MANILA - The Canadian company that plans to mine for copper and gold in Mindanao has revived discussions with the Philippine government for the approval of its environmental permit.

During a press briefing, St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd country manager Clyde Gillespie said company representatives recently met with officials of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The renewed discussions come after two years of delay in the $2-billion King-king project, which expects to produce
3.1 billion pounds of copper and 5.43 million ounces of gold over its 22-year mine life.

"We've had initial meetings with the EMB to get the process restarted and we've been doing some drilling at the site to get some information for geo-hazard survey which is needed as part of the EIS. We are working closely with the EMB," Gillespie said.

"Now we have an updated version [of the EIS] that is almost ready to go back to them," he added.

The environmental impact statement is a requirement for securing the environmental clearance certificate (ECC), which in turn is necessary for projects that may have a significant impact on the environment.

St. Augustine first submitted its EIS to the DENR-EMB in February 2012, but the permit process stalled after an intra-corporate dispute bogged down local partner Nationwide Development Corp (Nadecor), which holds the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) for the project.

"While the current [Nadecor] board has repeatedly expressed confidence that the ongoing corporate dispute would be resolved soon, the ownership dispute remains a huge factor in getting through the permitting process," Gillespie said.

The dispute between shareholders Conrado Calalang and Jose Ricafort, each of whom heads different boards for the same company, is pending before the Supreme Court.

St. Augustine has aligned with the Calalang faction, whose leadership was upheld by the Court of Appeals in a February 18, 2013 decision.

"For now, the Court of Appeals decision still stands," said Gillespie.