Environmental concern blocks Philippine's largest open cast mine

January 16, 2012

The Philippine authorities have cited environmental grounds for denying the a Xstrata unit an Environment Clearance Certificate (ECC) for a USD5.9 billion copper-gold mining project.

Sagittarius Mines, part of Xstrata and operating the Tampakan project, has already told the news agencies that it would appeal the decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The critical obstruction is that Sagittarius plans to use open-pit mining to extract the minerals but officials of the South Cotabato province view the method as harmful to the environment and have banned it.

Sagittarius's viewpoint is that the DENR's decision flies in the face of an Aquino presidential edict that national laws, which permits open-pit mining, should have precedence over conflicting provincial ordinances.

Just to add further environmental concerns, the project has only just announced plans to build a 250MW coal-powered station for the mine's use.

The Tampakan mine, considered the biggest undeveloped copper-gold prospect in Southeast Asia, was estimated to contain 2.4 billion tonnes of mineral resource, comprising about 13.9 million tonnes of copper and 16.2 million ounces of gold. It was due to go into operation in 2016.