The provincial government of South Cotabato lifted a ban on open-pit mining, removing the final regulatory obstacle for a long-delayed copper and gold project in the country’s restive south, a senior official said Monday.
The Tampakan project on Mindanao island has been described by its developer Sagittarius Mines as “one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world.” It was previously estimated to cost $5.9 billion and was due to start operation in 2016.
But the project faced numerous problems, including the local government’s 2010 ban on open-cast mining and opposition from church, community and environmental groups. On Monday, the South Cotabato provincial government agreed to amend its environment law to allow open-cut mining, paving the way for the controversial project to start.
“The baranggay [village] wanted the project, the municipality wanted the project, only the provincial level of the council had the problem,” said Wilfredo Moncano, director of industry regulator Mines and Geosciences Bureau. “With this lifting of the ban, there’s no more problem.”