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Philippine mining laws, policies not clear and strong enough, says expert

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines—An international environmental expert said mining companies get away with environmentally destructive practices in the Philippines because the country’s laws and policies on mining are not clear or strong enough.

Clive Montgomery Wicks, vice chair of the commission on environmental, economic and social policy of the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), pointed to the conduct of environmental impact statement, or EIS, as one example of how mining companies can go around the law.

IUCN claims to be the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network, with more than 1,000 governmental  and non-governmental member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries, including the Philippines.

Speaking at a mining forum organized by non-governmental organizations here on Thursday, Wicks said that in the Philippines, an environmental compliance certificate, or ECC,  is issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the basis of an EIS prepared by a company.

But studies have shown that mining companies do not identify the possible ill effects or dangers posed by mining operations in their EIS.

“In Philippine mining, most of the mining companies are not identifying the dangers or impact in the required Environmental Impact Statement as well as remedies to cushion the impact of said dangers,” he said.

Wicks said this is not the case with respect to international standards, which require mining companies to identify dangers or impacts on the environment posed by their operations and to identify contingency or remedial measures the are to undertake, in what is called an environmental social impact assessment, or ESIA.

He said to correct the weakness in the law, the government should put in place a structure or one body that would specifically look into mining and strictly enforce responsible mining policies to avoid the bad impact of mining on the environment and people.

Elisea Gozun, presidential assistant for climate change, said at the same forum that the government will be announcing new mining policies in line with its economic development framework for sustainable development.

She said Malacañang has commissioned a study group, which included herself, to work on the new mining policies.

“The study result and the recommendation is not yet in full, and I could not yet divulge our recommendations, but rest assured it is in line with the economic development program of the country,” Gozun said.

She admitted though that it was difficult for the study group to define responsible mining.

“The big challenge is how to translate responsible mining into reality. All mining companies have claims  of being responsible miners, but issues and problems remain prevalent,” Gozun said.

She said the Philippines has better mining laws compared with other countries but the problem is in the implementation and enforcement aspect.

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Tags: Business , environment , Mining , Regulation

  • carlcid

    Big mining and oil companies always swear by the bible that they are responsible and meticulous in preventing environmental disasters. But that isn’t true. The world has seen disasters like Marinduque, Rapu-rapu, Exxon Valdez, BP on the Gulf of Mexico, and many other disasters that should never happened. You cannot take them on their word. Greed is driving mining, and government is complicit because it also wants to get its hands on some of the loot, er cash. Why not view mineral resources as one big “alkansya” for future Filipinos? Don’t break that piggy bank. Save it for generations of Filipinos down the road. The minerals will only increase in value, and our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be better-off for it. We already denuded our forests. Let’s not disembowel our earth!

  • Guest

    Mining in islands like Philippines is disastrous.

  • joeldcndcn


    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2DIAHM6ZOEQDJ7TNDUKR5PQ3ME paul

      Are you a government employee or working in a private mining company? It seems you don’t know what your talking about.I once work in a mining company in the Phils. in charge of safety and environmental dept. and we’re often visited by inspectors from the Bureau of Mines.On their 1st day at the mines we normally go together around the mill premises and some underground areas.The result,there are only minor comments and recommendations from these BOM personnels.Then I have to sign their certificate of inspection for 4 days.The 2nd day they are gone.Enforcement and implementation of mining laws will never be achieved.

  • surigao_miners

    Puro naman mga inutel taga DENR at MGB. Walang Action na ginawa sa mga mining companies na nag ooperate sa Surigao del Sur at Surigao del Norte area na puro mga kulang sa legal documents. yong iba nga walang ECC at yong iba nga ECC lang ang hinahawakan na document ayon nag ooperate na…paano kasi ang mga protector isa na si Pichay at Mike Defensor puro mga buwaya.

  • Clivewicks

    Dear Editor

    I would like to congratulate you on your article but I would like to correct
    one point. I am no longer the Vice Chair of the IUCN Commission on
    Environmental, Economic and Social Policy.  I am still a volunteer member
    of the Commission but I resigned last year after serving as a Vice Chair of the
    Commission for 7years.

    I am a 75 year old Conservation and Development Consultant specialising in the
    impact of Extractive Industries (Oil, Gas and Mining on the Environment and
    Human Rights). I help Governments and Civil Society develop best practises for
    the Extractive Industry.   I have been helping the Civil Society
    Organisations in the Philippines affected by mining for 6 years. I am Co author of
    Philippines Mining or Food? and many other publications. I was not paid by
    anyone to take part in the Conference in Daveo but my air fares and accommodation
    were covered by the University.

    In terms of the proposed Tampakan mine we pointed out in the Daveo conference
    that the Mining Companies own Waste Management Engineers stated on page 42 of
    their report that;

    The Tampakan mine has a high potential for loss of life and high environmental damage
    if the facilities fail. ? (Facilities are the two dams, the 300 meter high waste rock pile and the mine void.)

    We agree with them and go further and say that Tampakan will be one of the
    most dangerous mines in the World if it is allowed. It is situated in a
    critical watercatchment for 6 rivers and is directly linked to many aquifers
    on which thousands of farmers and towns and villages depend for water for
    irrigation and drinking. The mine site is situated over fault lines and within
    10 kms of Mount Matutum as active volcano. Leaving a hole 800 meters deep
    covering 500 hectares filled with toxic water and depositing 2.6 billion tonnes
    of toxic mine waste rock high in arsenic in a water catchment for ever is
    very dangerous. Using thousands of tons of explosive to build the pit is
    likely to induce additional seismic activity. We asked Xstrata/SMI about this but received no reply? Why?

    The 2.1 km long and  280 meter high Tailings dam is situated in the Mal
    river bed and is very likely to be damaged by seismic activity or storms. We
    asked SMI how many people will be killed in the Mal valley if it collapses.
    They have not replied. The Tampakan Tailings dam is about 20 times larger than
    the Stavao dam which collapsed in Italy killing 286 people. Many other tailings
    dams have failed in other countries and in the PNG so many have failed that
    they now just throw the mine waste in the rivers causing terrible damage.

    Why were these risks not made clearer in the SMI EIS and other documents. Why
    were the Department of Agriculture not consulted on this as they are
    responsible for agricultural development including all the irrigations schemes
    in the 4 Provinces likely to be affected by the Tampakan mine?

    Clive Wicks

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