The Diocese of Marbel in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao assailed the decision of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the moratorium on new mining contracts.
“This is a short-sighted solution,” said Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel, adding that the president’s order favors businesses rather than the environment.
The diocese hosts the controversial US$5.9 billion Tampakan project, which Bishop Casicas said should not be allowed to proceed due to its potential adverse impact on the environment.
The bishop said the lifting of the moratorium should also not undermine the ban on open-pit mining imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato.
“We should assert our rights at the local level if this conflicts with the national government,” said the prelate, adding that people “should not be a slave or kowtow to the national government at all times.”
Sagittarius Mines, Inc., developer of the Tampakan project, plans to use open-pit mining in extracting the estimated 15 million tons of copper and 498 million grams of gold in the area.
The 2010 ban on open-pit mining in the province has become one of the stumbling blocks for the company to proceed to the commercial stage of mining.
On the occasion of the Earth Day observance on Thursday, April 22, Bishop Casicas challenged everyone to do their part “in restoring, not destroying our Mother Earth.”
“A healthy Earth is not an option, it is a necessity,” he said in remarks delivered during a media briefing.
Bishop Casicas reiterated the diocese’s “unwavering support” for the ban on open-pit mining.
“To be sure, there have been a plethora of studies about the ill impacts of open-pit mining on people’s health and the environment, which far outweigh whatever economic benefits open-pit mining claims to provide,” he said.
Sagittarius Mines, Inc. has not responded to requests for comments, but the company had asserted that the open-pit mining method does not contravene the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
The Tampakan project has the potential of yielding per annum an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate within the 17-year-life of the mine.