THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has suspended the operations of two mining companies in Zambales Province due to complaints about environmental degradation as a result of their nickel ore extraction.
But MGB director Leo Jasareno clarified that the preventive suspension against Benguetcorp Nickel Mines Inc. and Zambales Diversified Metals came prior to the audit ordered by Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez on all mining firms operating in the country.
“It was in view of the writ of kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court and the newly signed executive order by the local government unit of Zambales, suspending all mining operations in the province,” Jasareno said.
“The suspension order – signed by the regional directors of the MGB, Department of Environment and Natural Resource, and Environmental Management Bureau in Region 3 – is effective immediately,” he added.
Last month, the high court issued a writ of kalikasan against BNMI, ZDMC, LnL Archipelago Mining Corp., Eramen Minerals Inc. and Shangfil Mining and Trading Corp. and ordered the Court of Appeals to conduct hearings to determine if a Temporary Environmental Protection Order should be issued.
Meanwhile, Zambales Governor Amor Deloso has issued E.O.1, ordering the immediate stoppage and moratorium on all mining operations in the province. It also orders the conduct of consultations with residents affected by mining operations before such operations are allowed to resume.
On Thursday evening, Lopez told ANC’s Market Edge that she has ordered the suspension of four mining companies (BNMI, ZDMC, LNL Archipelago an Eramen Minerals Inc.) as part of the crackdown against miners causing environmental degradation and denudation of forests.
“They need to get their act together,” Lopez said.
Of the four violators mentioned by Lopez, two remain operational – BNMI and ZDMC – while LNL Archipelago and EMI have been suspended and non-operational for over a year now.
This is not the first time that the companies’ operations were halted by the government. In July 2014, the MGB had ordered the suspension of mining companies after failing regulatory evaluation of their operations.
Systematic mining method
The suspension covers all extraction of nickel ores and future expansions of mining areas. It will be implemented until such time that the nickel miners are able to employ a systematic mining method with defined benches and cleaning/removing of all stand-by stockpiles within the open cut areas.
The indefinite suspension stems from an earlier show cause order requiring the companies to defend their unsystematic mining or stripping method in their respective mining areas after local residents complained of nickel siltation in river systems, farmlands, fishponds and seashores adjacent to the concession areas.
The MGB also required the companies to have designated stockpile areas that are equipped with proper drainage system in line with the conditions of their environmental compliance certificates.
The government regulator also ordered the firms to employ proper care and maintenance measures for the duration of the suspension – including the continuous implementation of all environmental protection and enhancement programs.
Failure to comply
In June 2015, the MGB reaffirmed the suspension order against the nickel miners after failing to comply with all the conditions set by the government regulator under a Temporary Lifting Order.
“After the 90-day deadline for the mining companies to comply with the conditions, the MGB did a validation of their compliance. In its ensuing report, the validation team found that not all the conditions have been complied with, including the exclusive mine road to be built, and recommended for the suspension of the mining operations again,” Jasareno said.
The conditions in the TLOs include: 1) construction of an alternative mine haulage road; 2) resolution of the alleged coastal destruction brought about by the mining operation; 3) full payment of the claims for compensation for damages of fishponds; 4) conduct of Sediment Flux Monitoring; 5) full rehabilitation of the adversely affected river systems; and 6) progressive rehabilitation of inactive mining areas to address the issue of large disturbed mining area.
Although there are ongoing actions on the part of the mining contractors to comply with the conditions, the team recommended maintaining the suspension order until all conditions are fully complied with, subject to another validation by MGB.