4 large-scale mining firms in Caraga under MGB probe
BUTUAN CITY—Four large-scale mining firms based in the Caraga region, including two of the country’s leading exporters of nickel ore, are being investigated for alleged violations of environmental and health hazard laws, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said.
MGB Director Leo Jasareno on Friday said the investigation was based on several complaints from environmentalist groups and local officials where the companies operate.
“The issues raised by environmental groups and local government units concerned were siltation, pollution, health hazards and nonpayment of extraction, business fees and taxes,” Jasareno told the Inquirer.
He identified the firms as Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC), Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) and Claver Mining Corp., all based in Claver, Surigao del Norte, and San Roque Metals Inc. (SRMI) in Tubay, Agusan del Norte.
Ryan Culima, spokesman of SRMI, said the order was baseless and was only meant to harass them.
TMC and PGMC are among the country’s leading exporters of nickel ore to Japan, China and Australia.
The firms’ mine sites were attacked by communist rebels last year in what a rebel leader called “revolutionary” punishment for causing massive environmental havoc and displacing indigenous communities.
Jasareno said Friday’s aerial survey and actual ocular inspection of the mine sites showed “lapses” on the part of the firms’ compliance with environmental and health hazard laws.
“We found siltation along the coastal shores in Surigao del Norte and these are environmental lapses,” he said.
These environmental lapses, he said, which posed serious threats to the environment and health hazards to local communities were valid grounds for the closure of the firms.
“Still, notices to the companies will be sent and multipartite monitoring teams are going to the areas again for confirmation, and if they fail to reasonably explain, then it will be a valid ground to close down their operations,” he said.
Jasareno said there would be no sacred cows in its effort to cleanse Caraga mining industry and promote responsible and sustainable mining.
Dubbed the country’s new mining capital, Caraga reportedly holds half of Mindanao’s mineral deposits. It is touted to have $2 billion worth of gold deposits, and huge deposits of nickel and chromium ores.
At least 14 mining firms are operating in various parts of Caraga, while 15 others are doing exploration operations.
“We fear no one. The MGB is just upholding its mandate otherwise nobody will believe us anymore,” Jasareno said.
To show that the agency is determined to allow only those firms that adhere to environmental laws and social responsibilities to operate, more than 74 unscrupulous mining applicants for large and medium-scale mining in the region had already been shelved.
Environmental activist Gina Lopez, who joined Jasareno and several other journalists in Friday’s inspection of the 1,300 hectares of mining area of SRMI in Tubay town, lamented that the mining operations had turned the town into an eyesore.
Lopez also raised before the firms’ officials their supposed failure to pay the town’s displaced communities amid a whopping P4-billion revenue they were generating.
Tubay Mayor Sadika Garcia-Tomaneng said the municipal government had long issued a closure order to SRMI for alleged failure to pay millions of pesos in extraction fees and taxes and violations of environmental laws, but that the firm had remained defiant.
“As far as SRMI is concerned, we committed no environmental lapses. We performed our social responsibilities and paid our dues. We are very transparent that’s why we welcome this inspection,” Culima said.—Franklin A. Caliguid
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