Rappler reports expanded mining operations in Mindanao

CHEERS TO Rappler’s two-part report on the large-scale operations of mining companies across Mindanao. The expansion of these activities is based on those companies’ belief that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is mining-friendly. 

Big miners have reportedly sought local officials’ approval for the projects, but the article itself has not ascertained their responses.

Posted on November 16, Rappler’s part 1 report tracked the activities of Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI) and San Miguel Corporation (SMC) – two giant mining companies that have expanded into the Soccsksargen region, particularly in South Cotabato. 

Rappler reporters Herbie Gomez, Ferdinand Zuasola, and Rommel Rebollido said that SMI plans to pursue its Tampakan copper-gold project. The SMI project was stalled when the South Cotabato provincial board banned open-pit mining in 2010 and when then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez canceled its environment clearance certificate. 

The report traced the shift of policy when the open-pit mining ban was lifted under then President Rodrigo Duterte. It further reported that on May 16, the South Cotabato provincial board also lifted the ban on open-pit mining in the area, which sparked community protests led by local Catholic leaders. This prompted South Cotabato governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. to veto the ordinance lifting the ban on June 3.

The report confirmed that San Miguel Energy Corporation – SMC’s coal mining firm – started clearing operations last August in the Daguma mountain range that straddles Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato. While the report included the reaction of environmentalists and the province’s Catholic diocese deploring the destruction of trees in the vast area, it did not record any from the local officials of South Cotabato. 

Part 2 of Rappler’s report revealed that SMC is reviving Nonoc Nickel Mines in Surigao City and in the Dumagat province of eastern Mindanao. On July 28, Surigao City Mayor Pablo Yves Dumlao II urged the city council to officially endorse the reopening of Nonoc Nickel Mines – a multimillion-dollar project that was stopped due to the company’s failure to settle debt and tax issues without reference to the final decision.

In the Davao region, Rappler said Asiaticus Management Corporation is pursuing a $2-billion mining project and planning to build a nickel processing plant, particularly in Davao Oriental.

The report traced the reach of the mining giants to the West based on reports received by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel that their operations are ongoing in the Zamboanga Peninsula and even in Tawi-Tawi in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 

This report flagged the expansion of mining despite widespread protests over its environmental costs. Media coverage should include a deeper understanding of the policy conflicts involved and empower the voices that question the damage to Mindanao’s remaining wilderness and the unchecked mining activities that have been banned such as open-pit operations. 

Rappler’s report primes the ground for more coverage. Media expertise must grow in order to help the public assess the opportunities and gains involved in the pursuit of controversial, supposedly beneficial projects.