Environmentalists hope government action against destructive firms will lead towards reorientation of the mining industry.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – An environmental alliance lauded Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez’s “political will” against destructive mining, as she recommended the suspension of operations of 20 mining companies for violating mining and environmental laws, potentially putting on ice a total of 30 out of 41 metallic mining firms in the country.
The companies are given seven days to respond. The recommendation followed the first phase of audit completed in August by 16 inter-agency teams led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central office.
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) however, said in spite of Lopez’s staunch position against destructive mining, the secretary is forced to operate within the framework of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which liberalized mining in the country.
“We, in Kalikasan PNE warmly welcome these positive results of Sec. Lopez’s mining audit as a validation of both the long-standing people’s resistance against destructive large-scale mining and its mining liberalization policy, and the marching orders of the Duterte administration to take to task these irresponsible mining corporations,” said Clemente Bautista, the group’s national coordinator.
“The alarming fact that some mining companies that are known environmental criminals were able to pass the audit demonstrated how even a maverick pro-environment leadership in the DENR is limited by the very nature of our country’s mining and environmental policies that promote the opening up of our mineral resources to unfettered, rapacious, and export-oriented extraction,” Bautista said.
The mining audit was based on: safety and health, mine environmental management, social development, mining tenement, compliance with laws on clean air and water, solid waste and hazardous waste management.
In a media briefing Sept. 27, Lopez announced the 20 companies facing suspension as the following:
1. AAMPhil Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corp.
2. Adnama Mining Resources Inc.
3. Agata Mining Ventures Inc.
4. Benguet Corp.
5. Carrascal Nickel Corp.
6. Century Peak Corp.
7. CTP Construction and Mining Corp.
8. Hinatuan Mining Corp.
9. Krominco Inc.
10. Filminera Resources Corp./Philippine Gold Processing and Refining Corp.
11. Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp.
12. Libjo Mining Corp.
13. Marcventures Mining and Development Corp.
14. OceanaGold Phils. Inc.
15. Oriental Synergy Mining Corp.
16. Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp.
17. Sinosteel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corp.
18. Strongbuilt Mining Development Corp.
19. Wellex Mining Corp.
20. ST Metals Inc.
Lopez also ordered the continued suspension of 10 other companies whose operations had been halted since July, namely:
1. Claver Mineral (Surigao del Norte)
2. Emir Mineral (Homonhon Island, Guian, Eastern Samar)
3. Mt. Sinai (Homonhon Island, Guian, Eastern Samar)
4. Zambales Diversified Minerals Corp (Zambales)
5. BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc. (Zambales)
6. Eramen Minerals Inc. (Zambales)
7. LnL Archipelago Minerals Inc. (Zambales)
8. Berong Nickel Corp. (Palawan)
9. Citinickel Mining and Development (Palawan)
10. Ore Asia Mining and Development (Bulacan)
The DENR report listed varied violations by the companies, such as: violation of the Mineral Production and Sharing Agreement (MPSA), violation of the environmental compliance certificate, operating within a watershed, dust emission, discoloration and siltation of coastal waters, failure to comply with tree planting requirements, non-payment of mine waste and tailings fee and siltation fee, absence of permit for cutting trees, absence of water permit, use of provincial road as mine road, failure to mitigate erosion, operating silt ponds without valid permit for discharge, absence of ISO 14001 Certification.
The audit also considered social issues in the mining operations, such as the petition by the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government to cancel OceanaGold’s Financial or Technical Agreement (FTAA), and the petition of the Tubay municipal government in Agusan del Norte and the league of barangays for the cancellation of SR Metals’s MPSA.
Eleven companies were spared from suspension, but are still being made to answer for “infractions,” said Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno in a report. These are:
1. Apex Mining Company Inc.
2. Cagdianao Mining Corp.
3. Greenstone Resources Corp.
4. Intex Resources Philippines Inc.
5. Pacific Nickel Philippines Inc.
6. Philex Mining Corp.
7. Philsaga Mining Corp.
8. Platinum Metals Corp.
9. Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp.
10. Taganito Mining Corp
11. Techiron Resources Inc.
Bautista lamented that Philex Mining in Cordillera region and Taganito Mining in Caraga region were spared. He said Philex tailings pond leak in 2012 was “one of biggest mining disasters in Philippine history,” yet the company failed to sufficiently rehabilitate and compensate the affected communities.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines also lamented the audit, claiming it was “not totally impartial.” The Philippines is the world’s top nickel producer, supplying 24 percent, or 467,000 metric tons of the global total of 1.93 million MT, a Business World report quoted Morgan Stanley. The potential suspension of 30 mining companies would affect more than 50 percent of the country’s nickel production.
Enact a People’s Mining Law
Environmentalists, however, pointed out that despite the country’s rich mineral resources, mining has hardly contributed in developing the local economy. Kalikasan PNE and indigenous peoples’ groups have long called for the suspension of destructive, large-scale mining, which they said displaced indigenous and peasant communities, plundered ancestral lands and ravaged the environment in the 21 years of the Philippine Mining Act.
Kalikasan PNE stressed the need to reorient the mining industry to protect the environment, and support the country’s national industrialization.
“This stands as a challenge to the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives to support Sec. Lopez’s environmental crusade by finally passing House Bill 2715 or the People’s Mining Bill, a progressive legislation that aims to reorient the mining industry away from mining liberalization and plunder towards a needs-based utilization of mineral resources framed on national industrialization, environmental safety, and people’s rights and welfare,” Bautista said.