MANILA Feb 15 The operator of the $5.9
billion Tampakan project in the southern Philippines said on
Wednesday it had appealed a government decision not to grant
environmental clearance for now on what could be Southeast
Asia's biggest undeveloped copper-gold reserves.
Sagittarius Mines Inc, an affiliate of Xstrata Copper which
is a unit of global miner Xstrata Plc, also said it
remained hopeful the government would issue an Environmental
Compliance Certificate (ECC) this year to bring Tampakan into
production as scheduled by 2016.
Without the ECC, Sagittarius cannot begin construction at
the mine, from which an estimated 15 million tonnes of copper
and 17.9 million ounces of gold can be extracted over a period
of 17 years.
Sagittarius, which is partly owned by Australian miner
Indophil Resources NL, made a formal appeal to the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Jan. 27,
general manager Mark Williams told reporters.
Sagittarius is still looking to complete mine construction
within a period of three and a half years, he said, adding that
foreign investors looking at prospects in the local mining
sector were keeping an eye on the project.
"The Tampakan copper-gold project is on the international
investors' radar screen and it's a barometer, a bellwether, that
will send the signal to other international investors," Williams
said on the sidelines of a public forum on the project's
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje in
December denied Sagittarius' application for an ECC, saying it
was inappropriate to issue the permit while a local ban on
open-pit mining is being enforced by the host province of South
The South Cotabato government issued an ordinance in 2010
prohibiting open-pit mining because of its harmful effects on
the environment. Sagittarius has sought to get the ban lifted,
saying the local code was inconsistent with the national mining
law that allows open-pit mining.
Sagittarius officials declined comment about the impact of
the proposed merger of Xstrata and commodities giant Glencore
on the Tampakan project.
Mining could boost economic growth in the poor Southeast
Asian country, with its mineral deposits estimated at $1
trillion. But a strong anti-mining lobby led by the Catholic
Church has dimmed the industry's chances.
The government's plan to raise revenue by imposing new taxes
on mining companies and reviewing their contracts adds to a long
list of concerns for investors.