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DENR to watch Tampakan closely after province lifts open-pit ban

PHILIPPINE STAR FILE PHOTO

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it will closely monitor the Tampakan open-pit copper-gold project in South Cotabato to ensure its compliance with rules protecting the environment.

“The environment will not be sacrificed. We will see to it that the soon-to-commence Tampakan copper-gold project will be strictly monitored in compliance with applicable mining and environmental laws, rules, and regulations,” DENR Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna said in a statement.

On Monday, the South Cotabato provincial government lifted its ban on open-pit mining, following the amendment of the province’s Environment Code.

The lifting of the ban clears the way for Tampakan, a project of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), to proceed with operations.

Mr. Sampulna said the department “will also require SMI to invest in equipment and manpower to ensure mitigation in case of any adverse impacts from the mining operation.”

Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said technology can address the potential environmental impact of open-pit mining.

“We also have the DENR policy that requires mining companies to (set aside) funds in all stages of the mining operation necessary for environmental protection and enhancement,” he said.

The bureau is set to convene the Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committee to oversee the use of the funds set aside for SMI’s environmental protection and enhancement program, progressive rehabilitation, and social development activities.

Mr. Moncano said SMI is compliant with all other major requirements to legally operate.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sampulna signed an administrative order setting guidelines for responsible practices to preserve terrestrial and marine biodiversity near mine sites.

“With this new order, we believe that mining companies will be more mindful of their practices in utilizing the country’s natural and mineral resources,” he said.

“We have repeatedly mentioned in the past that mineral extracting operations can be done responsibly, that the rich biodiversity within the mine site can be protected. Thus, this order is expected to support our responsible mining initiative,” he added.

The administrative order requires mining contractors and permit holders to include biodiversity measures in their respective environmental work programs, environmental protection and enhancement program, and final mine rehabilitation or decommissioning plan.

The order also requires mining companies to integrate biodiversity conservation and protection into their Social Development and Management Program (SDMP).

SDMPs are five-year plans required of mining contractors and permit holders, outlining their support for the development of host and neighboring communities. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

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