THE Tampakan Copper Gold Project operated by the Sagittarius Mines Inc. in the triboundaries of South Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Sarangani is said to be one of the most dangerous mining projects in the world, according to an expert who made a study on the mining project few years ago.
Clive Montgomery Wicks, conservation and development consultant specializing in the impact of extractive industries, said the Tampakan mining project is estimated to produce 2.7 billion tons of mine wastes.
He said the plan was to place the mine wastes on top of the mountain above the open pit mine site. If this is materialized, he said, the mine wastes will be stacked up to 300 meters high and will cover about 500 hectares.
Wicks said considering that the mining area is located just ten kilometers away from Mount Matutum, which is an active volcano, seismic activities within the mining area is high and thus the possibility of all the mine wastes going down to the populated area and down into the water sources is extremely possible.
He said the drilling of about 800 meters around the area of Mt. Matutum would also result to "induced seismic activity."
He said despite the assurance by the mining corporation that their mine tailings dam will be strong enough, constant seismic activity would eventually destroy the dam and its toxic wastes would cover a very large farming area down the mountain.
In a statement, SMI corporate communications and media relations manager John Arnaldo dismissed Wicks's doomsday scenario. He said they have complied with all the necessary measures to prevent such a disaster from happening.
"We have completed our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies in accordance with relevant local and international standards. These robust, evidence-based studies involved both Filipino and international experts and have taken a number of years to complete as part of our integrated mine planning process. The EIA identified the proposed measures to mitigate and manage the potential environmental and social risks," Arnaldo said.
"The EIS and ESIA document the project risks and SMI’s commitments to mitigate these risks. We are confident all risks can be mitigated," he added.
As to the project's proximity to the active volcano, Arnaldo said a site specific hazard assessment was completed as part of the EIS, which included consideration of volcanic hazards.
Wicks, meanwhile, urged the Philippine government to involve not just one agency in the issuance of mining permits. He said the agriculture and fisheries agencies must also have their say on allowing mining companies to operate considering that mining has a direct impact on the destruction of crops and aquamarine resources.
"We don’t think the government has the ability to control what the mining corporations are doing. And we don’t think that even if you allowed mining that you are going to make money out of it. What you are making is enormous liability. The impact on food and water is going to be huge," Wicks said.
"You have to have an interdepartmental, no one person must decide whether to have a mine or not. There must be involvement of other agencies like the agriculture and fisheries that will also be affected by the mining pollution," he added.