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South Cotabato board reaffirms ban on open-pit mining method

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, July 1 (PNA) -- The South Cotabato provincial board has shut down calls for the amendment and lifting of the controversial ban on open-pit mining in the area as set in the province’s five-year-old Environment Code.

In a resolution passed during its regular session on Tuesday, the board reaffirmed the validity of Section 22 (B) of the Environment Code that prohibited the use of the open-pit mining method in mining activities in any part of the province.

The measure, which was pushed by the Committee on Environment, was approved by the board on unanimous sponsorship.

Board member Ellen Grace Subere-Albios, environment committee chairperson, said they upheld the mining method’s prohibition as a safety measure against potential mining-related disasters.

“The province does not prohibit mining but regulates it through methods that would not gravely endanger and adversely impact the environment,” she said.

The open-pit mining method, the resolution pointed out, could cause massive deforestation, loss of biodiversity, degradation of lands and the depletion of the water resources of surrounding communities.

It could also trigger the destruction of human settlements and eventually affect the cultural integrity of the area’s indigenous peoples, among others.

Foreign-backed mining firm Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) had signified to utilize the open-pit mining method for its planned large-scale USD5.9 billion copper and gold mining project in Tampakan town in South Cotabato.

As a result of the ban and its failure to obtain necessary local permits as well as endorsements, the company was forced to drastically downsize its operations two years ago.

Albios said the passage of the resolution is an offshoot of a review conducted by her committee regarding the open-pit mining ban.

She said the review was based on a request earlier submitted to the board by some local stakeholders.

“Based on our review, there’s no need for us to amend the Environment Code and the open-pit ban at this time,” she said.

Aside from the passage of the resolution, the board issued a position paper as a supplemental attachment to the measure.

The position paper mainly pointed out three major questions on the “impact of the open-pit mining method on the watersheds, forests and river systems; its effects on the water supply of downstream communities when the watershed are compromised; and, the risks it can cause it the project sits on the fault line and situated near active volcano.”

It said the board recognizes the importance of mining but it has a duty to regulate mining methods and make sure that they will not put the people and the area’s environment in “great danger.”

As for SMI, it advised the company to “explore other mining methods that are environmentally and socially sound.”

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said she fully supports the provincial board’s stand on the open-pit mining ban.

She assured that as long as the Environment Code remains enforced, the provincial government will not allow the use of the open-pit mining method by any mining company within the province.(PNA)

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