SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: Suspended small-scale mining company Westchinamin is allegedly in active operation extracting fresh nickel laterite and hauling stockpiles and loading these on a ship docked in Candelaria while another ship is anchored at a port here.
Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz (CCOS) chairman Benito Molino said the extraction that Westchinamin is doing is illegal because it is using heavy equipment under a rehabilitation permit, not a mining permit.
“Westchinamin entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Zambales Gov. Amor Deloso on November 11, 2016 to bring down abandoned old stockpiles in the guise of environmental rehabilitation,” Molino said.
This allowed the small-scale mining firm to haul over a million metric ton stockpile of nickel ore from the mountains.
“It’s obvious that the intent of Westchinamin is to haul their nickel stockpile extracted using a rehabilitation permit,” Molino said.
“Because it does not have a mining permit, Westchinamin connived with Mining and Geosciences Bureau Region 3 and Gov. Deloso to haul the stockpile. What are the wordings in the MOA? ‘Westchinamin to own the stockpile.’ [well, it’s] wow!” he added.
Molino said Westchinamin has been suspended since early this year but continues extracting.
He added that anti-mining advocates in the village of Uacon have video footage and photos of the mining operations of Westchinamin taken at Duplac in Candelaria on February 27.
The Manila Times tried to get a comment from Deloso on Thursday and the governor replied he is aware of the mining activity of Westchinamin.
Earlier this year, he denied the claim, saying in a text message to The Manila Times there is no mining operation going on in Candelaria town.
“Not true, no mining operation here, removal of dangerous and hazardous waste per order of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources [DENR],” the governor’s text message said.
Molino said Deloso approved the issuance to Westchinamin of Ore Transport Permit (OTP) by the DENR’s regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
He added that Deloso’s signing of the MOA allowing Westchinamin to haul the mineral ores to offset the cost of its clean-up measures is inconsistent with his first executive order declaring a mining moratorium in Zambales and the need for public consultation.
Molino said DENR Secretary Regina Lopez wrote Deloso three weeks ago to stop the hauling, adding that the governor called barangay (village) chairmen in Santa Cruz on February 28 along with the mining company to get their approval for the hauling for the safety of the town when the rains come.
He added that they had written letters to DENR officials about the monitored February 27 mining activities by Westchinamin, hoping that the officials will act to protect the natural resources of the province.