MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has finally issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate for the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mine Inc. in Mindanao.
The Office of the President (OP) this month remanded to the DENR the petition filed by SMI for the provision of an ECC, directing the department to rule on the application “without any consideration of requirements other than those imposed under EIS (Environmental Impact Study) System itself.”
The DENR has repeatedly rejected the company’s application for an ECC because of an existing ban in South Cotabato on the use of the open-pit mining method.
An ECC guarantees that a project will not harm the environment.
“There is already an ECC issued but the granting is subject to certain conditions,” said Environment Secretary Ramon Paje in an interview yesterday.
He said failure to comply with the conditions may result to cancellation of the ECC.
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The conditions set by the DENR are as follows: SMI should obtain Free and Prior Informed Consent from occupants of ancestral domain, land access permits from the Department of Agrarian Reform, and endorsement from the local government units.
SMI must also have “continuing liability” for any environmental damage that occurs within its tenement. “Whether the incident is caused by force majeure or not, they will be liable,” said Paje.
Paje said an environmental permit was issued to SMI upon the recommendation of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an agency attached to the DENR which reviewed the ECC application.
“The EMB has reviewed the requirements of the application for the project and has recommended the issuance of the ECC subject to the implementation of certain conditions presented in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to protect and mitigate possible adverse impacts of the project on the community health, welfare and the environment,” Paje said.
The ECC covers the project located in Tampakan, South Cotabato; Malungon, Sarangani; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.
Paje directed the EMB to strictly monitor SMI’s compliance with the conditions stipulated in the ECC to ensure that environmental considerations are incorporated in all aspects of the Tampakan project.
“SMI should make public the feasibility of the project, ensure that the area does not cover those where mining is prohibited, and ensure social acceptability through consultation with stakeholders,” Paje said.
He said SMI could proceed with the implementation of the project after submitting all necessary government permits and clearances.
SMI confirmed receipt of the ECC. It indicated it would keep its timetable for construction by 2015 and start of commercial operations by 2019.
“We have received the proposed mine Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) , DENR. We are in the process of reviewing the terms and conditions contained in the document,” said SMI spokesperson Manolo Labor.
Under the ECC, SMI is directed to strictly conform to laws governing mining, water and air protection.
The company must observe appropriate practices on vegetative restoration, engineering structure, land use, and soil and water management, as well as ensuring proper stockpiling and disposal of generated waste materials and erosion control.
The mining company was also instructed to protect headwaters, implement an efficient water management system to ensure sustainable use of water, and provide the community with alternative sources of potable water supply, if needed.
In compliance to the Mining Act, the DENR directed SMI to set up a Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) and submit an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) that would integrate a final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning plan for when the project is terminated or completed.