South Cotabato local council upholds ban on open-pit mining
Tampakan, South Cotabato.
The Provincial Development Council (PDC) of South Cotabato has issued a resolution upholding the ban on open-pit mining in the province. Only the ban stands in the way of the Tampakan Gold-Copper Project (TGCP), one of the largest open-pit projects in Asia that residents fear will destroy the environment. The provincial government of South Cotabato is set to make a decision in the coming weeks whether to reverse the ban it had instituted in 2010.
In a resolution approved on 9 March 2022, the PDC said “the environmental and social impacts of the open-pit mining method outweigh economic gains.” In upholding the ban, the PDC cited the one health theory, “an approach that recognizes that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment.” The resolution was approved by Governor Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr., the chair of PDC.
“This resolution is a good sign that the provincial government itself will eventually uphold the open-pit ban enshrined in the landmark environmental code of South Cotabato. We hope that the province will take its cue from the Provincial Development Council, which has chosen to prioritize the environment and wellbeing of people,” said Maya Quirino, advocacy coordinator of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC).
TGCP, which covers an area the size of the city of Manila, straddles four provinces and threatens watershed systems that supply water to South Cotabato and contiguous areas.
A risk-mapping assessment by the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC) and World Resources Institute found that TGCP “belongs to an area of high ecological values (which comprise protected areas, primary forests, mangroves, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites), high groundwater vulnerability (very likely affecting groundwater quantity and quality), medium-high vulnerability to watershed stress, medium social vulnerability (based on functional literacy, welfare and NGO/people’s organization membership), and high seismic risk.”[i]
TGCP covers an area of around 10,000 hectares, portions of which include rainforest and agricultural land that will be cleared for the project. This, according to the same ESSC study, “will remove topsoil and destroy wildlife in an area with high unique biodiversity, with over 1,000 floral species and 280 recorded fauna species, of which 30% are endemic to the Philippines, and over 50 species are already under threat of extinction. The excavation itself will break into, disrupt, de-water and degrade the aquifer in the area.”