Mining firms seen facing add'l ECC process

Also digitizing permits, applications

A new process on top of existing requirements for mining firms securing their environment compliance certificates (ECC) may be implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) while pursuing the digitalization of all mining-related information and the processing of applications and permits.

This is according to DENR Undersecretary for Environment and Integrated Science Carlos Primo David during the kick-off ceremony of Mining Philippines 2023 International Exhibition and Conference, which gathers the country's mining firms, particularly those listed with the Philippine Stock Exchange. 

“We’ve pilot-tested a new process called Negotiated Sustainability and Resilience Agreement or NSRA and will work towards its implementation next year,” he said. 

While admitting that “It’s an add on to the ECC process,” he noted that, “but before you complain, let me tell you that it takes 90 minutes to complete.”

This process involves a dialogue between the DENR and the mining company to identify and negotiate shared goals such as reduced environmental impacts, renewable energy adoption,  community resilience for the  overall improvement of their quality of life. 

“The NSRA goes beyond compliance. It is a partnership based on agreed values, principles and specific milestones… When in full swing, the agreed goals will be the hallmark of the evolution of a green mine,” David said. 

In an interview, David noted that nowhere in the ECC process does it mandates mining firms to shift to the use of renewable energy and they want these firms to include RE in their roadmap for mine development.

To date, two mines have undergone this process -- a new gold mine up in Kalinga and one of the largest copper mines in the Visayas. 

Meanwhile, David said, “the DENR is investing in the digitization of all mining-related information and the processing of applications and permits." 

“We have substantially completed migrating all data onto a single platform, with the exception of data from one last division in the MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau)," he also said, adding that “digitization should address making our procedures more efficient, leading to shorter and more transparent processing permits and applications.”

The DENR has engaged the expertise of PWC Philippines which will be supporting the department-wide process “as we ensure that the bureaus and their people and technologies are fit for purpose,” said David.

“All-in-all we commit to deliver a more efficient and transparent system in MGB next year as an integral part of our mining governance efforts. All of these are for the expressed purpose of establishing a more professional, responsible and globally competitive mining industry,” he added.

In his speech, David said the Philippines can be in a unique position to be an important player in the global clean energy market and provide sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

David underscored the links between climate change, environment, biodiversity, inclusive resilience and sustainable development and mineral resource development.

He said today’s climate emergency is driving the global clean energy transition, which involves the generation of renewable energy, the need for energy storage and other new technologies such as those related to the supporting infrastructure and manufacture of electric vehicles.

“These projects are highly mineral-intensive and their accelerated adoption of will significantly increase the demand for critical and strategic minerals. These include: copper, chromium, and nickel,” said David, a geologist and an expert in environmental science.

He noted that, “what this means is that the Philippines can be in a unique position to be an important player in the global clean energy market and provide sustainable solutions to the climate crisis. This demand for minerals comes at a time when the mining sector is expected to help generate government income to bolster our economic recovery.”

Organized by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), the event gathered together a diverse assembly of participants, including government officials, private sector representatives, academics, indigenous communities, and mining host communities.

Conference participants are expected to chart a path toward maximizing the potential of the mining sector while addressing market dynamics, industry trends, internal capabilities, environmental concerns, and economic impacts.

“Mining which was treated for years like a pariah because of its environmental impact is now an indispensable part in the fight against climate change and energy transition,” COMP Chairman Mike Toledo said.

However, he noted that change has come. Among the notable positive changes are the lifting of the moratorium on new mining projects and of the ban on open pit mining.

“It took a global contagion before these decade-long policy roadblocks were removed and the importance of mining was recognized,” Toledo said.  

He added that, “while most other industries were staggering and downsizing at the height of Covid-19, only a few large-scale mining operations experienced temporary closure, and these were due mainly to local government directives. This explains why mineral exports were largely unaffected and employment in mining was generally stable throughout the pandemic.”

“With the roadblocks to mining finally removed, three large copper-gold projects that were stymied by the policy roadblocks – Tampakan, Silangan, and King King – are now in a better position to proceed to development,” he said.