OpinYon Back-Page Stories: Tampakan Mine Sparks Verbal Tiff Between Lopez and Dominguez

By Rose de la Cruz

IT APPEARS that the wisdom, negotiation skills, patience and even the brinkmanship of President Rody Duterte will be tested to the hilt at the rate two of his high profile Cabinet members namely Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez are blasting each other in the media.

The bone of contention is the controversial Tampakan mine project in South Cotabato.

The mine sits on top of rice fields and agricultural lands encompassing Sultan Kudarat and Lanao del Sur (two of the poorest provinces in the country) and is considered the world’s largest undeveloped copper-and-gold rich resource.

The issue is whether it should be allowed or not to operate by the government.

On one side is Lopez, a known anti-mining advocate who vehemently refuses to allow its operations.

But Lopez is crossing swords with Dominguez who used to head the Alson’s group, the new permit holders of Tampakan mines, which is set to fully operate by 2018.

Dominguez is reportedly hell-bent on using his influence and ties with Duterte to coax him into allowing the mining operations of Tampakan.

After all, the family of Dominguez’s former principals is known to have substantially contributed to the campaign kitty of Duterte as well in projecting his larger than life image not just in Davao but throughout the country.

AS LARGE AS 700 FOOTBALL FIELDS

“I don’t like Tampakan at all. That open-pit mining as large as 700 football fields will be on top of rice fields, agricultural lands and will affect four provinces and six rivers. Why do we even consider it at all,” Lopez said.

“There will be no Tampakan mine operations under my term,” Lopez stressed.

Based on the Statement of Campaign Contributions and Expenditures submitted to the Comelec by Duterte, the late banana magnate Antonio Floriendo Sr. was his biggest donor with P75 million.

The rest at P30 million each were Dennis Uy of Davao-based Phoenix Petroleum; Samuel Uy of Davao farms and Davao Import Distributors Inc; Lorenzo Te of Honda Cars Davao and Tomas Alcantara of Alsons Group (P12 million); his brother, Nicasio (P16 million) and Felix Ang, president of CATS Motors Inc. (P10 million).

After being proclaimed the presumptive winner last May, Duterte initially offered to Dominguez the top post of corruption-riddled Department of Transportation and Communication before giving to him the finance portfolio.

Duterte also reportedly even considered the founder of Alsons Group, Tomas I. Alcantara who is a former DTI Secretary, to be one of his Cabinet members.

TAMPAKAN MINE RESOURCES

The mine holds 2.94 billion tons of resources (16.5mt copper and 17.9moz gold) graded at an average 0.6% copper, 0.2g/t gold and 70ppm molybdenum.

This includes 780Mt of measured resources graded at 0.71% copper, 0.28g/t gold and 81ppm molybdenum and 890Mt of indicated resources graded at 0.55% copper, 0.19g/t gold and 69ppm molybdenum.

Inferred resources have been estimated at 700Mt graded at 0.5% copper, 0.2g/t gold and 60ppm molybdenum.

The deposit lies at the southern end of the Central Mindanao Cordillera within the Cotabato Fault Zone. Two flat lying areas, the Cotabato basin and the Sarangani basin border the Tampakan district to the west and the east respectively.

MINING OPTIONS

Mining at Tampakan will be carried out using any of the four options under evaluation in a scoping study.

The first option includes block cave mining; the second is block caving with a small open pit. And the third option is block cave mine with a moderately sized open pit while the fourth option focuses on a large open pit.

The second and fourth options also include blending of ore feed that will be processed to produce one copper flotation concentrate.

In the third option, ore feed will be processed independently and two copper concentrates will be blended to produce a saleable product.

Mining will be carried out to achieve an annual throughput between 10Mtpa and 20Mtpa.

The life of mine is estimated to be 17 years.

OPEN PIT BAN

Lopez said she would oppose the Tampakan copper and gold mine project which has been on hold because of a local government ban on open-pit mining.

“Open-pit mining is horrible,” Lopez said.

She declared that Tampakan is on top of hundreds of hectares of agricultural land, the food basket of Mindanao and you want putting a 700-hectare open-pit mine is not worth all the money they are putting in it compared to the risk on the people and their livelihood.”

Open pit mining has also been stopped in other areas like Zambales because of “complaints on environmental degradation,” according to Mines & Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno.

The Supreme Court separately issued a stop order against mining companies in the province in June.

The Tampakan mine is set to operate in the next two years or by 2018 as part of the aggregate $14.75 billion pegged investments.

10,000 HECTARES

The project site covering 10,000 hectares in Tampakan, South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Malungon in Sarangani has been on hold since open pit mining was banned in mid-2010.

Lopez vowed to audit all permits granted based on what she called the rule of the common good. “I will never allow this as it is immoral. It is socially unjust to allow companies to put the lives of farmers and IPs at risk,” she said adding that audit result would be released to large and small scale companies next month.

At the rate the debate on Tampakan rages, people are therefore now asking, between Lopez and Dominguez who will be getting the support of President Duterte?

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