Mining In Tampakan


Mineral resources is important in economic growth. Many countries are competing because of its benefits and advantages. Philippines is blessed with these resources. The Philippines is the fifth mineralized country in the world. With this ranking, we can conclude that we are a rich country. There are some thirty large mining operations in the country. They are all under the Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAS) entered into the government. The Philippines potential mining wealth is estimated to reach $840 billion (P47 trillion) or 10 times the country's annual gross domestic product, according to Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) president Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez (1). According to their data, the Philippines ranks third in total gold deposits, fourth in copper, fifth in nickel, and sixth in chromite. The country has 8.03 billion tons of copper, 4.91 billion tons of gold, 0.81 billion tons of nickel, 480.26 tons of iron, 39.66 million tons of chromite, and 433.88 million tons of aluminum. Places like Palawan, Surigao, and Tampakan in South Cotabato are abundant with these resources. The mineral resources found in Tampakan is the biggest source of untapped copper and gold resources in Southeast Asia. Is this beneficial to the people or another lie created by corporate capitalism?

areas where mining operates

Tampakan is a 4th class municipality in the South province of South Cotabato. Its  population according to the 2000 census is 33,011. Tampakan has 14 barangays, namely --- 1) Santa Cruz 2) Poblacion 3) San Isidro 4)Maltana 5)Kipalbig 6)Buto 7)Cambayong 8)Liberty 9)Lampitak 10)Pulo 11)Donlag 12)Pula Bato 13)Albagan 14)Tablu. Tampakan is blessed with agricultural and mineral resources such as corn, banana, pineapple, gold and copper, forest products and fiber, woodcrafts bamboo and rattan.

photo from Pobreng Alindahaw

photo from Durian Post

Tampakan, South Cotabato (photo from

With Tampakan's big deposit of mineral resources, no wonder many foreign investors are interested on it. The massive deposit  of copper and gold is pursued by Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), a local company that has global mining player Xstrata Copper, based in Brisbane Australia, as top investor and another Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as its partner (2). It is a $5.9 billion Tampakan Copper-Gold prospect. The Tampakan mine is estimated to contain 13.5 million tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold, at a grade of 0.6% copper and 0.2 grams per to of gold. SMI is looking to begin producing copper and gold at Tampakan by 2016 (3).

area of mining operation (photo from SMI site)

There are three types of mining --- Surface mining, Underground mining, and Glory Hole mining.  Open-pit or Open cut mining  is classified under Surface mining. Open-pit mining is method used primarily for working large mineral deposits. Most open-pit mining requires blasting and the use of heavy machinery, particularly power shovels. Its mining proceeds, a wide and deep pit with steplike side is created. The steps, called benches, serve as platforms for the operation of excavating machines and the loading of tracks or rail cars (4). According to Indophil Resources NL, this type of mining technique is suitable for extraction of big mineral deposit in Tampakan.

an example of open-pit mining (photo from lessrain blog)

Advantages of mining in Tampakan

Of course, if you are a pro mining type of person, you will defend it until the last breath of your life. These are some of their opinion regarding this matter.

  • Could help spur economic growth in the country by attracting new investments, creating jobs and reducing poverty.
  • Mining companies just had to adhere to responsible mining practices that placed great emphasis on environmental protection and preservation and social equity.
  • The copper-gold mine was also projected to generate $37 billion in export earnings and 7,000 full time jobs based on SMI data. During the construction period, the project could provide employment to as many as 10,500 people, the majority of them are members of the host communities.

SMI said
Project Description

If the Tampakan Project is approved, the mine would be the largest in the Philippines and among the largest copper mines in the world. The proposed mine site covers an area of approximately 10,000 hectares and is located between the towns of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur in southern Mindanao.

If approved, the mine is estimated to yield an average of 375,000 tonnes per annum of copper and 360,000 ounces per annum of gold in concentrate over a 17 year life of mine.

SMI takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. We understand that mine waste and water management are important issues for our stakeholders and they form an important part of our design, operation and rehabilitation plans for the Project.  (my emphasis)

To learn more about the Project, including our mine waste and water management plans, please refer to our Tampakan Project Fact Sheets.
article of Carmen N. Pedrosa

According to data submitted by government and Xstrata, the mother firm of SMI, Tampakan would be the biggest single investment in the country’s history.

