Uphold the Ban! Protect Tampakan!
We strongly condemn the railroading of the amendment of the Environment Code of South Cotabato, specifically the lifting of the ban on Open-Pit Mining. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato did not consider the magnitude of the effects their actions have on the people and the environment, not only in South Cotabato. With this action alone, it will affect multiple watersheds of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Davao del Sur. Further, it will also threaten the ecological integrities of Allah Valley (102,000 hectares) in Sultan Kudarat, the watershed of the Padada River (120,000 hectares) in Davao del Sur, and the watershed of the Marbel River (122,000 hectares) in the Province of Cotabato.
Watersheds are geographical ecological units, and what happens in one part of the watershed will influence the whole watershed from forests, agricultural, urban, and coastal to estuarine ecosystems due to its geomorphological characteristics, connected rivers and tributaries at the surface, and including groundwater reserves.
Open-Pit or Strip Mining is a metallic mining method assessed as one of the most extensively difficult to mitigate and manage; its impacts do not focus on one contained area. It also requires mass deforestation and removing 20-30 meters of the laterite zone to access the metallic resources underneath. This large-scale industry demands enormous hectares of land for operational processes from stripping, extraction, and tailings treatment, to ship loading and refinery. Furthermore, the Tampakan Open-Pit Mining will demand and use groundwater resources and transport highly toxic wastewater through a 150-km pipe from the Municipality of Malalag draining to Davao Gulf. There is a treatment process presented, however, the risks of overland flow, flooding disasters, or possible collapse of tailings ponds will inevitably impair marine and aquatic biodiversity, fish stocks, and aquaculture in the coastal areas, similar to the incident in Mapagba River in Banaybanay last January 2022.
The Open-Pit Mining in Tampakan will hugely affect the long-term viability and sustainability of these watersheds that currently provide ecological services and natural resources to the people of South-Central Mindanao.
The Tampakan Open-Pit Mining will become the largest mining in Southeast Asia. According to the project information, it is estimated to extract 2.94 billion tons of metallic resources, 15 million tons of copper, and 17.6 million ounces of Gold. According to S&P Global Market, Open-Pit mining emits a vast amount of greenhouse gases than underground mining methods. On average, copper mining emits 2.3-2.5 tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) per ton of metal and nearly 1 ton of CO2 emitted per ounce of gold produced. Combining both Copper and Gold extractions, it is estimated that around 55 million tons of CO2 will be added to the country’s greenhouse gas contribution. Hence, this is ironic to our country’s commitment during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow that said it is moving ahead with urgency in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and committed to reducing its emissions by 75% in 2030.