MGB pushes end of ban on open-pit mining

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Bulldozers, backhoes and ore-hauling trucks at work at the open-pit gold-silver mine of Canada's TVI Pacific atop Canatuan mountain in the southern Philippines, 13 May 2006. -- AFP

THE MINES and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has asked the Environment chief to end the ban on open-pit mining which his predecessor had imposed, the bureau’s head told reporters last weekend.

“The recommendation was submitted to (Environment) Sec(retary Roy A.) Cimatu,” MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said in a mobile phone message.

“MGB’s position is that the ban on open-pit (mining) should be lifted because it has no legal basis. The law allows it.”

The bureau has been reviewing this order of Mr. Cimatu’s predecessor, Regina Paz L. Lopez, along with her crackdown on 26 of the country’s 41 operating metal mines and 75 others in pre-production stage suspected of spoiling their project sites.

Mr. Cimatu has said that he will raise the open-pit mining ban to the Mining Industry Coordinating Council that will convene on Aug. 25. The multi-department council was formed in 2012 by then president Benigno S.C. Aquino III through Executive Order No. 79 issued in July that year. That same order imposed a moratorium on new projects until the government’s existing revenue-sharing with the industry is revised. Such a bill was filed in the closing months of Mr. Aquino’s administration last year, but was not acted on by Congress.

Mr. Moncano also noted that President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself, who has threatened to tax “to death” irresponsible miners, knows that existing laws allow open-pit mining.

“The President’s pronouncement during the mining company executives and NGO dialogue on Thursday, August 3, 2017, in Malacañang was clear: open-pit mining is allowed because there is a law allowing it,” Mr. Moncano recalled.

“However, mining should be done responsibly, following international best practices.”

Sought for comment, Ronald S. Recidoro, officer-in-charge of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, replied via text: “We said that open-pit mining is an internationally accepted mining method and is allowed under the (Philippine) Mining Act” of 1995, or Republic Act No. 7942.

He said the group is scheduled to elect new officers some time next month. — Janina C. Lim