After two years of delay, Toronto-listed St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd. said that it has resumed engagement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the approval of the company's environmental impact statement (EIS) for the $2-billion King-king copper-gold project in Mindanao.

Clyde Gillespie, St. Augustine country manager, told reporters that the company recently met with representatives from the DENR's Environmental Management Bureau for the resumption of approval process for the company's EIS, which is a major requirement to secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

"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," he added.

Projects that pose potential significant impact to the environment, such as mining, are required to secure an ECC from DENR-EMB.

Mining companies should acquire a positive review of the ECC application, certifying that based on the representations of the proponent, the proposed project or undertaking will not cause significant negative environmental impact.

The ECC also contains specific measures and conditions that the project proponent has to undertake before and during the operation of the project, and in some cases, during the project's abandonment phase to mitigate identified environmental impacts.

The ECC also certifies that the proponent has complied with all the requirements of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) System and has committed to implement its approved Environmental Management Plan.

Stalled process

In February 2012, St. Augustine submitted the initial draft of its EIS to the EMB, but the review process was stalled for two years, because of technical requirements set by regulators; and partly because of ongoing intra-corporate dispute in its Philippine partner Nationwide Development Corp. (Nadecor).

Nadecor is the holder of the mineral production-sharing agreement for the King-king project.

Gillespie said that the EMB has conducted initial review of the company's EIS, and has given comments on technical matters.

"Now we have an update version that is almost ready to go back to them," the mining executive added. Gillespie, however, said that ownership issues remained the biggest impasse for the granting of the ECC, saying that the certificate will determine the proponents' liability.

The ownership dispute within Nadecor's two boards headed by Conrado Calalang and Jose Ricafort is still pending before the Supreme Court.

Amid disputes and regulatory hurdles, Gillespie said that St. Augustine remains on track with its 2015 production target.

The King-king copper-gold project is expected to produce 3.1 billion pounds of copper and 5.43 million ounces of gold over its 22-year mine life.