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ATM Statement - Envi group condemns South Cotabato midnight mining deal

QUEZON CITY – Alyans Tigil Mina (ATM) condemns the recently uncovered DENR order extending the contract of an open-pit mining in South Cotabato, signed by former Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno in 2016.

On June 8, 2016, the MGB through former Director Jasareno, signed a 12-year extension of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of Sagittarius Mines, Incorporated (SMI) covering the Tampakan Gold Copper Project.

ATM said the illegal FTAA extension circumvented the autonomy of the local government of South Cotabato. The provincial government of South Cotabato previously passed a local ordinance banning open-pit mining on June 29, 2010, preventing the massive 23,571 hectares Tampakan copper-gold mining project from causing irreparable damage in the province.

SMI, together with the Tampakan Mining Group, is the project holder for the Tampakan copper-gold mining project. It is the largest open-pit gold project in Asia. Its operation will displace an estimated 4,000 the indigenous tribes of B'laans and about 10,000 lowland farmers from neighboring communities that rely on the nearby watershed for agricultural use.

SMI requested an extension of its contract based on unforeseeable events that prevented the company from fulfilling its contract or "force majeure." The order from Jasareno highlighted adverse action by the government as one of the reasons for allowing the 12-year extension of the mining project, a direct intervention against the local ordinance passed by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

The group said this was a clear violation of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, that enables local government units based on the support of their communities to decide on how to use and protect their land.

Affected communities and environmental organizations in the province continue to oppose the Tampakan copper-gold mining project, highlighting the disastrous impact on the environment, the watershed area spanning three significant rivers in Mindanao, the stunting of agricultural production, and the displacement of indigenous people and farmers living in the area.

ATM said it will continue to support the struggle of B'laans to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and protect the 10,000 hectares of clean sources of water, food, and livelihood. ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Gargnera said “We stand in solidarity with the local government of South Cotabato to define its path towards sustainable development, without destructive and irrational mining”. #

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