BAGUIO CITY - Formal talks between proponents of the $2-billion King King Copper-Gold Project and small-scale miners will commence next year to come up with an amicable settlement over the right to mine in a highly mineralized area in Pantukan, Compostela Valley.

Clyde Gillespie, Saint Augustine's country manager and director for environmental permitting, told reporters at the sidelines of the 60th Annual Mine Safety and Environment Conference here that a "win-win" situation is being eyed, wherein an agreement between Saint Agustine and small-scale miners will be reached.

The meeting, Gillespie said, is currently being worked out with the help of concerned officials of Pantukan and leaders of small-scale miners operating within the company's 1,656-hectare mining tenement.

Pantukan, about 90 kilometers away from Davao City, is being eyed to host the potentially biggest copper-gold project in the Philippines next to the $5.9-billion Tampakan Copper-Gold Project of Sagittarius Mines Inc., that is also being hampered by various challenges.

Gillespie said that ideally, an arrangement will be made wherein small-scale miners will be relocated in other areas to allow the company to operate an open-pit mine without delay.

Other small-scale miners will also be given employment opportunity. Those willing may enter into a deal wherein they will be the ones extracting ore to be processed by King King.

"By starting it next year, we have almost two years to discuss this. what drives the schedule more than anything is the relocation plan required by the MGB [Mines and Geosciences Bureau]. Before we finalize that plan, we want to have consultations with stakeholders so that we have a high level of confidence that the plan is acceptable to all the stakeholders. We want a win-win situation. The international standard is to give them something better than what they already have," he said.

Pantukan Mayor Roberto M. Yugo earlier said the operation of King King Copper-Gold Project is being eyed to boost the local economic development of the town.

The project, a joint venture of Nationwide Development Corp. (Nadecor) and Saint Augustine, is currently in the process of securing permits to advance from exploration to commercial operation.

Pantukan remains highly dependent on the internal revenue allotment it gets annually from the national government. It is able to generate only a small fraction, roughly P18 million, of its total P183 million available or required budget every year. The small-scale mining area is where Saint Augustine also plans to operate its open-pit mine.

Gillespie said that 1,700 of the roughly 6,000 work force needed by the company for King King's operation will come from local communities, particularly Pantukan.