If all goes well it will boost foreign direct investments. The Philippines has one of the lowest, if not the lowest number of direct foreign investment in Southeast Asia because of regulatory risks and the failure to uphold contracts and the law. The Philippines has become known as a very rich country but with such teeming poverty that its citizens are forced to look for jobs


We all know the hazardous effect of mining in the environment. And we all know that after they vacuum all the minerals in Tampakan, the Philippines is still a poor country if the State would not intervene. "All Minerals....and other natural resources are owned by the State"... according to Section II, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, is this for real??!! C'mon! We do not want Tampakan end up like in the Marindoque's case. We all know that these foreign corporations disguise as Filipino companies just to exploit the wealth of our nation. Ok... for the second time around, I will present to you the disadvantages and the effects of mining if the State will not intervene.

the effects of mining to the people of Marinduque (photo from alex filipe)

aerial view of Open-pit Mining in Marinduque (photo from fractions illustrated)

Surigao mining (photo from

Environmental damage and other lies

I will quote various authorities and organizations that are against mining. Since I am not a Geologist or Physicist, their research & findings are good facts to enlighten our minds.



Robert Goodland and Clive Wicks
The Working Group on Mining in the Philippines

Threat of a huge open-pit copper and gold mine
" Besides its agricultural resources, Tampakan also has one of the biggest undeveloped
copper deposits in Southeast Asia, estimated at 12.8 million tons of contained copper
(together with 15.2 million ounces of contained gold). The Tampakan Copper Project
is situated some 50 kilometers north of General Santos City in South Cotabato
province, home to six tribal communities, including the B’laan, Kalagan, Ubo,
Manobo, Tasaday and T’boli. The current mining sites are situated in the tribal
ancestral territory of the B’laans. It is claimed that project is the seventh largest
undeveloped copper mine in the world."

"The Tampakan Copper Project (previously known as “Columbio FTAA” after another the municipalities targeted) was the second Financial and Assistance Agreement (FTAA) (No. 002-95-XI) to be approved after the 1995 Mining Act became law.  It was awarded on 22n March 1995 to Western Mining Corporation Philippines (WMCP), a subsidiary of the Australian company, Western Mining Corporation (WMC). The FTAA was transferred on 10th January 2001 to Sagitarius Mines Inc, but the Project has been managed since March 2007 by  Xstrata Copper. Xstrata Copper, headquatered in Switzerland and listed on the
London Stock Exchange, is the the world's fourth largest producer of copper and its
major shareholder is Glencore.  Exploration permits were granted in May 1995, without any Free and Prior Informed  Consent being obtained. The original FTAA covered 99,387 hectares, overlapping the five provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Davao del Sur  and Maguindanao. The area of the current project, however, has been reduced to  27,945 hectares after relinquishment, and is situated on the boundary of three
provinces – South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao Del Sur. A gold deposit is
located only in Tampakan in South Cotabato province. The FTAA contract is for 50
years (an initial 25 years renewable for another 25 years) for which the mining
company had to invest $50 million."
"   In January 2001, the Australian WMC  sold all its shares in WMCP to Sagittarius  Mines, Inc., a Philippine-incorporated company whose equity was 60% owned by Filipino citizens or Filipino-owned  corporations, and 40% by another  Australian company, Indophil Resources, NL. Because of the sale and transfer of WMCP shares, the DENR Secretary
approved the transfer and registration of the subject of the FTAA from WMCP to Sagittarius on 10th January 2001.. But then on 30th March 2007, Xstrata Copper (owned by the huge Anglo-Swiss Xstrata) gained 62.5% of the Tampakan project, leaving Indophil with 37.5%.8
Shortly afterwards, Xstrata Copper assumed management control of the Tampakan Copper Project, via Sagittarius Mines Inc. Further ownership developments took place in September 2008 (after the authors’ visit to the area) when a wholly owned Australian subsidiary of Xstrata plc, Xstrata Queensland Limited, purchased a 17.83% stake in Indophil Resources NL from its largest shareholder, Lion Selection Limited. Xstrata’s purchase of Indophil shares
enhances Xstrata’s ability to sell all the copper production from Tampakan, which
could be up to 460,000 tonnes a year. The Tampakan FTAA has been the subject of a ground breaking and controversial legal case brought by the La Bugal-B’laan Indigenous Peoples on 10th January 1997 against WMCP and the Philippine Government in the Supreme Court. The legal points focused on the profit-sharing arrangements in the FTAA and MPSA agreements – or rather the lack of them. The FTAA signed between the Government and WMCP was, under the terms of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as the Mining Act of 1995 had not yet been enacted. A Supreme Court case was taken by the La
Bugaal-B’laan Indigneous People, on whose land the FTAA was given, challenging
the terms of the agreement between the Government and WMC. At the heart of the case filed by the La Bugaal-B’laan peoples was the contention that the 100% foreign ownership provision of the 1995 Mining Act (as contained in FTAA provisions), was unconstitutional as it allows foreign contractors to manage mining operations and to have 100% ownership of the land and minerals. This violates
  provisions in Article XII Constitution concerning “national economy and patrimony”,
which state that:

