Big miners seek moratorium lifting

Published September 7, 2020, 6:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

To aid recovery


It’s going to be a long shot, but some of the country’s biggest mining companies had sought President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval for certain policy changes in the mining sector, including the lifting of moratorium on new mining projects as well as the ban on open-pit mine stressing this should help the domestic economy recover faster.

Based on their estimates, the pending big-ticket mining projects could help the sector bring in additional government revenues by P13 billion a year.  

These projects include the King-King Copper Gold Project of the Villar Group and the infamous Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in South Cotabato.

Rocky Dimaculangan, vice president for corporate communications at Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), an organization of some of the country’s largest mining operations, said that his group made a recommendation to President Duterte for the “removal of roadblocks” that prevent their sector from contributing more to the Philippine economy.

 “Our country is one of the most highly mineralized in the world. Yet the Philippine mining industry cannot reach its potential to be a major contributor to economic growth because of two major mining policy roadblocks,” Dimaculangan told Business Bulletin.  

 “First [roadblock is the] EO [Executive Order] 79, in place since 2012, which imposes a moratorium on new mineral agreements until higher mining taxes are legislated, and second, the ban on open pit mining. We highly recommend the removal of these roadblocks,” he added.

 COMP’s recommendations are the main contents of the mining sector program that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) recently submitted to its parent agency, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Office of the President.  

MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano earlier told Business Bulletin that this program gives details on how extractive industries could help the Philippine economy recover from the pandemic-triggered recession.  

The Philippines is one of the highly mineralized countries in the world, having mineral resources estimated at $1.4 trillion.

 But because of some regulatory issues and environmental concerns, its contribution to the Philippine economy remains dismal at 0.85 percent.

Dimaculangan said these roadblocks should be lifted because first, excise tax on mining already doubled to 4 percent under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, while open-pit mining is allowed by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and is “a safe and necessary form of mining where underground mining cannot be employed.”

He then mentioned three large-scale metallic projects in Mindanao that may benefit from the removal of these roadblocks, include the Silangan Copper-Gold Project of Pangilinan-led Philex Mining Corp., the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project of Sagittarius Mines Inc., and the King-King Copper Gold Project of the family of Senator Cynthia Villar.  

 According to him, these projects will “bring in approximately P250 billion worth of investments, generate exports of P90 billion annually, see government revenues rise yearly by P13 billion, boost annual social development funding and indigenous peoples royalties by over P1 billion, and increase the mining industry’s GDP [gross domestic product] contribution by 1.5 percent.”

He said this project will take up “a very small footprint — less than 3 percent of the country’s total land area — but will provide huge socio-economic benefits.”

 “There are adequate social and environmental laws, rules, and regulations in place that would mitigate the impact of mining on communities and the environment,” he further said. 

 Because of the pandemic, as many as 138,000 jobs in the mining sector were temporarily lost, excluding those from the small-scale miners.