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FACT CHECK | SMI’s Tampakan project not yet exporting copper to China

signal 2024 01 02 155924

Blogger Sass Sasot’s claim that Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), developer of the controversial Tampakan project, the largest undeveloped copper and gold minefield in Southeast Asia, has started exporting to China is false.

In a video circulating in various Facebook pages, Sasot stated that Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. has earned billions from the Tampakan project with China as the market.

This is a disinformation stunt.

SMI has yet to start extracting mineral deposits from its concession area in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed Teodoro as Defense Secretary on June 6, 2023.

President Fedinand Marcos Jr. (L) and Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. during the latter’s oath-taking ceremony on June 6, 2023. Photo from SMI website

Teodoro served as Chairman of the Board of SMI from 2015 up to his appointment and led the company in achieving critical milestones for the Tampakan project, putting it in a ready position to construct and operate as soon as possible, the company said in a statement dated June 8, 2023.

Sasot hit Teodoro for “doublespeak”: attacking Beijing  on the West Philippine Sea issue on one hand, and “earning billions from China through the shipment of copper products from the Tampakan project” on the other hand.

In a statement, Atty. Stella Joy Segocio, SMI Legal and Compliance Department manager, vehemently belied the claim of Sasot that the firm had been exporting to China.

“At the moment, SMI has not begun commercial operations yet,” she said on November 8.

Statements suggesting that SMI presently exports copper and enjoys enormous profits are false, misleading and irresponsible, Segocio said, apparently referring to Sasot’s post.

Sasot’s Facebook page For the Motherland – Sass Rogando Sasot, which is followed by 876.9k users, was taken down by Meta on Tuesday, January 2, but the particular video post is still circulating in various Facebook pages.

Last April, the company announced in a media luncheon in Metro Manila that “full-swing” mining operations will begin in 2026.

An open-pit mining ban, which was imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato, has been in effect since 2010. In 2022, the then set of Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) lifted the ban, but was vetoed by South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr.

The open-pit mining ban has been a hot social issue in South Cotabato province and a thorn in the neck of SMI for over a decade now.

Thousands of residents took to the streets to demand for its stay after the SP lifted it in May 2022.

On the other hand, supporters of the Tampakan project argued that Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 does not prohibit open-pit mining method in the country.

The Philippine government granted a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) to SMI in 1995. The 25-year FTAA was set to expire on March 21, 2020, but was extended by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau for 12 years – or until March 21, 2032 – in an order issued June 8, 2016 but made known only in January 2020.

The FTAA is subject to renewal for another 25 years.

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.”

Based on a company study, the Tampakan project has the potential to yield an average of 375,000 metric tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate annually throughout the “17-year life of the mine.”

The local Catholic Church has been crusading against the Tampakan project, especially its planned open-pit mining method, on concerns over the environment, human health and food security.

As with all our other reports, MindaNews welcomes leads or suggestions from the public to potential fact-check stories. 

MindaNews is a verified signatory to the Code of Principles of the International Fact-Checking Network. (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. 

What is MindaNews Fact Check?

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.

Why we fact-check?

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.

How do we rate claims?

FAKE -  if the claim is completely invented.

FALSE - if the claim contradicts, undermines or disputes truthful facts, actual events and official records (i.e. laws and scientific studies)

MISLEADING – if the claim is based on truth but maliciously twisted that gives a different impression to serve a group or individual’s vested interests.

ALTERED – pertains to images or videos that were manipulated to mislead the public.

MISSING CONTEXT – if the claim needs more clarification or contextualization to make it clearer.

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We post our fact-checked stories in mindanews.com, on Facebook and Twitter with links to the original piece. We have a dedicated fact check page, where all fact-checked stories can be found. 

How did MindaNews Fact Check start?

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. 

MindaNews does not accept funds from politicians or domestic or foreign states for its fact-checking initiative. For the other operations of MindaNews as a media organization in the past two years, we have received grants from the National Endowment for Democracy and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which we use for coverage, staff compensation, administrative expenses and to train other journalists.

MindaNews Fact Check is supported by a grant from Internews.

Do you accept leads from the public for your fact-checking initiative?

MindaNews encourages the public to provide us with leads not only for potential fact-check pieces but other news stories as well of interest to the general public.

Our fact checks include this paragraph encouraging readers to be part of the process: “As with all our other reports, MindaNews welcomes leads or suggestions from the public to potential fact check pieces.”

MindaNews Fact Check - Methodology

What standards do you follow when fact-checking?

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.

We fact-check a claim that is specifically claimed to be a fact and involved the public interest or the welfare of the people. We debunk false claims using official government records, journals or interviews with experts. 

We don’t fact-check opinions.

How do we fact-check?

Step 1: Team members monitor press conferences, speeches, statements, news, interviews, social media sites, etc. for statements worth fact-checking.

Step 2: When a claim is worth fact-checking, a team member looks for multiple sources to dispute the claim, including tracing the original source document.

Step 3:  Fact-checked claims are then submitted to the editor for copy editing and vetting. The link/s to debunk the claim are always included in the story.  

Step 4: A rating card is prepared to accompany the fact-checked piece, or infographics if needed, to immediately flag readers what the article is all about. 

Step 5: The senior editor takes another look before the article is posted on the website and social media accounts.

Correction Policy

Consistent with our vision and mission as a media institution, we rectify any error committed. If you spot a factual error, you may notify us thru editor@mindanews.com or our Facebook Messenger @Mindanews.

Correction Workflow

  • Errors pointed out are immediately brought to the attention of the editors and the fact-checking team. 

  • The fact-checker is immediately notified for verification. 

  • Once verified, the error is to be corrected within 24 hours and vetted before publication on the website. 

  • Readers will immediately know errors have been corrected through the Editor’s note posted above the article. 

  • The person who notified MindaNews about the error will be informed that the correction has been made.

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.

MindaNews values its journalistic independence. It started in May 2001 as a media cooperative and in January 2017 registered as a nonstock, nonprofit media organization.  We do not  accept funding from politicians, political parties or partisan groups.

Editorial staff

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


Mindanao Institute of Journalism


Board of Directors

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