PH gov't to allow automatic renewal of mining exploration period

Published June 8, 2021, 1:32 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The mining industry is still enjoying a continuous string of goods news as the Philippine government gives in to a years-long clamor by mining companies to allow the automatic renewal of the exploration period in the country.

This means that a mining company exploring minerals in an area no longer has to apply for a new exploration permit (EP) once the existing one expires.

During a stakeholders’ forum on Tuesday, Danilo Deleña, OIC-Chief of Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s (MGB) Mining Tenements Management Division, said there is already a set of guidelines for the automatic renewal of the exploration period in potential mining areas in the country.

The automatic renewal also applies to the timely declaration of mining project feasibility (DMPF) under the EP, Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) (MPSA), Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), and similar mining tenements.

The guidelines were contained in a Department Administrative Order (DAO) that was drafted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The DAO will be published within the week, said Deleña.

Deleña said the DAO will help ensure the continuous conduct of exploration activities by all permittees, contractors, and holders of mining tenements, as well as ensure the timely filing of DMPF.

Under Section 22 of the DAO 2010-21 or the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the term of an EP shall only be effective for a period of two years from the date of issuance.

An EP is renewable under the current rules, but it is not automatic and the extension should not exceed a total term of four years for nonmetallic mineral exploration or six years for metallic mineral exploration.

During the forum, the risk of having mineral exploration way longer than they should due to certain factors like financial issues was raised.

As a response, Deleña said the government can always intervene and cancel the EP.

“We make sure that our contractors are qualified people to explore and are technically capable to conduct exploration activities. But in case of certain issues, we can act on it when we see grounds for cancellation,” Deleña said.

Under the new DAO, there would still be a mandatory submission of certain requirements to the MGB, which will have a corresponding renewal fee.

Deleña explained that the MGB has been considering allowing the automatic renewal of the mining exploration for many years now.

“Actually, it has been studied before during the time of Horacio Ramos,” Deleña said. “There are some asking for an initiative coming from MGB saying that they are finding it hard to file for a renewal [of an EP]”.

Ramos, a mining engineer, is a former MGB Director who also became acting DENR secretary in 2010.

The DAO is just one of the recent government policies that are favorable to the mining industry, which was once the target of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ire. It was first reported by Business Bulletin in May that the Philippine government has formally repealed the ban on open-pit mining method in the country, a move that was included in the draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Executive Order (EO) 130.

Signed by Duterte in April, EO 130 amended the infamous EO 79 of the Aquino Administration or the ban on new mining projects.

Before this was signed and issued, Business Bulletin also reported that the government recently decided to issue a “Stay Order” on some mining companies that former and late Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez decided to suspend and shut down back in 2017.

The “Stay Order” was the government’s temporary measure to allow these mining companies to operate pending the decision of the Office of the President (OP) regarding the suspension and cancellation orders issued to them by Lopez.