Secretary Regina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) could be facing a series of court cases in relation to ongoing audit of mining operations in the country.
On Thursday, Benguet Corp. said its wholly owned nickel subsidiary Benguetcorp. Nickel Mines Inc. (BNMI) has filed a case before the Pampanga Regional Trial Court, while another mining company is mulling a separate case.
BNMI, according to its parent firm, is left with no other viable administrative remedy, and is constrained to elevate to the courts the matter of the unlawful suspension of its nickel mining operations in Santa Cruz, Zambales.
“After careful consideration, BNMI is constrained to take this judicial recourse in order to protect itself, its workers and the affected communities, which depend on the corporation for their livelihood and support,” it said.
The mining firm filed a petition for certiorari with injunction to assail the suspension order jointly issued last July 8, 2016 by concerned regional offices of the Mines Geosciences Bureau, Environmental Management Bureau and DENR regional offices for grave abuse of discretion, in an arbitrary manner, without due process and ahead of the conduct of a nationwide mining audit.
“BNMI availed of said legal remedy to prove that despite its full compliance with remediation conditions under the previous lifting order dated August 24, 2015, the said regional government agencies unjustifiably refused to reverse the suspension order,” it noted.
BNMI said it earlier exerted earnest efforts to assure the DENR and the anti-mining groups of its continued undertaking to conduct responsible and sustainable mining activities and its willingness to be an active partner of the government in protecting the environment.
“To this end, BNMI reached out to the DENR and the anti-mining groups to present a proposed arrangement that would have ensured that the environment in Santa Cruz would not only be protected, but would even be improved, through a partnership between the mining corporations, the people and the government,” it added.
“These efforts, however, proved to be unsuccessful, as the anti-mining groups, and even the DENR representatives, rejected BNMI’s fair and reasonable proposal and continue to appear bent on endorsing an unjust arrangement which will deprive the mining companies of any recourse against the results of the audit and, worse, will require them to summarily acknowledge alleged liabilities for compensation and rehabilitation, without immediate prospect of resuming operations,” the company said.
The unjustifiable suspension, according to BNMI, is taking its toll not only on the corporation but on its workers, contractors and suppliers, and its scholars and surrounding communities.
BNMI said it was forced to temporarily lay off more than 1,000 workers since its unwarranted suspension.
The mining firm “comes to court with the knowledge that its operations have been, and will continue to be, compliant with national regulatory and international certification standards. It is confident that its operations, once allowed to resume, will not pose any threat to the environment,”
Benguet’s wholly owned subsidiary, along with two other nickel operators in the province, was suspended because of complaints about environmental degredation as a result of its nickel ore extraction.
MGB Director Leo Jasareno clarified that the preventive suspension against BNMI was in view of the writ of kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court and a newly signed executive order by the local government unit of Zambales, suspending all mining operations in the province.
Ronald Recidoro, vice president for Legal and Policy of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), said another mining company recently suspended by the DENR is mulling to file a case before the courts.
The country’s big mining lobby earlier scored the DENR’s “reckless” public pronouncement on results of the mine audit.
“The audit findings have serious impact not only on our present mining projects but also upcoming projects,” COMP vice president for policy Ronald Recidoro said.
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 Mining Corp., 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., CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Agata Mining Ventures Inc., Hinatuan Mining Corp., Benguet Corp., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., OceanaGold Phils Inc., Adnama Mining Resources Inc. and SR Metals Inc.