THE DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that it will depend heavily the findings of the Mining Industry Coordinating Committee (MICC)-sanctioned independent review of the mines ordered closed or suspended last year but also incorporate the findings of an audit ordered by former secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez.
The MICC convened on Thursday to discuss the final report of the and independent group of experts, but Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that before conducting further executory action, it has to harmonize the latest study with the findings of Ms. Lopez against 27 mines ordered closed or suspended in February 2017.
Mr. Cimatu said that the status of four unidentified mines found to have failed the independent review in June will await the harmonization process.
“(The review team) presented its final findings and we will harmonize them with the previous findings of the previous secretary,” Mr. Cimatu told reporters yesterday, adding that the closure orders will await the harmonization process.
“I will be really making a decision by giving heavy weight to the outcome of this audit,” he added.
Mr. Cimatu said that the DENR has set a preliminary meeting for Monday with the independent review team to discuss the consolidated reports.
However he said he has to consult President Rodrigo R. Duterte before making any decisions on the mines involved.
“I have to present this to the president first before I release all these things,” Mr. Cimatu said.
On June 21, the MICC convened, and initially identified 23 mines that passed technical, legal, environmental, and social standards of mining after a three-month review that began in March.
Sought for comment, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines Executive Director Ronaldo S. Recidoro said that the latest audit “was more scientific than the first effort of Secretary Lopez.”
“I think the academe is more involved this time, more experts were engaged and I think that’s the right way to go,” Mr. Recidoro said in a phone interview, but noted that the DENR “can’t really discount the first audit.”
“Our concern is that it has to be done right,” said Mr. Recidoro.
He added that large-scale miners are likely not part of those ordered to be closed down, and that the closure orders should not significantly affect the mineral production in the Philippines, which is the second largest nickel supplier in the world.
“Definitely I don’t think the listed miners they want to be part of that list. They’re doing everything they can to comply with the law, so it would probably be smaller operators that can’t meet the rehabilitation required by law kasi magastos,” said Mr. Recidoro.
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, with the social component identifying whether firms have adequate social development programs; the technical component covers firms’ capitalization; and the economic aspect covers the contribution of total mining operations to the host community.
Mr. Cimatu also said that the MICC is reviewing an alternative to open-pit mining, following Mr. Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address.
“The instruction of the president is that there will be a reinvention of how to extract mineral ores without destroying the environment. Also aside from the extraction, how to give assistance to the communities around the mining activities,” he said.
Asked whether the DENR will submit to Mr. Duterte a draft executive order on the ban on open-pit mining, Mr. Cimatu said: “We are not yet there, it’s still a work in progress. We will find a substitute for open pit mining.”
Mr. Cimatu also said that the DENR is reviewing new reforestation measures. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan