against local executives who would insist on implementing ordinances prohibiting open pit mining in their respective provinces and towns.”

 President Aquino issued Executive Order 79 Implementing Reforms in the Mining Sector in July 2012, that conveniently ensures that the exercise of the local government powers and functions is consistent with and conform to the regulations, decisions, and policies already promulgated and taken by the National Government.”


Reasons to write-off Tampakan. Downloaded from facebook.

When the ECC for Tampakan was approved a few weeks ago, I really felt so helpless. I thought, in the face of all the environmental destruction, exploitation, militarization and many other issues with mining in the Philippines, how could the government approve this? I was not only helpless, I was angry. I felt all the inner work that I have been trying to practice for the last few years were suddenly thrown out of the window.

After a while, as I talked to many others who who were feeling the same, and those whose families and communities will be affected because of this project, I realized that we cannot feel so helpless and angry as to let Xtrata win. While awaiting the response to the letter above, we have to let the truth out. We have to let people know the truth abouth the Tampakan Mining Project and why we say no to mining in our island ecosystems.

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