* Says hopeful open-pit mining ban will be lifted soon
* Says public consultations on Tampakan encouraging
* Eyes 500 MW coal-fired power plant for mine
(Adds official's comments, background)
By Erik dela Cruz
MANILA, Sept 15 Shareholders of the $5.9 billion
Tampakan copper-gold prospect in southern Philippines are
committed to the project despite a local ban that puts the mine
at risk, and are hopeful the ban will be lifted soon, an
official of Sagittarius Mines Inc said on Thursday.
But Sagittarius, the local affiliate of Xstrata Plc
and Indophil Resources NL , was concerned about the
"potential impact" of the open-pit mining ban on the project
that is considered as Southeast Asia's largest undeveloped
copper and gold prospect, said Mark Williams, the company's
"We're encouraged by the significant stakeholder support,"
Williams told reporters. "We are hopeful of a timely
Sagittarius hopes to start construction of the mine and
other infrastructure, including a 500-megawatt coal-fired power
plant, in the last quarter of 2012 once the local ban is lifted.
The Tampakan mine is estimated to contain 13.5 million
tonnes of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold, at a grade of
0.6 percent copper and 0.2 grams per tonne of gold. Sagittarius
is looking to begin producing copper and gold at Tampakan by
Sagittarius has started in June a series of public
consultations set to end this month, part of the process to
convince the provincial legislative council of South Cotabato to
lift the ban and obtain regulatory approval.
"It's a complicated process, but the feedback from
stakeholder consultations has been very positive," Williams
said, adding the feedback would be considered in the firm's
Environmental Impact Statement to be submitted to the national
government for its environmental compliance certificate (ECC).
Sagittarius needs the ECC before it could begin
construction. It has so far spent about $300 million for the
project, which it said was an example of the public-private
partnership which the Aquino government has been promoting.
"We need to get three permits, one for the mine, one for the
power plant, and one for the transmission corridor," Williams
HOPEFUL OVER BAN
On Wednesday, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said he was
hopeful the nearly one-year old ban would be lifted this year.
The ban illustrates the policy tug-of-war between the
national and local governments on mining, worrying prospective
investors who are waiting to get a share of the $1 trillion
mineral deposits of the Southeast Asian country.
Of the $5.9 billion cost to develop Tampakan, Sagittarius
will spend $900 million to put up the power plant.
Williams said any excess supply from the power plant would
be sold and made available to the Mindanao grid.
(Editing by Rosemarie Francisco and Ramthan Hussain)