COMP invokes FOI, requests for full disclosure of DENR mining audit
Large-scale miners have formally invoked freedom of information, lodging with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) a request for the department to make a full disclosure of the audit of mines that led to an order for the closure of 23 projects and the suspension of five others.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) did so on Feb. 8, more than a week after Environment Secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez said the DENR sent out notices to concerned mining companies.
In their two-page filing, the COMP invoked Executive Order No. 2 issued in 2016 as well as DENR Administrative Order No. 2016-19, both providing guidelines on the constitutional right to full disclosure and transparency of public transactions.
The business chamber asked the DENR to provide the group with copies of the mine audit reports pertaining to 29 mining companies, including one whose mine’s status was “deferred.” The latter pertains to Filminera Resources Corp., which was not among the list of companies whose mines were ordered to close, suspend operations or continue their activities.
Also, the COMP asked to be provided with copies of the recommendations of the DENR technical review committee for the 28 mines for closure or suspension. This committee was tasked to go over the results of the mining audit.
“We are not just requesting for the mere summation of the audit results,” COMP chair Artemio Disini said in a statement. “We need the actual test results which were used as bases for determining whether or not these mining firms have violated environmental regulations.”
Disini said the mining companies want to see that water and air quality tests, siltation test, proper solid waste management and other pertinent and standardized tests—as prescribed by law—that were done.
“The DENR needs to show us that these tests were conducted in each mining company and the specific findings that merited their suspension or closure,” Disini said.
“The chamber is asking for these in the spirit of fairness and transparency,” he said. “We continue to subscribe by President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders that we could mine for as long as we follow the law and uphold to the highest regard the tenets of responsible mining.”
On Feb. 2, Lopez announced the order to shut down nickel mines operated by Benguetcorp Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc.—all in Zambales. She said these were operating in a watershed, which should not be allowed.
Also ordered closed were three mines in Homonhon Island in Eastern Samar, namely those of Mt. Sinai Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp., and Techiron Mineral Resources Inc.
The Environment chief said these mines caused the “siltation of coastal waters (and) destruction of the watershed” in Homonhon.
Lopez also ordered the closure of seven mines in the Dinagat Islands operated by AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration, Krominco Inc., SinoSteel Philippines HY Mining Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., Wellex Mining Corp., Libjo Mining Corp., and Oriental Vision Mining Corp.
She also want shuttered seven mines in Surigao del Norte which are operated by ADNAMA Mining Resources Corp., Claver Mineral Development Corp., Platinum Group Metals Corp., CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., and Hinatuan Mining Corp.
Further, five mines were to be suspended, namely, those operated by Berong Nickel Corp., Oceanagold Philippines Inc., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp., and Strongbuilt Mining Development Corp.
The mining companies over the past few days complained that all these were announced through the media while they did not receive any written communication from the DENR.
Lopez reacted by saying that she did not need to issue any more notices, since such documents have been sent out last year when initial audit results were announced.
Back then, not one firm was threatened with a closure order although 20 faced suspension.
COMP officials also said the audit was neither impartial nor did it follow due process.
On Wednesday, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement President Duterte and his Cabinet collectively decided to observe due process with regard to the issue of closure and suspension of mines.
Also on Wednesday, Lopez said she would sign and release such orders to the companies that allegedly violated environmental laws.
She denied that the concerned mining companies did not receive the information they sought. She said each affected company received all the details, pointing to a file several inches thick.
Earlier this week, the Philippine Nickel Industry Association said its members—all large-scale nickel miners—were unable to act because there were no written notices and audit results on which to base their actions. RAM
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