20 mining firms face suspension
MINING firms that supply a large part of the world demand for metals, such as nickel, are losing their luster.
After two months, here’s the score on the audit of 41 metallic mines by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR): 10 suspended, 20 recommended for suspension, and 11 allowed to correct infractions or face suspension.
The final results of the audit, the first standing order of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, were unveiled at a press conference at the DENR main office in Quezon City on Tuesday.
Eighteen of those facing suspension or already suspended are nickel mines accounting for 18 million tons of ore, or 55.5 percent of the country’s nickel production value based on 2015 data, said Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno.
Jasareno said the companies were being given due process before any suspension orders were rolled out. They must reply within seven days after receipt of the show-cause order and a copy of the audit report.
“Once we receive their explanation, the [DENR] will review. If the department finds there is strong reason that they be stopped, in the meantime, while they mitigate the violations, then the department may issue the suspension order,” said Jasareno, a former head of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Before the mining audit, Lopez had already suspended 10 mines.
Reasons for suspension
Jasareno said 20 more mines were added to the list of those with permits “recommended for suspension,” for reasons that included siltation of bodies of water and contaminating farmlands and fishponds, and local government and civil society opposition to the mining projects.
Jasareno said the mines were assessed on the basis of laws related to environmental impact assessment, clean air, clean water, hazardous waste and solid waste.
The audit teams included “third-party experts,” such as representatives of the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Church-based nonprofit Social Action Center and civil society.
Last week, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines raised a howl about the audit being “not totally impartial,” especially since the antimining group, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), was part of the audit teams.
Asked about this, Lopez said ATM was “not really antimining, but they are against irresponsible mining.”
Asked when the suspensions would be lifted, she said: “There’s no set time. They should get their act together. They should [rehabilitate] … . They clearly shouldn’t be allowed to operate until they have fixed what they’ve done.”
The 11 companies not recommended for suspension after the audit were Philex and Rio Tuba in Luzon; Atlas and Techiron in the Visayas; and Apex, Cagdianao, Taganito, Platinum Group Metals, Greenstone, Philsaga and Pacific Nickel in Mindanao.
Jasareno said that for these mines, he “wouldn’t use the word ‘passed … .’ There are still infractions.” The firms were instructed to “mitigate” the infractions.
Lopez said she was scheduled to talk to representatives of the 11 mines.
“They performed better than the others, but they should get their act together,” she said. “I want to push it further.”