36 mines to start operations soon

Published April 19, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Some 36 mining firms are set to start operations soon following the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 130 that lifted the moratorium on new mining projects. 

MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano (Photo credit: https://region1.mgb.gov.ph/)

In a text exchange, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano said there 36 metallic and non-metallic mines in his agency’s current list of pending mining applications that are poised to start operations soon, while 65 more are up for processing as new Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs).

With this volume of applications, the government agency tasked to regulate and develop the mining sector, expects to be unprecedentedly busy for the rest of the year moving forward.

 As a start, the agency now has to process more than a hundred mining applications that have already secured a “priority” status. Some applications were lodged even before EO 79 took effect nine years ago.

“Most of them [that are up for MPSA processing] are under Priority Phase 2 (65 in all). Those under Phase 1 (36 in all) are in the last stages of their processing needing only one or two lacking documents to be completed,” Moncano told Business Bulletin.

“Lots of applications were filed prior to EO 79,” he further said.

 Moncano said the 36 mines being reviewed under Priority Phase 1 are “ripe to start [operations] this year”, while those under Phase 2 of the review “can start development and construction in 2022”.

“Some in Phase 1 have in fact completed the documentary requirements and started development and construction in preparation to commercial extraction. Most of those in Phase 1 are non-metallic category,” he further said.

When asked what it took for these mining applications to be under priority phases, Moncano said the categorization was based on the assessment and consultation conducted by the regional offices of MGB.  

“The Regional Office of MGB was tasked to assess and consult the mining companies if these particular companies have ready funds to use anytime all approvals are secured; the project has finished their exploration program, delineated a reserve, and the mineral reserves can last at least 10 years mine life at the target production rate; has filed or in the process of filing a Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility,” Moncano said.

A mining application is also categorized as a priority once they already have an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), Tree Cutting Permit, Foreshore Lease Agreement or Special Land Use Agreement, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) permit for loading port, an approved or on-going deliberation of Social Development and Management Program (SDMP), Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP), Safety and Health Programs (SHP), final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning plan (FMRDP), Care and Maintenance Program (CMP), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) permit.

Moncano said that the processing of applications will generally follow the government’s existing procedure but will be expedited.

“DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] Sectors concerned will help and support the fast approval of these applications. An IRR [Implementing Rules and Regulations] will also be crafted for EO 130,” the MGB chief said.  

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte signed EO 130, amending the Aquino Administration’s infamous EO 79, which banned the approval of new mining projects in 2012 until there’s no new legislation rationalizing revenue-sharing scheme between the government and miners.

With EO 130, Duterte still wants the existing revenue-sharing scheme in the mining sector rationalized, but the ban on new mining projects is no longer there.

Furthermore, the President ordered authorities to review existing mineral deals for possible renegotiation.

The issuance came two days after Business Bulletin reported that Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III signed and forwarded a memorandum to the Office of the President (OP), which contains concerns and appeals made by the mining sector to the government.

OP issued a stay order on mining companies that were ordered closed and suspended by former Environment Secretary and late Regina Paz Lopez. EO 130 was issued a few days later.

Right now, the Philippines’ untapped mineral resources are projected to have a combined value of over $1 trillion.

Based on MGB’s earlier estimates, the Philippines has total estimated gold reserves of 1.9 billion metric tons (MT), while the country has silver reserves of 1.7 billion MT. 

Meanwhile, the country’s estimated copper reserves stood at 1.8 billion MT, while the reserves for iron and nickel stood around 116 million MT and 116.14 million MT, respectively. Chromite’s reserves are at 47.3 million MT.