THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau on Wednesday assured that responsible miners in the country have nothing to fear from the ongoing audit being conducted by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to check their com-pliance with environmental regulations.
But Environment Undersecretary Mario Luis Jacinto said that the government will be “unforgiving” to those committing irregularities and corrupt practices.
Jacinto reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to mining companies to “mine right or not mine at all,” stressing that the government’s primary mandate leans on environment conservation and proper use of the country’s mineral resources.
He reminded delegates to the Mining Philippines 2016 conference of the president’s marching orders for the mining industry “to ensure responsible mining, adopt the best internationally accepted practices and maximize the benefit for the people and the communities in all possible ways.”
“The utilization of these God-given resources should only be allowed when the proposed mining operation is technically feasible, environmentally compliant, socially acceptable and financially viable. Any of these imperatives absent, it is not the time to mine,” said Jacinto, who is also the concurrent director of MGB.
“At every level of governance, responsibility and accountability must be clear,” he said, adding policies to promote the industry will be thoroughly studied.
He said they are now conducting studies to resolve conflicting land uses and priorities and to determine the best use possible for the country’s resources to benefit its people.
“The strong environmental movement which started to gain momentum in the late 80s will always bear pressure on extractive industries. The challenge is to squarely address legitimate concerns; provide proper information to have a shared perspective of development options and patiently reason with oppositions to set aside unreasonable demands,” Jacinto said.
People in host communities must be aware and deeply involved in the mining firms’ environmental protection and enhancement programs, he said.
“They must have a sense of ownership of the social development plans in their own areas. These can only happen if they are engaged every step of the way. It is my fervent hope that you will always provide the support your dedicated community relations practitioners need to ensure the success of their undertakings,” Jacinto said.
He told the miners: “Our industry faces many challenges. It is an industry that has also a lot to contribute for meaningful development. It has made positive change possible in the lives of many people and communities in the past century. With professionals and companies committed to do things right and make responsible mining a way of life, the mining industry will continue to be a potent force in the total effort for nation-building.”
He cited Philex Mining Corp. and Benguet Corp. as among the industry’s responsible miners, both of which have decades of track record in minerals development.
Consistent, investor-friendly policy
Meanwhile, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) president Benjamin Philip Romualdez reiterated the industry’s commitment to President Duterte’s development agenda.
“We promise the President that we will operate strictly under the rule of law. All who cannot comply must get out. Clean up or get out. The business of mining is about our environment. We are committed…to growth that will directly improve the lives of thousands of families in our communities,” Romualdez said.
For its part, OceanaGold Philippines said it is bullish about the prospects of the mining industry, saying that the next six years of the Duterte administration will be “an exciting time and period” for the industry.
“President Duterte’s signal is very clear. Follow responsible mining standards, Australian and Canadian. If you cannot do that, then get out. Mining companies should not be allowed to operate here because they will be the ones who will compromise us,” said Joey Leviste, chairman of OceanaGold Philippines.
Leviste also said they are willing to invest more in the Philippines but there should be a consistent policy that is investor-friendly.
Bradley Norman, country manager of OceanaGold Philippines, said DENR Secretary Gina Lopez has shown a “magnificent” will to ensure that only responsible miners will be allowed to operate in the country.
“The Secretary needs to have an idea what the mining industry is all about. And by doing the audit, she now has a baseline figure, and she’s beginning to understand what responsible mining is all about and what it means in all the things that we do,” Norman said.