THE MINING INDUSTRY Coordinating Council (MICC) cleared 23 of the 27 mines that were reviewed for compliance with state regulations, reducing uncertainty about potential supply disruptions at the world’s no. 2 nickel ore supplier.
“Four failed out 27,” Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin said in a press briefing on Thursday when asked about findings of the review team.
However, Mr. Agabin said that the findings may still be subject to change.
The mines were assessed on various criteria, including legal, technical, economic, social and environmental compliance, Mr. Agabin said.
He did not identify the four miners that failed the review, saying only that they were “large-scale mines” engaged in extracting nickel and chromite.
Danilo U. Uykieng, assistant director at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, confirmed that the findings were not final.
The economic aspect of the review is not fully covered, Mr. Uykieng said, and the number of those who failed could increase or decrease.
All findings are also subject to a final decision by the office of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The panel will meet again in the last week of July, Mr. Agabin said.
The review began in March, a little over a year since former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez in February 2017 ordered to either close or suspend 27 of the country’s 41 metallic mines due to environmental violations, especially for being located in watersheds.
Mr. Agabin said the MICC did not explicitly recommend whether the mines should be closed.
“What was done is a review pursuant to the mandate of EO 79 to review the operations of mining companies,” he said, referring to the executive order signed in 2012 that formed the MICC and ordered a halt to the approval of new mining permits until the government, by law, gets a bigger share of mining revenues.
The legal aspect of the review verified whether the mining firms had secured required permits to operate a mine, while the environmental component looked at rehabilitation efforts, and the social component checked whether mining firms’ social development programs were “properly timed and redound the benefit of the community.”
The technical aspect meanwhile assessed firms’ capitalization, while the economic aspect covers contribution of total mining operations to the host community.
Mr. Agabin said that after the review team concludes its review, the findings will be circulated to the 29 members of the MICC for comments, and will have another meeting “by the fourth week of July.”
“The MICC is a recommendatory body. Depending on the action of the MICC it may accept it, approve it, and resolve to submit it to the DENR and the Office of the President,” he said.
Mr. Agabin added that the MICC will next review the rest of the country’s mines.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte began his term in July 2016 with a vow to put a stop to mining practices that damage the environment, and has since been vocal in his opposition to open-pit mining that is otherwise allowed by law.
There are 50 operating mines in the Philippines, 30 of which extract nickel ore.
Indonesia has been the top nickel ore supplier so far this year after Jakarta relaxed an ore export policy. — Reuters and Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan