Educational support wins over indigenous communities on Tampakan mining potential benefits

FOUR more beneficiaries of a mining company’s college scholarship program are now licensed teachers, an achievement that leaders of the Blaan and T’boli indigenous communities celebrate as they recognize the benefits of responsible mineral resource management.   
“I’m grateful to this mining company for having supported my college schooling,” Shaina S. Ali, one of the new licensed teachers who belongs to an ethnic Maguindanaon Muslim clan in the town of Columbio, said on Monday.  
She was a scholar of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), which was awarded the contract for the Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato province, recognized as one of the largest untapped minefields in Southeast Asia with an estimated deposit of 15 million tons of copper and 17.6 million tons of gold.   
Part of that rich minefield are Blaan and T’boli ancestral lands.  
“Our tribe had long manifested our full blessing for the SMI to explore copper and gold in our ancestral domains via a written free and full consent prepared with the help of the National Commission on Indigenous People,” said Junina M. Datao, a Blaan from Tampakan who also graduated from college as an SMI scholar.  
Columbio Vice Mayor Naila M. Mamalinta said on Monday that she and members of the municipal council that she leads recognize the company’s investments under its corporate social responsibility programs even before actual mining operations have commenced.   
“Once operational, it can do more. Certainly, it will expand its socio-economic, health and social welfare projects here in Columbio and in three other municipalities to be covered by its operation soon,” said Ms. Mamalinta, who is from a noble Maguindanaon Muslim clan.  
Sagittarius Mines President and Chief Executive Officer Roy O. Deveraturda  said in April that they are aiming to have full operations by 2026.   
The mining area covers the towns of Columbio, Kiblawan and Tampakan in South Cotabato as well as parts of Malungon in Sarangani province.  
Domingo N. Collado, Indigenous People’s Mandatory Representative to the municipal council of Tampakan, said Monday he and other Blaan tribal leaders keep updated records indicating that Sagittarius Mines had already spent around P2 billion for its community projects.  
“It has produced 737 college graduates in recent years. It has provided our barangay governments with ambulances and rescue vehicles and supported our women engaged in local trades and crafts,” Mr. Collado said.  
Ms. Mamalinta, who started as chairperson of Columbio’s copper-rich Barangay Datalblao before becoming vice mayor, said the company also supported their local government’s COVID-19 response programs, particularly for the implementation of alternative learning schemes.   
“It gave several schools in Columbio radio sets that school children used for distance learning then as part of the government’s COVID-19 prevention protocols,” Ms. Mamalinta said.  
Dante S. Peñera, a licensed civil engineer who was also a Sagittarius Mines scholar, said the company’s education support project is not just for indigenous people but has also benefitted Moros, Ilonggo, and Cebuano families who have settled in Blaan and T’boli tribal lands.
By John M. Unson
May 30, 2023


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