Sagittarius Mines confirmed in mid-January that it had received notification from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the national government of the Philippines denying its application for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the $5.9-billion, open-pit Tampakan mine project on Mindanao island, until issues with the use of open-pit mining methods have been resolved with the provincial government of South Cotabato.

The project is situated on the boundaries of four provinces—South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur—and is based on one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits. The government of South Cotabato banned open-pit mining within the province more than a year ago.

Sagittarius Mines is a joint venture of Xstrata Copper (62.5%) and Indophil Resources NL (37.5%). The joint venture holds a 40% controlling equity interest in the Tampakan project. Xstrata Copper is the operator. The 60% non-controlling equity shareholders are the Tampakan Mining Corp. and Southcot Mining Corp., known as the Tampakan Group of Companies.

Sagittarius President Peter Forrestal said the company would immediately file an appeal for a reconsideration of the government decision as permitted under the ECC application process. “We are concerned that this decision was not made on the merits of our mine project environmental impact statement, which fully complies with the requirements of the DENR’s own ECC process and is backed by a world-class environmental impact assessment study,” Forrestal said.

“We believe this decision sets a precedent that contradicts the publicly stated views of the Aquino administration, namely that national laws that permit open-pit mining methods should have precedence over conflicting provincial ordinances. This lack of consistency by the national government poses a very real threat to investment confidence in the Philippines and introduces significant uncertainty to national government approval processes. It also hampers the project’s potential to make what would be a significant contribution to the economic and social development of southern Mindanao and the Philippines.”

The Tampakan project is located approximately 40 km north of General Santos City in southern Mindanao. Based on current planning, the mine is projected to produce 375,000 mt/y of copper and 360,000 oz/y of gold in concentrate over an initial mine-life of 17 years, with significant potential for mine-life extension.

Estimated contained metal in total resources at Tampakan now stands at 15 million mt of copper and 17.9 million oz of gold.

Subject to all necessary community, government, and shareholder approvals, Sagittarius estimates that production from the project could begin by 2016.

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