MORE than half of the operating mines in the country could be suspended, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Wednesday as the mining audit revealed major environmental violations and social development lapses.
DENR Undersecretary Leo Jasareno said that 12 more mines, mostly nickel operations in Mindanao, were recommended for suspension.
Jasareno, who is in charge of the mine audit, added that 18 firms are also subject for further review.
“We expect to conclude the audit late Wednesday (today). The secretary [Regina Paz Lopez] will make the final decision, which will be announced on Monday,” Jasareno told reporters.
Jasareno, who is the former director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said that the 12 mines were facing suspension due to inadequate social development efforts, inadequate mining practices, technical violations, and lack of proper siltation prevention facilities.
To date, about 10 mines — eight of them nickel producers – have been suspended for environmental lapses since the DENR launched the audit on July 8.
The suspended nickel mines, which are classified as medium-scale mining operations, account for 10 percent of the country’s total nickel output.
Prices of nickel in the global market have been inching upward with the possible disruption of shipments from the world’s top nickel ore supplier. Last year, the Philippines shipped more than 32.3 million dry metric tons of nickel ore to Chinese smelters.
Meanwhile, Jasareno said that once Secretary Lopez issues a final judgment, the order to implement the recommendation will be forwarded to the respective regional offices, which in turn will issue the suspension order.
“Mines to be [recommended for]suspension will still be asked to explain,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier directed mining companies to “mine right or not mine at all,” stressing that the government’s primary mandate leans on environment conservation and proper use of the country’s mineral resources.
Duterte said that he wants to ensure responsible mining, adopt the best internationally accepted practices and maximize the benefit for the people and the communities in all possible ways.
Environment Undersecretary Mario Luis Jacinto earlier said that “responsible miners” have nothing to fear regarding the mining audit.
“Our industry faces many challenges. It is an industry that has also a lot to contribute for meaningful development. It has made positive change possible in the lives of many people and communities in the past century. With professionals and companies committed to do things right and make responsible mining a way of life, the mining industry will continue to be a potent force in the total effort for nation-building,” Jacinto said.
Among the responsible miners Jacinto named were Nickel Asia Corp., Philex Mining Corp. and Benguet Corp., noting that these firms already have decades of track record in minerals development.