Green group lauds gov’t decision to impede Xstrata mining project

ENVIRONMENTAL groups lauded the announcement of DENR Sec. Ramon Paje to put on hold the Xstrata mining project in Mindanao. The Tampakan project ranks as the fifth largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit worldwide and is expected to be the largest single foreign investment in the Philippines valued at around $5.9 billion.

“We are pleased that the Aquino government decided to be prudent in not issuing an environmental permit to Swiss mining giant Xstrata. The mining project have already caused much bloodshed in South Cotabato and is poised to bring more environmental degradation and community displacement if it allowed to operate,” said Fr. Oliver Castor of Defend Patrimony Alliance, multi-sectoral network against destructive and large-scale mining projects.

Various studies have shown the danger involved in the planned mining project and its threat to the food security in the Mindanao Region. A geological survey of the area reveals that Mindanao Island is traversed by the Philippine Fault and the Cotabato Fault and the proposed Xstrata mining site is traversed by numerous fault lines. These fault lines are found near the planned location of the project’s tailings pond. If the tailings pond dam fails, there is a high risk that heavy metals and toxic elements will flow to the Mal River which supports the agricultural and domestic needs of the people in Malalag, Hagonoy and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

“It will be wiser for the government to totally scrap the Xstrata’s mining project as the country will gain more economically if we will focus on the development of the agriculture, fishery and tourism in South Cotabato and adjacent provinces. Conservation of the remaining forest and biodiversity in the area will guarantee and sustain the adequate food and clean water supply in the region,” Fr. Oliver added.

The government admitted through the pronouncement of President Aquino and DENR Sec. Paje that the existing mining law is inadequate to ensure environmental protection and equitable sharing of resources from large-scale mining projects. Sec. Paje added that the government would only approve new mining operations upon the passing of a new mining law.

“We urge President Aquino, if truly he is sincere of making the mining industry pro-Filipino, pro-environment and pro-development, to prioritize the repeal of Mining Act of 1995 and the legislation of the Philippine Mineral Resources Act of 2012. Once passed, the bill serves as a framework on how to manage and properly utilize our resources for the benefit of our people and economy,” explained Leon Dulce, spokesperson of Kalikasan Partylist, a green political party.

The said mining bill has been passed yesterday by the Technical Working Group headed by Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat and Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino and submitted to the Congressional Committee on Natural Resources for discussion and approval. Defend Patrimony said that the bill, which is a consolidation of different mining bills such as the People’s Mining Bill, aims to re-orient the mining industry towards catering local industrial needs and domestic consumption while ensuring equitable share from minerals resources, respect of human rights and environmental protection.

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