Environmentalists praised closure of 23 mining firms
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Environmentalists and anti-mining groups lauded the closure of nearly two dozen mining firms and vowed to support government efforts to curb destructive mining practices in the country.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the closure of 23 metallic mines in the country, while suspending five more, for serious environmental violations discovered during the industry-wide audit conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) since July last year.
“My issue here is not about mining. My issue here is social justice. If there are businesses and foreigners that go and utilize the resources of that area for their benefit and the people of the island suffer, that’s social injustice,” Lopez said.
She said the closure orders were based on the final results and recommendations of the multisectoral audit teams formed to look into the compliance of mining operators with the existing environmental laws and regulations.
The mining firms ordered closed were the following:
Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., all in Zambales province, due mainly to siltation of rivers, destruction of a functional watershed and illegal tree-cutting.
Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp., and TechIron Mineral Resources Inc. in Homonhon mainly for siltation of coastal waters and destruction of functional watershed.
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. in Surigao del Norte mainly for siltation of coastal waters and mining in functional watersheds.
Benguet Corporation in Itogon, Benguet and Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp. in Bulacan were likewise issued suspension orders by Lopez.
She also deferred to give a decision on the fate of Filminera Resources Corp. pending further investigation.
The five mining companies that were issued suspension orders are Berong Nickel Corp., OceanaGold Phils., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp., Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. and Strong Built Mining Development Corp.
According to DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna, the companies can file for a Motion for Reconsideration to the DENR within 15 days from receipt of the order. Luna said the DENR decision can still be appealed to the Office of the President.
The DENR had earlier assured the mining sector and the general public that due process was “meticulously observed” in the audit of all existing metallic mines nationwide. It also assured that the audit results “really promote the common good and social justice” espoused by Lopez and President Rodrigo Duterte.
A staunch advocate of responsible mining, Lopez has made it clear that the common good and the protection of the environment would be her paramount concern, not money. She emphasized that no mining company can operate in a functional watershed which protects water sources. “Water is life. We will not allow the water of our people to be at risk for any business interest,” Lopez said.
16 Audit Teams
Barely a week at the DENR, Lopez ordered an industry-wide audit in July last year to look into the adequacy and efficiency of environmental protection measures taken by the mining companies, determine gaps in those measures and identify the appropriate penalties for violations of mining and environmental laws.
A total of 16 audit teams were formed to review the environmental compliance of mining companies in all regions in the country. Each team is composed of representatives from the DENR central and regional offices, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and civil society organizations.
The audit focused on safety and health; mine environmental management; social development; mining tenement; and compliance with laws on clean air, clean water, hazardous waste and solid waste. Technical experts from the different government offices that have been invited to conduct the audit all abide in the standards of truth, service, and the common good.
“We based the checklist of the criteria for the audit on the items in compliance with the different mining and environmental laws. A cross-audit was also done, which means that the auditors who reviewed one site, have come from a different region,” Lopez said. “We also gave seven days for the companies to respond to the results of the audit, providing a leeway for them to clear the issues that were raised. We had to review the reported results of the audit for five months before we have to release it, ensuring that we followed the process meticulously.”
Lopez said the issue is not about mining, but social justice. “If there are businesses and foreigners that go and utilize the resources of that area for their benefit and the people of that island suffer, that’s social injustice. We assure the industry and the general public that due process was meticulously observed in the mining audit conducted by the agency and that the results would be always anchored on integrity, social justice, and the common good,” she said.
Zamboanga del Sur, Tawi-Tawi
Environmentalists also urged Lopez to review again the mining operations of TVI Resource Development (Phils.) Inc. in Zamboanga del Sur’s Bayog town where Subanen natives opposed the entry of the company in Balabag for various reasons. TVIRD also operated in Zamboanga del Norte’s Siocon town where natives also opposed the mining operations.
Different anti-mining groups, including Save Tawi-Tawi Movement, have similarly appealed to Lopez to conduct an aerial inspection in Languyan and Panglima Sugala towns in Tawi-Tawi, one of the 5 provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Just in August last year, the Regional Legislative Assembly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also asked the DENR-ARMM to issue an order stopping all destructive mining activities in the region, especially in Tawi-Tawi, where nickel mining has severely affected the environment.
Assemblyman Hanibal Tulawie, the chairman of the Committee on Environment and Ecology, said a resolution was passed asking the DENR in the ARMM to immediately issue a “cease-and-desist” order on all mining companies operating in the region.
Tulawie said he had received numerous complaints from the public and environmentalists who are opposed to destructive mining methods.
“In response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s call and the growing complaints of residents, landowners including indigenous people and different nongovernmental organizations against the destruction of forest lands in the area, the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has asked Regional Secretary Kahal Q. Kedtag, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue a cease-and-desist order to all mining firms and operators within the territorial jurisdiction of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” the resolution read.
“These operators (mining firms) are not environment-friendly and do not practice their corporate social responsibility to the affected areas but they are contributing destruction and degradation of our forest lands within the areas of ARMM and in gross violations of Republic Act 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995) and Republic Act 9054 (strengthening and expanding the ARMM Organic Act), as these complainants that include residents, landowners including indigenous people in the affected areas are not properly compensated,” it said.
Photos of nickel mining operations posted on Facebook showed huge trucks and barges hauling off red soil, which is allegedly being shipped to China where it is processed.
Tulawie even said that his committee will conduct public hearings, including inspections, in areas affected by mining activities and present its recommendations to the plenary, but it was unknown whether he pursued this or not.
He said reports indicate that Tumbagahan Island is totally devastated because of mining explorations and the nickel mining activities in Languyan municipality and Panglima Sugala, adding, copies of the resolution were given Lopez and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. (Mindanao Examiner)