Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez has stopped Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC), an affiliate of Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC), from moving and loading mining waste from Manicani mine site in Guian, Eastern Samar, to prevent further environmental degradation resulting from excessive soil extraction.
Lopez said an audit of the mine showed that it would be detrimental to the island’s environment if the mining waste removal continued.
“Our audit shows that they are taking too much soil, which goes to China. We are suspending the re-trieving of the stockpiles, to address the ecological balance,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines general membership meeting in Makati City (Metro Manila).
Instead of shipping the ore to China, the DENR chief said she will order HMC to use the nickel ore for mine restoration and conduct the necessary remediation measures to prevent the nickel ore stock-piles from siltating and polluting the water bodies on the island.
So far, HMC has made eight shipments, or about 400,000 MT of nickel ore retrieved from Manicani. It was estimated that about 2 million MT of nickel ore were left when the mine was suspended.
Manicani, a 1,000-hectare island, has nickel deposit covered by MPSA 012-92-VIII awarded to HMC.
But mining operations on the island have been suspended since the early 2000s and HMC has been on a “care and maintenance” mode for the last 12 years.
Stockpiles of ore, waste from the previous operations, remain piled on the island.
As early as 2002, a special DENR task force recommended the disposal of nickel ore stockpiles on the island, to mitigate environmental risk.
In July 2014, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno issued a letter authorizing HMC “to dispose of the nickel ore stockpiles situated in the contract area.”
In May 2016, after obtaining a Mineral Ore Transport Permit (MOEP) from MGB Region 8 Office, the company resumed the removal of mining waste and loading it onto a barge for transport out of the mine site. The process was expected to be completed this year depending on the weather condition.