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FACT CHECK: Open-pit mining ban stays in South Cotabato

philstar tampakan misleading

A news story about the start of the controversial $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project in 2026, specifically the portion on the lifting of the open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato, is partly true but misleading.

Published by Philstar.com on April 5, 2023, the article, titled “Tampakan mine operation seen to start by 2026,” reports on the plan of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) to start mining operations three years from now. https://www.philstar.com/business/2023/04/05/2256897/tampakan-mine-operation-seen-start-2026?fbclid=IwAR0dVE2W0e0cgCjxKnTBfaL5sx1vVb8q66b9W1bcFoLljNDN0-qiuysRYwA

The Tampakan project is now ready to move onto the next stage of development to be able to start operating in two to three years, SMI president and CEO Roy Deveraturda told reporters (in Manila) in a roundtable discussion, the news outfit wrote.

The article stated that last year, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato approved the amendment of the Environment Code of South Cotabato, particularly on the lifting of the open-pit mining ban.

This move will allow SMI to develop the area and commercially extract minerals, it added.

The provincial code hurdled the operations of the Tampakan project even after the national government lifted the ban on open pit mining in December 2021, the article said.

The portion on the lifting of the open-pit mining ban by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan was partly true but is misleading due to a vital missing information.

While the Sangguniang Panlalawigan lifted the controversial ban on open-pit mining in the province, it was, however, vetoed by South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr., which Philstar.com did not include in its report.

With Tamayo’s veto, the open-pit mining method is still banned in the province.


The ban on open-pit mining has been a thorn in the throat of the Tampakan project, Southeast Asia’s largest untapped copper-gold minefield.

According to an SMI study, the most viable method to extract the minerals is through open-pit mining due to their shallow location from the surface. The firm vows to employ “responsible mining operations.”

The lifting of the open-pit mining ban, imposed since 2010, is a hot social issue in South Cotabato, with the local Catholic Church leading the efforts for the prohibition to stay on concerns over the environment, human health and food security.

Pro- and anti- mining groups had held various rallies – at one point almost breathing at each other’s neck in front of the provincial capitol in Koronadal City on June 1, 2022, to air their positions.

To date, the open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato remains, after Tamayo vetoed the lifting of such measure by the previous set of Sangguniang Panlalawigan officials (June 30, 2019 to June 30, 2022).

In an August 2022 ruling but was known only last March, the Court of Appeals (CA) had ruled that the open-pit ban in South Cotabato is valid, but its application is limited to small-scale mining operations.

“Further, it is clarified that the ban on open-pit mining does not apply to large scale mining operations of the said province, particularly the Tampakan Project,” the ruling by the CA’s 23rd Division based in Cagayan de Oro stated. https://mindanews.com/top-stories/2023/03/ca-ruling-waters-down-southcots-open-pit-mining-ban-activists-vow-to-sustain-campaign/

In a meeting with Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas, Tamayo vowed to appeal the CA ruling, specifically on allowing large-scale mining projects to conduct open-pit mining operations in the province.

As with all our other reports, MindaNews welcomes leads or suggestions from the public to potential fact-check stories. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

MindaNews is the news service arm of the Mindanao Institute of Journalism. It is composed of independent, professional journalists who believe and practice people empowerment through media.

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About MindaNews Fact Check

MindaNews Fact Check seeks to fight misinformation and disinformation circulating on the internet, news platforms and communities that we serve.
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MindaNews Fact Check tracks and debunks fake news, false claims and misleading statements of government officials, civil society leaders and netizens being spread on the internet, especially on social media sites. MindaNews values truth and accuracy in performing our journalistic work.
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Politicians, government officials and other public and private figures at times tend to bend facts to suit or advance their vested interests, or their principals, in effect misleading the public. The distorted facts spread easily with the popularity of the internet and the wide influence of social media.
As independent journalists, our primordial duty is to tell the truth and present facts to help the public discern issues and concerns impacting their lives.
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Since its establishment in 2001, MindaNews has been living up to its vision of being the “leading provider of accurate, timely and comprehensive news and information on Mindanao and its peoples, serving economically, politically and culturally empowered communities” and its mission to “professionally and responsibly cover Mindanao events, peoples and issues to inform, educate, inspire and influence communities.”

MindaNews was founded by reporters precisely to ensure that reports about Mindanao, an island grouping that has suffered misinformation and disinformation long before these words became fashionable, are accurate.
Our policy has always been to ensure that reports are thoroughly vetted before they are dispatched and uploaded on our website.
Our fact-checking initiative with a uniform format started in October 2021 as part of Internews’ pioneering Philippine Fact-Checker Incubator (PFCI) project. Internews is an international non-profit that supports independent media from 100 countries.
Prior to the PFCI project, MindaNews co-founded Tsek.ph, a collaboration among Philippine media institutions to fight disinformation and misinformation during the 2019. Tsek.ph did the same thing for the 2022 elections.
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MindaNews has sustained its operation through proceeds from subscriptions of its news service (news, special reports, opinion pieces, photos) and sales of books. It also receives grants from non-state actors. Editorial prerogative, however, is left entirely to MindaNews.
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For MindaNews’ fact-checking initiatives, it received support from Internews (September 2021 to October 2022) and the BUILD grant administered by the International Fact-Checking Network (August 1, 2023 to July 31, 2024).
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MindaNews Fact Check - Methodology

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As a news organization, we strictly adhere to accuracy, fairness, balance, independence, accountability and transparency not just in our fact-checking initiative but in all other aspects of our work at MindaNews.

We abide by the Philippine Press Institute’s Journalist’s Code of Ethics. Since we became part of Internews’ Philippine Fact-Checker Incubator project, we have been striving to adhere with the IFCN Code of Principles, in step with our organization’s commitment to non-partisanship, transparency and fairness.

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About MindaNews

MindaNews is the news service arm of the Mindanao Institute of Journalism (MinJourn). It is composed of independent, professional journalists who believe and practice people empowerment through media. MinJourn, which is duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission with registration number CN201700385, is managed by its Board of Directors.

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Editorial staff

Fact-checking Unit: Romer (Bong) Sarmiento, Yas D. Ocampo


Mindanao Institute of Journalism


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President & CEO: Jowel Canuday, D.Phil. (oxon.)
Vice President: Romer S. Sarmiento

Carolyn O. Arguillas, M.A.
Rhodora Gail T. Ilagan, Ph.D.
Amalia B. Cabusao (Doc Can.)
Robert D. Timonera
Ellen P. Alinea