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Tampakan mine contractor expects Palace to rule on ECC appeal this month means BUSINESS

MANILA - The private contractor for the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project said it expects the government to decide on the company's appeal for an environmental compliance certificate within the month.

On the sidelines of the 2012 Mining Conference, Mark Williams, general manager of Sagittarius Mining Inc., told reporters that Malacanang would soon rule on the company's request for a reconsideration of an earlier decision turning down the grant of an ECC for the project.

He said Executive Order No. 79, which outlines President Benigno Aquino III's new mining policy, would bolster SMI's appeal for the environmental permit.

“We are particularly encouraged that the executive order has recognized the primacy of national laws over local ordinances,” Williams said.

“We are hopeful the directives and recently released implementing rules and regulations of the national mining policy executive order will address these concerns over primacy of national laws, which has prevented the progress of the Tampakan project,” he added.

The executive said the company will continue to engage with government and other stakeholders with regards the implementation of EO 79 as it relates to the Tampakan project.

“We look forward to the re-establishment of a consistent policy environment that would help create a sense of certainty for continued investment in the region,” he added.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier turned down SMI’s application for an ECC until the company addresses concerns over open pit mining, which the provincial government of South Cotabato banned.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the company has to identify the mining technology it will use for the project before securing an ECC.

Besides South Cotabato, the Tampakan project straddles three other provinces in Mindanao.

“SMI is still pursuing its preferred option, which is to work with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato to amend the open pit ban, and by going through the appeals process rather than questioning the constitutionality of the local ordinance in court,” Williams said.

SMI is the local contractor of global mining giant Xstrata, which is in talks for a merger with Glencore.

Williams said SMI is awaiting the outcome of negotiations between the two global mining players.

He said SMI can work smoothly with Glencore-led Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation.

“The Tampakan copper-gold project represents an unprecedented opportunity to enable a better future for our communities and the Philippines as a whole,” Williams said.

The project, one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits, is estimate to have 15 million tons of contained copper and nearly 18 million ounces of gold.

The total tax and royalty revenues to the Philippines over the 20-year life of the project is estimated at P346 billion, Williams said.