TWENTY-ONE mining firms, including four controversial miners operating in Zambales province, were ordered closed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for continued violations of environmental laws.
Environment Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez on Thursday said the firms were found to have been operating within functional watersheds, severely affecting host communities. She threatened to close seven other firms.
“We have decided to close any kind of mining operation in functional watersheds. The DENR has rightfully decided to take on social justice. I am not against mining but I am against suffering,” Lopez said in a news conference in Quezon City.
The country’s biggest mining lobby, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, decried the DENR decision.
“Mining companies were invited by government to invest in the Philippines and signed contracts with them as partners in mineral resource development. By entering into these contracts, government is bound to observe due process. Secretary Lopez cannot just shut down mines without due process,” Artemio Disini, chairman of the Chamber of Mines, said.
The chamber questioned the way by which a DENR mine audit, the basis of the closures and suspensions, was conducted, pointing to the inclusion of anti-mining activists that it claimed had tainted the process.
Ordered closed were BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., and Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation in Zambales province; Mount Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp., and TechIron Mineral Resources Inc. in Homonhon, Eastern Samar; AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration, Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., SinoSteel Philippines HY Mining Corp., Kromico Inc., Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp., Wellex Mining Corp., and Libjo Mining Corp. in Dinagat Islands.
Also slated for closure were Adnama Mining Resources, Inc., Claver Mineral Development Corp., Hinatuan Mining Corp., CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., Platinum Development Corp. in Surigao del Norte.
Lopez suspended the operations of OceanaGold Phils Inc.; Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company; Citinickel Mines And Development Corp.; Berong Nickel Corp. and Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp.
Majority of the firms suspended or recommended closed were nickel operations, representing 50 percent of the total nickel production of the country.
Lopez, who conducted aerial inspections of the mining operations, declined to reveal how she came up with the decision, when asked by members of the media for a copy of recommendations by the DENR review committee.
“I am in no obligation to let you know what’s happening here. MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) took six months to review the audit. MGB has been really, really slow and I’m not happy with them at all,” she said.
Lopez said the mining companies have 15 days to appeal the DENR order, which will be elevated to the Office of the President for final approval.
“They can accept the closure and just help DENR with eco-tourism or they can appeal but that appeal goes to the President. The closure becomes final when the President says so,” Lopez said.
Officials of OceanaGold said their firm’s suspension was “unjustified nor has any basis in law.” Mining and processing activities continued at the Didipio Mine in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, the firm said.
“We have not received any show-cause notice from the DENR nor have we received a suspension order. Should we ultimately receive a suspension order as suggested today we have very strong legal grounds to have it overturned,” Mick Wilkes, OceanaGold president and chief executive officer, said.
Likewise, listed miners included in the suspension and closure orders said they had yet to receive formal communications from the DENR.
Marcventures Mining, ordered shut down for operating in a watershed, emphasized that the law recognized its prior legal right to operate in the area.
Global Ferronickel Holdings, Inc. said it had yet to be notified or investigated by the DENR for any violation of environmental laws. A subsidiary, Platinum Group Metals Corp. was one of the firms ordered closed by the DENR.
WITH PATRICK ROXAS AND LEANDER C. DOMINGO