The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday assured the indigenous peoples of Mindanao (Lumad) that it will shut down mining operations violating environmental laws and regulations.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez urged the Lumad to submit proposed development plans for areas which have been affected by destructive mining activities.
During a dialogue at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Manila, Lumad representatives complained about the new open pit mines and tailings ponds constructed in their areas, which have severely affected their livelihoods.
They also appealed to Lopez to halt illegal logging and encroachment in watershed areas, and stop militarization in their communities, which they claimed were related to the plan of large-scale mining companies to set up new businesses.
The Lumad also called for the return of all the Lumad displaced from their ancestral lands by mining and illegal logging activities.
The group cited Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) in Tampakan, Sultan Kudarat; SR Metals Inc. in Tubay, Agusan del Sur; and Greenstone Mining and Taganito Mining, both in Surigao del Norte, whose operations have seriously affected IP communities because of siltation, open pit mining and stockpiles.
Tampakan is the largest copper-gold project in the Philippines at present, with development investments costing $5.9 billion.
SMI, the local contractor of Glencore Xstrata for the copper-gold project, moved closer to mine development after securing local government endorsements last year, one of the main requirements in getting approval for its declaration of mining project feasibility (DMPF).
Under the Mining Act of 1995, a mining company should have the endorsement of the majority of LGUs to secure government approval for its DMPF.
DMPF – which includes a proponent’s final rehabilitation plan for the venture and an environmental protection and enhancement program, among others – is the final requirement for a mining company to commence in the development of a project.
Tampakan, which involves one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits, straddles four provinces in Mindanao – South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur. It represents one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the Southeast Asia-Western Pacific region, estimated to have 15 million tons of contained copper and nearly 18 million ounces of gold.