by Kirsten Illajas and Rhea Joyce Semillano
South of the Philippine archipelago is a small town called Tampakan. It is located in South Cotabato. And there were no news stories coming from this little town for a long time. But in the past few months, issues concerning this town have spread all over the country. Tampakan has one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits.
Last September 28, student representatives were asked to join a small group forum concerning the Tampakan project. The proponents of the said project involved Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), a Filipino company and the Philippine government’s contractor for the exploration, development and operation of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project; and XSTRATA, the 4th largest global copper producer which provides the technical and project managerial vestures.
The discussion was led by the Superintendent of SMI, Romeo L. Martin, Supervisor Jackie Lumain and Hydrologist Anaboy Sotto.
More than five billion dollars were invested for the Tampakan Mine Project which requires a significant supply of electricity, a port facility for export of copper and gold, an import of power station fuel supply, a concentrate filter plant at the port and an electricity transmission line and concentrate pipeline between mine site and port/power facility.
Mr. Martin discussed the project layout, project stakeholders and the projected economic benefits which offer opportunities for up to 10,000 workers during construction and 2,000 during operation. There will also be national government tax revenues to the Philippines estimated to be 250 billion over the life of the project and annual contribution of an additional 10.4% GDP for Region XI and Region XII over the life of the project.
SMI still needs an endorsement from the local government units and approval of the indigenous communities for the project to take place. Mr. Martin highlighted, “If developed, Tampakan Project would be the largest mine in the Philippines.”
One of the invited students from Ateneo was Samahan treasurer, Peter Jules Cañete. “It was good that SMI reached out to give their position,” Peter said in an interview. His stand from the very beginning was against large-scale miners. But he said that he tried to open his mind to what SMI had to say and set aside his bias. “But it was not enough. Few people were invited and hindi siya [the discussion] satisfying,” he added.
The SMI-Xstrata Tampakan project has created various opinions and reactions from the people. Among these people are progressive groups and environmentalists who believe that the project should be abolished. In an interview, Alyssa Marie Yrasuegui of Panalipdan Youth, an environmentalist group, said that they are not totally against these mining activities. “Kailangan ito [mining] sa pag-industrialize ng isang bansa” Alyssa said. “[But] the fact na large-scale mining siya at highly extractive, talagang nakakasira sa kalikasan damay rin pati mga tao.” She also highlighted that the people who can benefit this project are those elites who extract cheap raw materials from the country and in return dump expensive gadgets made from those materials. She also stated that the fight against mining caused issues of human rights violation. “Marami na ring buhay [environment defenders] ang nakalas sa pakikipaglaban laban sa pagmimina,” she added. Alyssa also mentioned, “Pareha atong sa family Capion [residents of Tampakan], nga duha ka bata nga 7 ug 11 years old ug asawa nga buntis amg gipatay kay envi defender man iyang bana. Lastly, Alyssa said that students should also be socially aware. “Struggle for the environment is a struggle for the people,” she stated.
It is true that the mining industry could help the Philippines prosper. But along this prosperity are also consequences. Whether we are one of those who want a GDP increase or those who want to preserve the environment, let us not be myopic. Let us look at things with a broader perspective. Let us not only consider ourselves. Think of the future and of the generations to come. Think, if we can ever buy and replace the only home we have, the Earth.
Photo Source: http://www.alyansatigilmina.net/content/photo-blog/september2011/september-23-2011-public-forum-tampakan-gold-copper-mining-project