• all the country’s natural resources are owned by the state;
• exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources “shall be under
the full control and supervision of the State”; and
• the capital of a corporation or association with which the State enters a co-
production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreement to explore, develop
and utilize the resources must be at least 60% owned by Filipino citizens.

The Supreme Court found in favour of the La Bugal-B’laan Indigenous Peoples on
27th January 2004. It declared as “unconstitutional and void” significant provisions
of the 1995 Mining Act, along with Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) that
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had issued in August
1995. The Supreme Court en banc (means "full bench" or "in the bench") decision also declared the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement between the Government and WMCP to be unconstitutional and void. "

"But then at the end of that year, on 10th December 2004, allegedly under political
pressure, the Supreme Court reversed and set aside its January decision. It finally,
and irrevocably denied the legal points in the petition of the indigenous La Bugal-
B’laan against the FTAA on their land in Tampakan. It declared that the 1995 Mining
Act was constitutional after all, as were all the DENR’s implementing rules and
regulations relating to FTAAs and MPSAs, and the Tampakan FTAA. The Supreme
Court did, however, invalidate Sections 7.8 and 7.9 of this FTAA concerning the
profit-sharing, ruling them contrary to public policy and grossly disadvantageous to
the Government. The conditions of the contact are not entirely clear and
relationships seem to change frequently however it appears that the Philippine people
get little from the deal. Although it is the 1995 Mining Act (officially Republic Act No. 7942) that, in providing for an FTAA allowing for 100% foreign ownership, that is unconstitutional
and should be amended, the mining industry and its supporters are trying to open up
the 1987 Constitution for amendments. Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce are
specifically pushing for changes in Article 12 of the Constitution, in particular to the
per centum of foreign ownership allowed for mining and all utilities and businesses.
The Court decision should surely not be retrospective but abide by the original
contract with WMCP in this regard. But the Supreme Court should also see that, in
trying to avoid the regulation that the Mining Act was to impose, WMCP failed to
respect the intent of the 1987 Constitution. "

                                                      Uncertainty Raising Fears 
"As of early 2008, the copper and gold mine was still in its exploration, pre-feasibility stage; because of a lack of studies or publicly-available information, uncertainty abounds as
to what the companies might be proposing. For instance, neither Western Mining Corporation Philippines (WMCP) nor Sagittarius Mining Inc. had decided if the open pit, block-caving or tunneling methods would be used to mine the copper and gold. Sagittarius shareholder Indophil Resources NL had concluded that the most viable mining option from its perspective was open-pit mining but some local officials, environmental activists, and Catholic Church leaders are strongly opposed to this. The company has now ruled out submarine tailings disposal and the use of mercury to extract the gold from the ore, both of which were once proposed, but it is still considering using cyanide to do so.
It is assumed that the mining project would cover at least five villages in the
municipalities of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and
Kiblawan in Davao del Sur. If full-scale operations begin, at least five indigenous
communities may be impacted. An estimated 20,000 hectares of sustainable farmlands would be threatened by the environmental impacts of the mining, jeopardizing the food security of the region. The main areas at risk include South Cotabato’s capital Koronadal City (also known as Marbel, which has a population of 133,800 people); Tantang also in South Cotabato; Lutayan in Sultan Kudarat; and Buluan in Maguindanao The towns of
Lutayan and Buluan depend on Lake Buluan’s thriving fish-pen industry. A
groundwater study in 2003 by Fortunato Sj. Milanes, supervising geologist of
DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, showed that much of the water from the
Koronadal Valley drains into Lake Buluan. Officials in Buluan have passed a
resolution opposing the Sagittarius project, expressing “fears that it would destroy the
livelihood of thousands of residents dependent on Lake Buluan”.

