By Janina C. Lim

DENR to issue guidelines for post-audit mining operations

Posted on October 03, 2016

THE ENVIRONMENT Department said last week it may soon issue guidelines that will serve as new policies for the remaining miners following a two month-long audit that now threatens to close three-quarters of the country’s total metal mines.

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez shows one of 10 suspended mining companies during a press conference on Sept. 27. -- Philippine Star_Michael Varcas
Magkakaroon ng [there will be an] administrative order... very soon,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Leo L. Jasareno told BusinessWorld after the agency’s meeting with the miners on Thursday.

The order aims, among other purposes, to make more stringent the existing rules on the Environmental Management Bureau’s issuance of environmental compliance certificates and biodiversity management assessment of mine sites, and to put in place a so-called total economic valuation framework particularly to asses the economic efficiency of miners’ social development and management program (SDMP).

“That’s why I also met with them to tell them that from now onwards we will evaluate their mines through a total economic valuation scheme -- which is you get the monetary value of the benefits, you get the monetary value of the negatives, and then you decide,” Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez for her part told reporters on Thursday, assuring miners that she will help them see favorable results as long as they do not cause “suffering” to the environment and to the surrounding communities.

Under existing laws, all mineral contractors are mandated to craft a five-year comprehensive plan which is the SDMP to sustain improving the livelihood of people in the mining firms’ host and neighboring communities.

Miners allot 1% of annual direct mining and milling cost, 90% of which is utilized for the implementation of their SDMP and the remaining 10% for the development of the technologies in their sites, as well as for manpower and training.

Ms. Lopez proposed to miners the DENR’s area development approach which she said can make significant socioeconomic impact on communities through miners’ funds under the SDMP.

“I can work with you there, in such a way that the entire area where you are becomes a huge economic success,” she said.

At the meeting with representatives from mining firms, the DENR also presented programs miners can be involved in, such as reef protection and preservation programs and the use of biochar -- charcoal produced from biomass and used as raw material for cosmetics, ceramics, electronics, and in the food industry, among others -- to rehabilitate agricultural lands affected by mining.

Philippine Biochar Association President Philip G. Camara said the said exercise on biochar had commenced in Zambales where they trained 140 people for the rehabilitation of mine sites in the said province.

“We start with training. They’re already producing and delivering to the mine site. Right now they already planted 300 hectares....It’s quite surprising that It could happen in a span of one month, including community organizing,” Mr. Camara told reporters on Thursday.

Questioned on the new guidelines the DENR is set to layout, Ms. Lopez said: “It’s a mining industry which has a massive economic and social impact, and being that way, we can be better than Canada and Australia.”

“The process in evaluating them will be stricter,” Ms. Lopez added.

A total of 20 more metal mines may face suspension due to various violations under a nationwide audit that started in July, adding to 10 other mines identified earlier with violations that may merit suspension.

All mining firms will be asked to explain why their operations should not be halted and a final decision on their operations could be reached in less than two weeks, DENR officials had said.

That brings to 30 the total number of mines that may close down, made up of 18 mines that represent 55.5% of last year’s nickel exported by the Philippines, the world’s top nickel supplier.

The country has 41 such facilities before the Duterte administration’s crackdown on irresponsible mining practices.