THE Department of Energy (DOE) has cleared Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) of allegations that it is discharging toxic waste in its mining operation area in Antique following a technical audit conducted by the DOE last month.
In disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) on Friday, SMPC said it received on September 22 a copy of the technical audit results from the DOE clearing the mining firm of allegations that its operations were harming the environment.
“On August 25, 2016, the DOE conducted a technical audit on these matters. Today, the Company received a copy of the technical audit results from the DOE dated September 21, 2016 which in sum states that the DOE audit team verified that the mining operation of SMPC does not discharge toxic materials to the mangroves, the sulfur content of the coal is below 1 percent, there is no seaweed farm affected, and the dumping of overburden materials does not affect the nearby housing communities,” the company said in the disclosure.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi sent a copy of the audit results to Isidro Consunji, chairman of SMPC, on September 21. SMPC attached a copy of the result in its disclosure to the PSE.
“The audit team verified that the dumping of overburden materials does not affect the nearby housing communities as these are dumped within the approved mining operation area far from the residential areas in Barangay Semirara,” the DOE said in the audit report.
Semirara’s mining operation covers the islands of Semirara, Caluya, and Sibay in Antique.
Earlier, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an agency under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said in a report that it found the company in compliance with all required metrics meant to protect the environment in and around Semirara Island.
The EMB report also said Semirara Mning was fully in compliance with its commitments to the community on the island through various programs including education and skills training, livelihood, economic empowerment, inland and mangrove reforestation among others.
The company is the main employer on the island and has provided its employees free housing, electricity and water, schools and a brick church. Island residents also enjoy these benefits except housing. They, however, get livelihood training.
The audit was conducted to verify the reply to the DOE submitted by SMPC on August 16, 2016 in connection with the DOE’s letter requiring the company to explain collateral issues that had been raised against it by the DENR.
These issues include: toxic waste affecting the mangroves; sulfur content of coal produced; adverse effect on the lives of seaweed farmers; poverty level in Semirara at 47 percent; mining overburden affecting the housing
community within the operating area; and land-grabbing.
According to Consunji-led DMCI Holdings, Inc., since the company took over SMPC in 1997, Caluya has been transformed into a first-class municipality from fourth class previously.
The waters around the island have remained clean that the company’s giant clam (taklobo) program has succeeded in growing its population, SMPC said.
The company said it now has about 150,000 giant clams and supplies taklobo to other areas to help sustain efforts to put remove it from the endangered species list.