ENVIRONMENT Secretary Regina Paz Lopez only wants to raise the bar on responsible mining with a new round of audit of all operating mines in the country, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said on Wednesday.
In a telephone interview, MGB Director Leo Jasareno said they would impose a stricter set of criteria in their audit, which will cover some 105 metallic and non-metallic mines nationwide, including quarrying and small-scale mining.
“The comprehensive review will focus on the companies’ compliance with the requirements of the Mining Act of 1995, Environmental Compliance Certificate, Forestry Law, and other laws pertaining to mining. We want to see whether a specific violation would entail suspension of operations,” Jasareno said.
Jasareno was reacting to a recent call from the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) to release the list of cancelled mining applications and companies violating mining laws.
“After six years of review, it is now incumbent upon the MGB to report the results to the new Secretary before another comprehensive review is undertaken,” COMP executive vice president Nelia Halcon said.
Since 2010, MGB has been undertaking an assessment of all mining permits and agreements under its “use it or lose it” policy in a bid to purge the system of non-moving mining applications.
Section 3 of EO 79 also calls for a review of the performance of existing mining operations and a continuation of the cleansing of non-moving mining rights holders.
The EO states, “The review shall be based on the guidelines and parameters set forth in the specific mining contract or agreement and on other pertinent laws, rules and regulations such as the Mining Act of 1995 and the Labor Code.”
Halcon said the moratorium on new mining permits jeopardizes investments in the mineral development sector and impedes on the otherwise positive investment environment created during a recent business forum in Davao City.
“A continuing moratorium on new mining projects only breeds more confusion and uncertainty particularly on capital-intensive and risky mining business,” she added.
Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez earlier issued DENR Memorandum Order 1-16 imposing a moratorium on the approval of new mining projects. She said she will not allow new mining activities under her watch even if they would pay higher taxes.
The order takes effect immediately and “shall remain in force and in effect until formally terminated.”
New round of audits
On Wednesday, Jasareno said that the new round of audits will look beyond regulatory requirements to include the social and economic impact of the mining operations nationwide.
The MGB chief, citing the results of their initial review on mining companies, confirmed that there are frequent violators of mining rules and regulations.
“You’ll be surprised with the number of companies violating the conditions of their contract… majority of which were slapped with equivalent amount of penalty depending on the discretion of who conducted the review,” Jasareno said.
“With the new round of audit, there will be a list of criteria they need to comply with, otherwise they may face suspension,” he said.
Jasareno, however, refused to name the companies included in the list of violators, saying that they have already submitted documents to the DENR secretary.
Meanwhile, anti-mining group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) welcomed the immediate conduct of an audit of all mining project, a moratorium on mining applications, and Lopez’s personal position against open-pit mining.