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Philippines: Bishop challenges mining company

NewsNotes, November-December 2009

Sagittarius Mines, Inc (SMI) runs the Tampakan Project, one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the Southeast Asia-Western Pacific region. Operation of the mines has been opposed by the local Catholic church for several years, especially due to the significant damage to the environment caused by the mining process. The following article is reprinted from Catholic News Asia.

[During an October meeting] with Sagittarius Mines, Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez [of the Marbel diocese] warned that open pit mining is destructive to the environment ... .
“Trees will be cut, thus the lowlands will be flooded. We need to preserve the environment for the future generation,” Bishop Gutierrez warned in a two-hour meeting with Sagittarius company officials over its Tampakan project, Minda News reports.

The meeting was the first between the two parties since January 17, 2003 when SMI revived the project previously owned by Western Mining Corp.

“We’re waiting for this for so long. Hopefully, this will be the start of a series of dialogues (with the diocese). All along we wanted to establish communication with all our stakeholders,” [John B. Arnaldo, SMI’s corporate communications manager,] said.

[Elvie Grace A. Ganchero, manager of SMI’s corporate community and sustainability department,] conceded that the track record of the mining sector in the country is not good but that “we as a company are trying to demonstrate a practice that is different from the traditional practice.”

She said a company-commissioned perception survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations showed that the Tampakan project had a “high acceptability” among the people in the area.

But Gutierrez belied this, saying the people’s acceptability was largely due to monetary considerations offered by the company.

Ganchero said [SMI] was able to get the support of people in the mining area due to the awareness and education campaign they have been doing.

“Expect more opposition in the days ahead (from the diocese),” the bishop told the mining executives.

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