Ahead of the results of the government audit on mining operations, Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez said that she would embark on a series of mine tours across the country in search of a “poster boy” for the minerals development industry.
Lopez said after meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Tacloban City on Wednesday that the tour would not be limited to assessment of environmental impacts, but would include actual inspection of mine sites with a focus on the “success stories” of mining companies in transforming host communities from fourth- to first-class municipalities.
“I want to see because, according to them (the mining firms), the municipality has gone from fourth-class to first-class. It might very well be a model. Let’s see,” Lopez said in a telephone interview with The Manila Times.
It will be the first time that Lopez, an avowed anti-mining advocate, will set foot inside a mine site since taking over as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The first stop for the mine tour will be the Masbate Gold project of Filminera Resources Corp. on Friday. The company’s B2Gold project was among the mining operations earlier recommended for suspension by the DENR due to administrative issues.
Also on the list are Nickel Asia Corp.’s Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) in Palawan; Pichay’s Claver Mining & Development Corporation (CMDC) in Surigao del Sur; and Semirara Mining and Power Corp.’s Molave coal mine on Semirara Island.
“[These are] the ones I promised [to visit]. After talking to the miners, I might visit more. Let’s see,” Lopez told The Manila Times in a separate text message.
The DENR chief earlier said that mining firms with “minor infractions” not related to environmental violations may pass the government crackdown on irresponsible miners.
Since it launched the audit on July 8, the DENR has suspended 10 mines, eight of them nickel producers, for environmental lapses.
Another 20 mines are facing possible suspension for environmental violations, unsystematic mining methods, and unresolved social issues.
Among those recommended for suspension are Libjo Mining Corp.; AAM-Phil Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corp. – Parcel 1 and Parcel 2B; Krominco Inc.; Carrascal Nickel Corp.; Marcventures Mining and Development Corp.; Filminera Resources Corp.; Strongbuilt Mining Development Corp.; Sinosteel Philippines HY MiningCorp.; Oriental Synergy Mining Corp.; and Wellex Mining Corp.
Also included in the recommendation for suspension are Century Peak Corp. – Rapid City Nickel Project and Casiguran Nickel Project; Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp.; and CTP Construction and Mining Corp.; Agata Mining Ventures Inc.; Hinatuan Mining Corp.; Benguet Corp.; Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co.; OceanaGold Phils, Inc.; Adnama MiningResources, Inc.; and SR Metals, Inc.
Together, the suspended miners and those recommended for suspension represent about three-quarters of the total operating mines in the country.
Of these 30 mines, 18 are nickel producers that account for 55.5 percent of the country’s total nickel ore output based on last year’s production.
Maria Paz Luna, OIC undersecretary for Legal Affairs of DENR, said that they are doing their best to meet the timetable for the release of the finals results of the mine audit, which has been pushed back several times already.
“The special order assigning the central office committee to review the findings and replies was just created Monday. Everything is in the process… we have seven working days after receiving the response to make a final determination. Have not seen how many submitted so far,” Luna said in a text message.
“We would send reply individually as the responses [from the companies]come. We will still do our damnedest to make the seven days,” said Luna, who was appointed by Lopez to head of the COC after former Undersecretary Leo Jasareno was axed from office.
Before being relieved, Jasareno was tasked to supervise operations of the Environmental Management Bureau, as well as other functions assigned or delegated by the DENR secretary – including the mining audit.
The former Mines and Geosciences Bureau chief still serves as an adviser to Lopez.
Meanwhile, Lopez said that she has yet to talk with President Rodrigo Duterte on the results of the mining purge, adding that the Tacloban meeting zeroed in on climate change discussions.
“We have not yet talk about mining. But I am sure that we are on the same page,” Lopez said.