Mining group hits new DENR circular

The new memorandum order issued by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez will jeopardize mining investments in the country, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said Tuesday.

Lopez earlier issued Memorandum Order No. 2016-01 calling for an audit on all mining firms and imposing a moratorium on new projects.

CoMP executive vice president Nelia Halcon said in a statement the new order “impedes on the otherwise positive investment environment created during the business forum in Davao City.”

Halcon said responsible mining was crucial in driving investments in rural areas.

“A continuing moratorium on new mining projects only breeds more confusion and uncertainty, particularly on capital-intensive and risky mining business,” Halcon said.

Halcon said that since 2010, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau had undertaken an assessment of all mining permits and agreements in a bid to purge the system of non-moving mining applications.

“After six years of review, it is now incumbent upon MGB to report the results to the new secretary before another comprehensive review is undertaken,” Halcon said.

DENR earlier ordered mining companies to secure an ISO 14001 certification. 

Halcon said of the 42 total operating mines, only 21 were members of the CoMP and of the 21 members, 17 had fully complied with ISO 14001, with the remaining four waiting to be certified anytime soon. 

“We are now calling on MGB to release the list of cancelled mining applications in the spirit of transparency,” Halcon said.

“The Chamber of Mines and its entire membership continues to rely on the President’s pronouncement to the DENR to just implement the Mining Act of 1995 and ensure responsible mining in the country,” Halcon said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Coalition for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining and environment group Ban Toxics called on President Rodrigo Duterte and Lopez to hear out the concerns of and support the artisanal and small-scale mining sector.

The coalition appealed to the new administration to respond to the sector’s issues such as poverty, human rights, legalization, amendment of mining laws, occupational health and environmental impact.

The group said they were “willing to cooperate with the new administration in realizing these goals.” 

“This coalition hopes to change the game for small-scale mining communities in the country,” said Ban Toxics development program manager Evelyn Cubello.

“With proper support, it can be the best vehicle for miners to look at more responsible mining practices, end poverty and call for mercury-free methods of mining. This is a step towards a more sustainable ASM community,” Cubello said. 

Ban Toxics said it was working with small-scale gold miners to eliminate the use of mercury and promote responsible small-scale mining practices.

Ban Toxics said the sector consisted of 350,000 people and benefited around 2 million people. The group said the sector’s production also reached 28 tons a year, or about 80 percent of the country’s annual gold production. 

“Because it is considered illegal, the ASM sector has largely been ignored and unrecognized by the government. ASM communities particularly their Indigenous Peoples, women and children, frequently lack valuable support from the government,” the coalition said.

Topics: Environment Secretary Regina Lopez , Chamber of Mines of the Philippines , DENR circular
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