The multi-stakeholder Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) will decide next week on the possible lifting of a ban on open-pit mining, a senior Finance department official said.
Finance Undersecretary and MICC member Bayani Agabin said a technical panel had already finished a study, which will be released following a council meeting on October 24.
The final decision on whether or not to lift the open-pit mining ban, Agabin added, will rest with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
“It (the MICC ruling] is recommendatory. In the end we will recommend to the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) secretary. Its up to the DENR secretary to agree to on our recommendation,” he explained.
Cimatu’s predecessor, Gina Lopez, ordered the ban in April. The staunch environmentalist, who rattled mining companies by ordering mine closures and an industry-wide review, was rejected by Congress less than a week later.
Cimatu, seen as more conciliatory by the industry, has so far rejected calls to overturn Lopez’s orders.
Agabin, in announcing the technical panel review last August, noted that “worldwide, around 85 percent of the mines engage in open pit mine. The issue there is can you manage it.”
Lopez quickly criticized the move and found an ally in President Rodrigo Duterte, who told reporters that he had asked Cimatu to “to look into the eventual closure of open-pit mining.”
“I agree with Gina Lopez that [that]has to stop after some time,” Duterte said.
“But then I will give mining companies enough elbow room for eventual change on the modality of getting what’s inside the bowels of the earth.”