"Exploration is still ongoing, but depending on the outcome of negotiations and permits,
the company might develop the area in 2010, looking to launch actual extraction
and production in 2013, with an annual output of 200,000 tons of copper and
200,000 ounces of gold. It is not known how the mine tailings would be disposed of, although it seems they would be deposited near the mine and thus
transportation trucks would not be needed. It is not known what tonnages are
anticipated, even to the nearest order of magnitude. To transport the ore to a port (the
site of which has still to be selected), the company is evaluating a conveyor belt or a
slurry pipeline, (which would involve releasing slurry water at some point with
potential negative impacts). If the mine goes ahead, all five major river systems would be affected by erosion, siltation, and possibly toxicity, depending on what transportation and separation process is finally adopted. The Padada River alone is a primary water source for over 33,000 hectares of irrigated lowland farms. Downstream, the river ecosystem could be
irreversibly degraded if the waters are polluted with silt and contaminated with toxic
tailings, which could in turn deplete the fish and marine resources along the coasts of
the Davao Gulf. Moreover, Lake Buluan is directly downstream from the main Tampakan concession."

full article

....“You know that the mine area is on top of stratovolcanoes and fault lines, some of which cross each other, and is located in an area of high seismic activity, and you will build large dams and a rock storage facility for 1.6 billion tons of toxic rock that are highly susceptible to breakage and disasters. In that event, how many people will die?” Wicks asked the SMI experts. This was a basic question he had asked in his assessment of other plans in different countries. SMI/Xstrata consultants, however, did not answer the query. ...."

Salient Findings of the EIM

Below are the EIM's major findings, based on the EIM (environmental investigative mission) team’s interviews, focus group discussions (FGD) and field visits. FGD’s were conducted with the sectors vulnerable to the impacts of mining operations in Columbio municipality: peasants, irrigators, fisherfolk, women, residents and indigenous peoples, particularly the B’laan tribe. Interviews were also conducted with some key local officials.
a. Faultlines in Tampakan pose risks to the stability of the mine
b.Threat to food security
c.False promise of employment and income opportunities
d.Militarization and Human Rights Violations
e.Displacement of IP communities

  read the full article


If you read all the existing laws about Philippine Mining plus The Philippine Constitution, you will only get a headache. Not because you are not a Law student, but because these are all useless. Useless in the sense that these Laws are not properly implemented. You get frustrated because it always happen, not just in Mining Industry. Well, I do not want to do the "blame the f***** government drama" again. I am tired of it. If you look at the brighter side of it, The Mining Industry has good to offer IF the State will do its REAL job. Unfortunately places like Palawan, Surigao, Romblon and Marindoque (or in general, the Philippines) are still experincing the unbearable poverty. They suffer the environmental damage brougth by mining to their place. How sad, but it is the truth. As the well tried and tested truism says: those who refuse to learn the lessons of History are doomed to repeat them.

(1) Business section, Philippine Daily Inquirer: Oct. 22, 2011
(4) New Standard Encyclopedia Vol. IX

UPDATE: I am thankful that I was able to talk to different people that link to this issue. I now see the both sides of the story. I cannot reedit this article because the authenticity of Yadu Karu's Blog would diminish.(06-25-12) 

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.


This is the blog of G.V. Alfasain (or popularly known as Yadu Karu) where he shares his thoughts about current events, sustainable development and pop culture. He also shares success stories of modern day heroes to inspire his readers. The author hopes that this blog may contribute change in the (Philippine) society.

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Yadu Karu's Blog: Mining In Tampakan
Mining In Tampakan
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