MANILA — Four mining operations in Zambales have been ordered closed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday, February 2, after a mining audit found various violations that directly impacted on the environment.
BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., LNL Archipelago Minerals, and Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation, which all operate in Sta. Cruz, Zambales, were among the 23 companies all over the country that were ordered closed by Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez.
The DENR said that of the 41 large-scale mines in the country, only 12 passed the mine audit based on Lopez’s set of criteria, which is anchored on social justice. The audit criteria included the environmental, biodiversity and social aspects of mining.
Lopez said these firms should stop operating until President Rodrigo Duterte says otherwise, CNN Philippines reported.
“You cannot, you must not, and you should not have any mining which endangers the water supply of the Filipino. No amount of money warrants the quality of life of the Filipino,” Lopez said in a media briefing.
Lopez said this move is meant to “rectify” the mistakes of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). The MGB, which is under DENR, grants exploration permits to companies, while the secretary of the DENR approves minerals processing permits, according to Republic Act No. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Siltation and Suffering
In the media briefing, Lopez showed pictures of dirty rivers and denuded forests, some of which she took herself while the department was conducting the mining audit.
She said the Zambales mining firms were ordered closed because of illegal logging activities, and for operating near a river. She added that their operations led to siltation, which she said affected the agricultural yield of Sta. Cruz town.
“What happens when the river gets silted? The farmers suffer. Their yield suffers. Food suffers. Our economy suffers. It’s not good at all,” Lopez said.
Seven people also died in Zambales when Typhoon Lando (international name Koppu) struck in 2015. Residents said the polluted water reached residential areas then.
“What happened in Zambales is social injustice,” Lopez said.
The environment secretary also pointed out that mining does not alleviate poverty despite the lucrative income of mining companies, citing the situation in Dinagat Islands, the report said.
“Sinong may pakinabang sa resources ng Pilipinas? The money doesn’t even go back to us,” Lopez said. “Siguro naman if the mining was good, hindi na sila mahirap,” CNN Philippines quoted the cabinet secretary as saying.
With this, Lopez closed 14 mining companies in Dinagat Islands and Surigao. These are Aam-Phil Natural Resources Exploration; Krominco, Inc.; SinoSteel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corp.; Oriental Synergy Mining Corp.; Wellex Mining Corp.; Libjo Mining Corp.; and Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp. in Dinagat.
In Surigao del Norte, the affected mining firms are: ADNAMA Mining Resources Corp.; Claver Mineral Development Corp.; Platinum Development Corp.; CTP Construction and Mining Corp.; Carrascal Nickel Corp.; Marcventures Mining and Development Corp.; and Hinatuan Mining Corp.
Lopez also ordered the closure of Benguet Corp. in Benguet; Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp. in Bulacan; and Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp. and TechIron Mineral Resources, Inc. in Homonhom Island, Eastern Samar.
The DENR also suspended five mining firms for violating environmental laws: Berong Nickel Corp., CitiNickel Mines and Development Corp., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp., OceanaGold Phils., and Strong Built Mining Development Corp.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) decried the announced closure of the 23 mines and the suspension of five other mining operations.
COMP Chairman Artemio F. Disini said in a statement that the Lopez “cannot just shut down mines without due process.”
“Mining companies were invited by the government to invest in the Philippines and signed contracts with them as partners in mineral-resource development. By entering into these contracts, the government is bound to observe due process,” Disini said.
The COMP said it stands by its members and questioned the manner by which the DENR mine audit was conducted, particularly the inclusion of anti-mining activists.
“We are not against a strict implementation of the law. In fact, we have often called for stricter monitoring of all mining operations in the country. What we question is the bias and partiality of the audit from the very start with Secretary Lopez’s early statements that she does not like mining and would like to see mines closed,” said Nelia C. Halcon, COMP executive vice president.
Former Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno, who acts as consultant to Lopez said the closure order will affect the country’s annual metals output. Nickel production alone, he said, will go down by 50 percent, considering that most of those ordered close are nickel producers.
The Philippines is the world’s top nickel producer and China’s single major source of raw materials for the production of various steel products, such as stainless steel. Jasareno added that around 20,000 workers stand to lose their jobs because of the closure order.
Lopez said the DENR will pursue area development in the area, instead of ordering the company to implement their final mine rehab and closure plans.
She added that once closed, the DENR will have access to funds intended for the rehabilitation of inactive mines.
“We have funds but the problem is we cannot use this fund unless we close the mines. I don’t care about the taxes. About 82 percent of the income from mining goes to mining companies. The people are suffering as they rake in profit,” Lopez said. – Web Dev/02 Feb
PHOTO: Mining trucks continue to haul nickel ore in Zambales despite a DENR order closing down mining operations. (Velocity Media photo)