Mining and Water Use in South Cotabato and Davao del Sur (Phase 1)

AUTHORS: Leah H. Vidal, Augusto B. Gatmaytan, Virgilio G. Dela Rosa, Maricel P. Hilario-Patiño, Jessie B. Manuta, Rosalinda C. Tomas, Lourdes  R. Simpol




             The area where the mining company Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) proposes to conduct its Tampakan Copper-Gold Project is not a stranger to violence. This brief study hopes to help cast some light on the violence that came with the expansion of the SMI’s mining operations into Davao del Sur province by analyzing the most prominent vices and views heard in public debates over the issue. These voices came from three groups of actors, namely the local government officials from the Municipality of Kiblawan; civil society groups; and the B’laan involved in armed opposition to the SMI and its mining project. The paper concludes that the Environmental Impact Assessment system should be regarded as a tool to manage the changes that SMI’s mining project will inevitably bring to bear on the affected B’laan communities. As such, there is need to understand the local cultural context, including political leadership and representation, values and attitudes relating to land and resources, and even the so-called ‘banditry’ in the area. Information on these and related issues is need to better understand the current situation in the proposed mining area, and more importantly, to find a way forward. Furthermore, the violence, experienced in the proposed mining area has provided a window into the inadequacies of the SMI’s EIS. It is hoped that by learning to address these inadequacies, there will be ways of ensuring that other communities, which face mining projects, will not endure the turmoil and tragedies that have haunted Kimlawis.

             The scale of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project entails dealing with a wide number of local actors referred to as stakeholders. Although the project is widely projected to generate significant economic benefits that would stimulate the local and national economies, the number of stakeholders to be affected places a lot of tensions on the project’s future. This paper examines the engagement and relationships of local actors involved in the project in various forms by going beyond the legal definition of mining stakeholders and using the watershed and political ecology approaches. With the watershed as an ecological unit, major stakeholders have been identified, from upstream t downstream, involving those who will be directly or potentially affected as impacts are transported through the watershed. Using political ecology. the interests or motivations, positions and sources of power of the various stakeholders have also been identified. These approaches help analyze the relations of stakeholders as they move within a political process of negotiation (and contestation), involving decision-making about the ownership and exercise of rights (to land and water), the legal rights of the state vis-a-vis the customary (and moral) rights of local peoples, and other significant concerns. The ‘continuing voices’ that make up the contestations and negotiations covering the discourse on Tampakan mining are also discussed.

             The Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology Assessment for the Tampakan Mining Project shows that high numbers of endemic species exist in the mining site which are considered important both for the island of Mindanao as well as for the entire Philippines. This, despite pronouncements that the proposed site had already been disturbed by past logging activities and current human activities in the area. Apart from the high rate of endemicity in the area, there are also species, both flora and fauna, that are listed as either endangered or threatened under the IUCN Red List and the DENR DAO 2007-01. Thus, the critical nature of the site should be considered since its resident flora and fauna are at risk of extinction. 

             This study reviews the water quality section of the Tampakan mining project’s Environmental Impact Statement. The study raises questions on the conduct of water sampling in the EIS due to its failure to indicate some standard practices of water sampling. The water quality data on field are also found to be not acceptable realiability and credibility. Due to these deficiencies, the water quality data cannot be used for future monitoring only: sampling methodologies, analysis (both field and laboratory) and report writing. 

            The Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Mine Project has complied with the minimum requirements set by the regulatory bodies governing mining projects in the Philippines. The ERA Guidelines are detailed  in Annex 2-7e of the Revised Procedural Manual for DAO 2003-30. This paper argues, however, that large -scale and intrusive projects such as the Tampakan Copper-Gold Mine Project require a more comprehensive and inclusive risks assessment framework and approaches in the risk assessment and valuation. This paper proposes a framework and approach that incorporates the changing climate regimes and adopt an ecosystem landscape in the framing and valuing of the project’s risks on the environment, the people, and the economy. Moreover, the proposed risk assessment framework and approach address both the politics and the governance of risks. Who and what are at risk with the transformation of the ecosystem landscape in a changing climate regime in southern Mindanao with the Tampakan Copper-Gold Mine Project are the critical questions in the risk assessment. Risks management, risks transfer and sharing, and compensation are likewise included in the proposed framework of environmental risk assessment. 

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