DENR chief axes 21 erring mines

MANILA — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered closure of 21 metallic mining companies operating in the country for environmental destruction resulting from their respective operations.

DENR Secretary Regina Lopez, in a press briefing on Thursday, said such move is in line with the administration’s bid to promote environmental protection and social justice nationwide.

“DENR rightfully decided to take on social justice as its heart and soul — that means Filipinos, not just those companies, must benefit from the country’s natural resources,” she stressed.

Lopez noted Filipinos won’t be able to benefit if the mining companies’ operations continue destroying the environment.

She identified the axed companies as BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. all in Zambales province; as well as Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp. and Techiron Mineral Resources Inc., all in Eastern Samar province’s Homonhon Island.

In Dinagat Islands province, mining companies that were ordered closure were AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration, Kromico Inc., SinoSteel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corporation, Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation, Wellex Mining Corporation, Libjo Mining Corporation and Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp.

DENR also decided closing down ADNAMA Mining Resources Corporation, Claver Mineral Development Corp., Platinum Development Corp., CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corporation, Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation and Hinatuan MiningCorporation, all operating in Surigao del Norte province.

Among environmental ills DENR’s nationwide mining audit traced to the companies are siltation, leak of mine tailings into water bodies, and illegal tree-cutting.

Lopez noted such ills are adversely affecting lives and livelihood of people in the mining areas, further worsening their plight.

“I’m not against mining but am opposing suffering — we can’t allow such negative conditions to persist,” she said.

Lopez, however, said companies with mining operations the DENR deemed fit for closure can still appeal for Malacanang’s reversal of the agency’s decision.

But, she stressed that these companies must already stop with their respective mining operations if Malacanang agrees with the DENR’s decision.

Lopez reiterated her plan of pursuing area development nationwide to help promote people’s socio-economic well-being without destroying the environment.

Eco-tourism and sustainable agriculture are among activities she plans promoting through the area development strategy.

There are viable alternatives to mining, she noted.

The DENR chief cited area development as one means of creating a green economy for the country.

Studies show a green economy creates more jobs without destroying the environment, she noted.

DENR also decided suspending mining operations of Berong Nickel Corporation, OceanaGold Phils. Inc., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp., Citinickel Mines and Development Corp., One Asia Mining Corp., and Strong Built Mining Development Corporation.

Such companies must either shape up and improve respective operations or face closure, Lopez warned.

She’ll still look into mining operations of Filiminera Resources Corporation before determining the company’s fate.

Thirteen other metallic mines in the country passed DENR’s audit.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) decried Lopez order to close 21 mines and suspend an additional 5 operations.

“Mining companies were invited by government to invest in the Philippines and signed contracts with them as partners in mineral resource development. By entering into these contracts, government is bound to observe due process. Secretary Lopez cannot just shut down mines without due process,” said COMP chairman Artemio Disini.

COMP said it stands by its members in the face of the pronouncement of the DENR chief suspending the operations of 5 mines and the closure of 21 mining projects.

It also questioned the way by which the DENR mine audit was conducted, highlighting the inclusion of anti-mining activists that tainted the process.

“We are not against a strict implementation of the law. In fact, we have often called for stricter monitoring of all mining operations in the country. What we question is the bias and partiality of the audit from the very start with Secretary Lopez’s early statements that she does not like mining and would like to see mines closed,” said Nelia Halcon, COMP executive vice president.

“With the inclusion of anti-mining groups in the audit teams, you can see that the audit was compromised. The participation of these anti-mining activists immediately raises the question of whether or not the results are impartial,” she added.

Halcon, however, said that despite the snag hit by the minerals sector following the nationwide audit conducted by the DENR last year, “mining firms remain committed to delivering on their obligations and are even working beyond the requirement of the laws particularly in the development of human capital and the enhancement of the economic base of provinces hosting mining projects.”

“We assure government, stakeholders and the public that our member companies have been working very hard to comply with environmental laws relevant to our industry. Our social development management programs are still in place and so with our environmental enhancement and protection programs,” she said. Catherine Teves/PNA-northboundasia.com