The multi-stakeholder Mineral Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) on Tuesday agreed that a framework needs to be formulated as basis for choosing experts for the technical review teams (TRTs).
The TRTs will look into the operations of mining companies, especially the 28 firms ordered closed or suspended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“We agreed on the framework by which they’re going to choose the experts. We agreed that the members of the TRTs should not be employed in a capacity directly or indirectly in any operating mine activities,” Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said in a press briefing on Tuesday following the MICC meeting.
As agreed in an organizational meeting on February 20, the technical working group (TWG) will create five TRTs to conduct an “objective, fact-finding, science-based” review of the DENR’s closure and suspension orders.
The TWG was created based on MICC Resolution 6 issued on February 9, when the council first met to discuss the closure of 25 mines and the suspension of three others across the country.
The review shall be based on “the guidelines and parameters set forth in the specific mining contract and in other pertinent laws, taking into account the valid exercise of the state’s police power to serve the common good of the poor,” the MICC resolution read.
The TWG decided to form the TRTs consisting of technical review independent experts with no known conflict of interest with the mining sector or any anti-mining nongovernment organization.
The review will be conducted over a three-month period as each team will pore over each of the mining contracts involved in the closure and suspension orders.
Under the organizational framework, these five TRTs will review the compliance of the 28 mine sites with applicable agreements, submissions, laws and regulations and impact of their operations.
Each TRT shall cover these five aspects that involve the technical, legal, social, environmental and economic impact of the mining operations—including the effect on agricultural reform areas.
Agabin said the review is pursuant to Executive Order 79 which requires that the MICC review mining operations in the country every two years.
He said the mandate of the MICC covers over 370 mining contracts across the country, but the review will first begin with the 23 sites ordered closed by the DENR.
The DENR ordered on February 2 the closure of 23 mine sites and the suspension of five others. A week later, it ordered the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) still in the pre-operation stage.
The DENR will make its audit findings available to the TRTs. The TRTs will tap the academe and engage experts from state universities and colleges to help in the review.
For the technical part of the review, the MICC will tap either a geologist, mining engineer or a metallurgical engineer from the private sector, while a lawyer, also from the private sector, will be hired to review the legal aspect.
A community relations officer will be involved in the social aspect, an environmental management officer will focus on the environmental impact, while representatives from the local government units, Department of Finance, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development and other concerned government agencies will go over the economic aspect of the review.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR will also provide qualified technical personnel and provide available data and records to each TRT.
The results of the review will be submitted to the MICC’s multi-stakeholder TWG, which will verify the technical report before the final presentation to the MICC.
The MICC will present the findings and submit its recommendations to the Office of the President for a final decision on the DENR’s closure and suspension orders.