The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the Tampakan project in an apparent support for the copper project that offers to contribute to one percent of Philippines' gross domestic product.
The only remaining major regulatory bottleneck to the construction of the $5.9-billion project, the ECC was issued by DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje subject to conditions that it should fully comply with DENR regulations.
The ECC paves the way to the construction of the first biggest open pit mine and is seen potentially open up investments in major mining projects in the Philippines - given these are not under no-go (banned) zones. Government through the Mining Industry Coordinating Council is expected to soon release this list of banned areas for mining.
"The EMB has reviewed the requirements of the application for the project and has recommended the issuance of the ECC subject to the implementation of certain conditions presented in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to protect and mitigate possible adverse impacts of the project on the community health, welfare and the environment," Paje said in a statement.
The ECC was issued to Tampakan operator Sagittarius Mines Inc. upon the recommendation of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
The ECC covers the entire project area spanning four provinces - Tampakan, South Cotabato; Malungon, Sarangani; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.
While it issued the ECC, DENR needs to make sure that SMI abides by the conditions in the ECC during the entire operation of Tampakan from the construction stage to production.
"SMI should make public the feasibility of the project, ensure that the area does not cover those where mining is prohibited, and ensure social acceptability through consultation with stakeholders," Paje said.
SMI should continue to submit all needed government permits and clearances to the EMB - those involving indigenous peoples, the agriculture and agrarian reform departments, and local government units for construction to be completely allowed.
Significant environmental compliance includes those for toxic and solid wastes, and laws on clean air, water, and mining.
"SMI must observe appropriate practices on vegetative restoration, engineering structure, land use, and soil and water management, as well as ensuring proper stockpiling and disposal of generated waste materials and erosion control," said the ECC.
It should protect headwaters, implement an efficient water management system to ensure sustainable use of water, and provide the community with alternative sources of potable water supply.
In compliance with the Philippine Mining Act, SMI to set up a Multi-partite Monitoring Team (MMT) and submit an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP).
The EPEP includes a final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning plan aimed at completely ensuring environmental protection and people's protection welfare after the mine's closure.
SMI should set up of contingent and trust funds that would address future concerns for mine rehabilitation, wastes and tailings, and final decommissioning, according to DENR.