By Vincent Mariel P. Galang, Reporter

THE suspension of mining operations of two companies may soon be lifted, according to an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

’Yung sa [For] Zambales [Diversified Metals Corp. (ZDMC)] and Strong Built [Mining Development Corp. (SBMDC)], in particular, it’s already endorsed for lifting. ’Yung iba [For the others] we still have to evaluate whether they have complied with the corrective measures,” Analiza R. Teh, Environment undersecretary for climate change and mining concerns, told reporters on the sidelines of the Mining Philippines 2019 International Conference and Exhibition in Pasay City on Tuesday.

Ms. Teh said the regional offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) recommended the lifting of the suspension for the two mines.

ZDMC, whose mine is located in Sta. Cruz, is one of the mining units of Consunji-led DMCI Holdings, Inc. SBMDC is a Cebu-based mining company, whose site is located in MacArthur, Leyte.

As part of the mining audit last year, ZDMC and SBMDC were among the nine companies whose operations were suspended, while three other mining firms were ordered closed.

Ms. Teh said that as of August 2019, Claver Mineral Development Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., and Libjo Mining Corp., have filed appeals with the Office of the President. The mineral production sharing agreements of Claver and Oriental were canceled, while Libjo was suspended.

Berong Nickel Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp. and Emir Mineral Resources Corp. have already had their suspension orders lifted.

However, Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp., Krominco, Inc., Mt. Sinai Exploration and Development Corp., Wellex Mining Corp., and AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corp., are still complying with the DENR order.

Meanwhile, Ms. Teh noted that Indonesia’s possible ban on nickel ore exports will be an opportunity for the Philippines.

Isang [That is an] opportunity iyon if Indonesia will ban their exports. That would be an opportunity for the Philippines to be the prime source,” she said.

On Sept. 2, Indonesia announced that it will bring forward its nickel ore export ban to Jan. 1, 2020 from 2022.

Data from the MGB showed that nickel ore production grew 3% to 11.306 million dry metric tons (DMT) in the first half of 2019. Major producers were Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. and Taganito Mining Corp., which produced 2.608 million DMT and 2.346 million DMT, respectively.

Ms. Teh said the real issue is how to ensure mining companies comply with environmental and safety standards.

“We need to develop public confidence in them. Talagang kaya ba natin ang [Can we really do] responsible mining? We are more focused on that. We would like to strengthen our monitoring and enforcement capabilities, so that we can really make sure that the mining companies will be able to comply with the provisions regarding the environmental requirements,” she said.