The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said it agrees with President Rodrigo Duterte that responsible mining is vital to national development and the administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda.
In a statement, the mining lobby group said its members are ISO 14001 certified, a seal of excellence in environmental management, which is being upheld nationwide.
“We assure the President that COMP members in CARAGA and nationwide are committed to rehabilitate mined out areas to comply with existing mining laws,” COMP chairman Artemio Disini said.
“Areas being cited by Gina Lopez are active mining areas. These already have comprehensive mine rehabilitation programs, including mechanisms for funding. We assure that after utilizing the minerals, these areas will be converted into lands productive for the communities even long after the mines are gone,” said Disini.
Years before closure, mining companies set up a Final Mine Rehabilitation Decommissioning Fund deposited in government accredited banks to be utilized in the mine’s rehabilitation as determined by careful studies and approved by the DENR, local government units and the affected communities and stakeholders.
“The President and the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, co-chaired by Department of Finance Secretary
Sonny Dominguez 3rd, vowed to follow due process in the audit review,” Disini noted.
Meanwhile, COMP continued to demand that the DENR fully disclose the full audit results which supposedly prompted the department to order the shutdown and suspension of 28 mining operations across the country.
In the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-COMP joint stakeholders forum last Friday, COMP president Philip Romualdez expressed his optimism about the minerals industry under the Duterte administration, citing the president’s adherence to the rule of law.
Mining firms that were supposedly ordered to close shop and suspended have not yet received the official orders from the DENR.
Supposedly issued by Secretary Regina Paz Lopez on February 2, the orders have since been superseded by a resolution of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) calling for “a multi-stakeholder review” of the affected mines.
In a statement, the University of the Philippines Mining Engineering Society (UP MINERS) said Lopez’s suspension and closure orders “implies unemployment of new graduates of Mining Engineering, Geology, Metallurgical Engineering and other affected fields.”
“For as long as the transparency of the mining audit remains inaccessible, as future engineers, we shall keep invoking our right to access detailed information regarding the said mining audit in order for us to know what needs to be improved in the industry and to aid in the advancement of the profession towards environmental protection so as to avoid the suspension of more mining companies compromising jobs and Filipino families,” the UP MINERS said.
The UP MINERS, whose primary goal is to advance the Mining Engineering profession and help ensure responsible mining, questioned the credibility of the audit done by Lopez on the 28 affected mine sites.
Even mine sites with international ISO-14001 certification acquired after over almost a year of audit and “which the [DENR] Secretary initially deemed sufficient to demonstrate a company’s high standards,” have not passed the audit done by Lopez’s team that consisted mostly of non-experts, including anti-mining representatives, the group pointed out.
The UP Miners questioned how an audit done by Lopez’s team was eventually preferred to an audit conducted based on international standards.
“The action by the DENR has instigated issues of employment panic and dilemma to future engineers and scientists of the industry, aside from the questionable mining audit itself,” the group said.
Placing in jeopardy the future of new graduates and students of Mining Engineering, Geology, Metallurgical
Engineering and other affected fields, along with the plight of some 1.2 million people in the affected mine sites, is a “contradiction to the Secretary’s philosophy of anti-suffering.
COMP, the industry lobby group, alleged that Lopez “is slowly killing an industry that has faithfully paid billions in taxes and fees annually.”
The mining industry paid P10.1 billion in tax revenues to the government in 2015. The mining operations ordered closed down or suspended account for 46 percent or P4.6 billion of these tax revenues, COMP said.