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MGB gives SMI, Cessmag OK to resume exploration activities in Mindanao

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/30 October)  —  The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has given its nod to Sagittarius Mines, Inc. and a mining firm in Misamis Oriental to resume exploration activities.

The two firms in Mindanao were part of 10  nationwide whose applications to resume exploration activities were approved recently by Leo Jasareno, MGB acting national director.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje had earlier allowed the MGB to resume the renewal of exploration permits (EP) following the “upbeat result” of the Mining Philippines 2011 conference held last month in Pasay City.

Aside from Sagittarius Mines EP-00001-08-XI, Cessmag Development, Inc. (EP-000006A-X) in Misamis Oriental is the other mining company in Mindanao whose exploration permit was renewed three weeks ago, MGB data showed.

The eight others operate either in Luzon or in the Visayas.

Total expenditure commitments by the 10 companies for exploration and environmental activities based on approved work programs amounted to P220.61 million and P206.34 million, respectively, it added.

In a statement, Jasareno said the evaluation process taken by the bureau on the renewal applications of the mining companies were “long and tedious.”

“The go-signal to renew the 10 exploration permits came after a long and tedious evaluation process vis-a-vis the companies’ compliance to their respective commitments embodied in their original exploration permits,” Jasareno stressed.

An exploration permit is a two-year permit issued by the MGB that allows the holder to search for minerals, renewable for the same period.

Jasareno described exploration activities as “having minimum impact to communities and the environment, and do not necessarily lead to the development of a mine.”

Paje clarified that the moratorium on the issuance of new mining tenements remains in force until such time that planned reforms in the mining sector are put in place.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources imposed the mining moratorium early this year as it moved to cleanse the mines bureau of ageing and non-moving mining applications.

The approvals made by the MGB are not new mining permits, but renewal of exploration permits issued earlier prior to the imposition of the mining moratorium, Paje clarified.

Sagittarius Mines, which is backed by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, is pursuing the Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato province.

Touted as the largest undeveloped known copper deposit in Southeast Asia, the Tampakan project faces an obstacle in the open pit mining ban approved by the provincial government last year.

It is potentially the largest single foreign direct investment in the Philippines with capital expenditures pegged at $5.9 billion should it go into commercial production.

The Tampakan project is strongly opposed by the local Catholic Church on concerns for the environment, human health and food security, and faces security threats from the communist New People’s Army rebels. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)

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