Mining firms pass government audit

Posted on September 17, 2016

SOME mining firms in the country passed the Environment department’s completed audit,its chief said on Friday, even as the agency is still processing the results of its probe.

“I admit, there are mining companies that have passed and have not done too badly, but I wanted to push the page a little further,” said Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez in an interview with ANC News on Thursday.

She added that the audit aims to lay out the “highest of the highest of standards, a shift from the country’s “very low standard of performance” for environmental protection against irresponsible mine practices “to be better than Canada and Australia.”

“If an audit team passes a mining company for whatever reason, you’re not only passing a mining company, you’re saying it’s okay, that’s really scary. right? It cant be done carelessly or very casually because its making a statement of what’s allowable and what’s not,” Ms. Lopez added.

For his part, Environment Undersecretary Leo L. Jasareno, who heads the audit team, admitted that the results of the audit were “not consistent.”

“Based on our initial processing of the results, admittedly, there were violations but they didn’t merit suspensions… Some companies were recommended for suspension but there were no major violations,” Mr. Jasareno told reporters on Friday.

As such, the agency will conduct a workshop next week requiring the participation of members of the 16 mining audit team that conducted the review so as “harmonize the understanding of the guidelines and priorities of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” he said.

Mr. Jasareno said these guidelines are covered under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

The DENR has suspended 10 mines since the beginning of the audit. Of the total, eight nickel miners which attribute 8% to the country’s total nickel output were ordered for suspension.

The audit was conducted to assess the compliance of miners with environmental standards and social development, among other aspects.

A mining audit team was established with representatives from the DENR, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), and third party clusters such as agriculturists and social development experts, among others.

EMB Director Gilbert C. Gonzales said in a phone interview that the agency is now fast-tracking the validation of the replies of companies to show cause orders issued to them, wherein they are requested to justify why their environmental compliance certificates should not be revoked.

The four companies issued show cause orders were Sagittarius Mines Inc., Semirara Mining and Power Corp., Century Communities, Inc. and Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp.

The results of the EMB’s validation are slated to be released next week. -- J.C. Lim