By Melissa Luz T. Lopez
Senior Reporter
THE GOVERNMENT is looking to start the audit of a second set of mines in March, an official from the Department of Finance (DoF) said, with the review targeted for faster completion than the last one.
Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin said that the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is planning for a fresh round of mining audits to run from March to June covering 15 mining sites.
“We are targeting to start by March because it’s the dry season and some of these mines you cannot visit during the rainy season,” Mr. Agabin told reporters on the sidelines of an event in the Philippine International Convention Center yesterday.
This will follow the audit of 27 mining areas which started in March 2018. The second round of reviews will complete the evaluation of all 41 operating mines targeted by the initial review in 2016 of former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez.
Mr. Agabin said that the 27 sites were prioritized for the first review as these had averse findings as per Ms. Lopez’s initial assessment.
He said that the method will be “essentially the same,” but that improvements will be made to streamline the conduct of the review.
“We want the same teams. Same scope, same teams, if they still want to,” Mr. Agabin said.
Five teams composed of 25 industry experts performed the mining review last year, looking into the social cost-benefit analysis of these sites to surrounding communities.
Covered by the audit are the legal, technical, environmental, social and economic aspects of mining sites, which are then judged through an environmental score card to check whether their performance is acceptable or not.
However, Mr. Agabin mentioned that funding for the fresh round of MICC reviews will be “subject to the budget being approved,” referring to the delayed passage of the P3.575-trillion national budget.
Like before, the mining audit is projected to cost about P25 million, which will be split between the DoF (P15 million) and the Environment department (P10 million).
The MICC is a recommendatory body mandated to review the performance of existing mining operations, review mining-related laws and regulations, and facilitate related capacity building programs, among others. They are likewise required to the audits every two years.
Of the mines covered in the first round, the MICC affirmed the closure of three of the 12 mining operations originally ordered closed. These three operators have also been fined and barred from transporting ore pending full mine rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, nine mining areas were suspended, fined and ordered to do corrective measures.
In December, the DoF said that the government is keeping the moratorium on new mining permits without the passage of a new revenue-sharing scheme for miners, which has been in place since 2012.