The Philippine government has allowed the mining companies that were suspended and ordered closed by former Environment Secretary and late Regina Paz Lopez in 2017 to continue operating.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano said on Tuesday that the government has decided to issue a “Stay Order” on these mining companies amid the pending decision from the Office of the President (OP) to officially lift the suspension and cancellation orders imposed on them by Lopez.
“Those that filed an appeal were able to secure the Stay Order and were continuing with their operations. But it still needs an order from OP lifting the suspension or reversing the cancellation so that these mines will resume operation without unresolved issues,” Moncano told Business Bulletin.
“Not all have resumed commercial operations because the Stay Order means that they will remain on status quo ante or ‘status before the order of suspension was issued by the former Secretary’. So, if they were commercially operating prior to the suspension or cancellation order of Secretary Gina Lopez, then they can resume commercial operations,” he added.
Moncano explained that the ‘Stay Order’ was issued upon the submission of a memorandum to OP, which was signed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
That memo, he said, included the request for resolution on the appeals of suspended and canceled mines in the OP from the decision made by Lopez.
In in 2018, upon reviewing the results of the mining audit conducted by Lopez, when Cimatu decided to keep the closure orders imposed on Claver Mineral Development Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., and Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp.
Cimatu also validated the suspension orders earlier given to Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., Krominco Inc., Mt. Sinai Exploration and Development Corp., Libjo Mining Corp., Wellex Mining Corp. 1 and 2., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Aam-Phil Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corp., Strong Built (Mining) Development Corp., and Emir Minerals Corp.
But as of 2019, DENR already allowed some of these companies to operate again, namely Carrascal Nickel, Emir Mineral, Zambales Diversfied and Strong Built Mining.
Moncano didn’t yet specify which companies recently obtained the ‘Stay Order’, but as of July last year, companies that were being reviewed are Aam-Phil Natural, Krominco, Wellex Mining, and Mt. Sinai Exploration.
As of last year, companies that are still up for closure are Claver Mineral, Oriental Synergy, Ore Asia, and Libjo Mining.
In July last year, Business Bulletin reported it first that some of the mining companies that Lopez successfully shut down are poised to re-open, a development the government believes will contribute to the struggling Philippine economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In terms of revenue and employment, the country should definitely benefit if and when the operations [of these companies] are resumed,” Environment Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna said.
Right now, the mining industry contributes only 0.85 percent to the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP).
This is despite the fact the country’s mineral resources have an estimated value of around US.1.4 trillion.
Meanwhile, Moncano pointed out that those mines that were already suspended prior to the release of Lopez’s orders will remain suspended or technically under Care and Maintenance program.
He also said that there’s no update yet regarding the appeal that the mining sector sent to President Rodrigo Duterte in September last year asking him to lift the moratorium on new mining projects as well as the ban on open-pit mines.
Based on their estimates, miners, who are also reeling from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, said pending big-ticket mining projects could help the sector bring in additional government revenues by P13 billion a year.
The projects they are talking about include the King-King Copper Gold Project of the Villar Group and the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in South Cotabato.
It was 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, who told Business Bulletin about this request.
In an earlier text exchange, he confirmed that his group made a recommendation to President Duterte for the “removal of roadblocks” that prevent the mining sector from contributing more to the Philippine economy.
At the time, Green Thumb Coalition (GTC) Convenor and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said the Philippine government has “misplaced trust” on the mining industry.
“Historically, mining has never contributed significantly to GDP, to employment, investments or tax revenues. There is no indication that trend will change in the near future,” Garganera told Business Bulletin.
Garganera said it is a “twisted notion” to believe and rely on the tradeoffs between mining and the recovery of the country when the pandemic is “clearly linked to climate change and deforestation and mining is one of the leading causes of deforestation and climate change”.