Solons, miners warn of massive displacement
by Anna Leah E. Gonzales and Christine F. Herrera, Feb. 03, 2017
MORE than 19,000 people will lose their jobs once the government closes down 21 mining companies and suspends the operations of six more, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said yesterday.
The closures would also hurt small businesses in host and neighboring communities that arose due to the presence of mining operations, the bureau added.
“The role of mining when it comes to employment generation whether direct or indirect in the rural areas cannot be overly emphasized. It is estimated that about four indirect jobs may be generated for every direct employment in the upstream and downstream sectors,” the bureau said.
Mining investments for this year alone could drop to $1.69 billion from the projected $ 4.45 billion, the agency warned.
Environment Secretary Regina Lopez announced Thursday that out of the 41 metallic mines in the country, 21 will be closed down, six companies will be suspended and only 12 passed a mining audit.
She drew support from President Rodrigo Duterte, who said he was elated by the decision to close 21 mining companies.
“Now, today, I’ve read in the newspapers that Secretary Gina Lopez canceled about seven of the big mining firms in the country,” Duterte said in a speech before water district operators in Davao City.
“You know, I support her. And there was never a time that I called her to slow down a little bit,” he said.
Companies which passed the audit were Philex Mining Corp., Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp., Carmen Copper Corp., Cagdianao Mining Corp., Taganito Mining Corp., Greenstone Resources Corp., Philsaga Mining Corp., Apex Mining Company Inc., Pacific Nickel Phils. Inc., Agata Mining Ventures Inc., Century Peak Metals Holdings Corp. and SR Metals Inc.
“We decided to close any kind of mining operations in functional watersheds. Water is life and we will not allow the water of our people to be at risk,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the mining operations which will be closed include Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., BenguetCorp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp., TechIron Mineral Resources Inc., AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration, Kromico Inc., Sino Steel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corp. and Oriental Synergy Mining Corp.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez
Other companies that will be closed are Wellex Mining Corp., Libjo Mining Corp., Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp., ADNAMA Mining Resources Corp., Claver Mineral Development Corp., Platinum Development Corp., CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. and Hinatuan Mining Corp.- Tagana-an.
Lopez said some of these companies are located within functional watersheds while others caused siltation of coastal waters and farmlands.
Companies which will be suspended are Berong Nickel Corp., Oceanagold Phils., Inc., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp., Citinickel Mines and Development Corp., Ore Asia Mining Corp., Strong Built Mining Development Corp. and Hinatuan Mining Corp.- Manicani mine.
Lopez said the decision on whether or not to allow Filminera Resources Corp. to continue its operations was deferred pending further investigation.
Based on 2016 data, Masbate Gold Project of Filminera Resources Corp., (FRC)/Philippine Gold Processing and Refining Corp. (PGPRC) and Didipio Gold Project of Oceana Gold Phils., Inc. (OGPI) Incorporated were the top gold producers accounting for 28 percent or 6,414 kilograms and 20 percent or 4,576 kilograms of the total gold produced.
In terms of silver production, OGPI took the second spot with 7,901 kilograms and FRC/PGPRC followed at third spot with 7,430 kilograms of the total silver production.
“The absence of these two mining projects to the production stream would certainly create a vacuum since said companies are among the top precious metal producers in the country,” the bureau said.
Base metals copper and nickel are also projected to decline by 26 percent and 67 percent, respectively. Most nickel producers did not pass the mining audit.
“It is important to note that the decline in mineral production is tantamount to lower taxes, fees and royalties collected by the government both national and local. Mineral exports are also expected to go down,” the bureau said.
Lopez said the affected mining companies have 15 days to file an appeal with the DENR.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines decried the announcement noting that the government cannot just shut down mines without due process.
“Mining companies were invited by government to invest in the Philippines and signed contracts with them as partners in mineral resource development. By entering into these contracts, government is bound to observe due process. Secretary Lopez cannot just shut down mines without due process,” said chamber chairman Artemio Disini.
The group also questioned the way by which the DENR mine audit was conducted, highlighting the inclusion of anti-mining activists that tainted the process.
“We are not against a strict implementation of the law. In fact, we have often called for stricter monitoring of all mining operations in the country. What we question is the bias and partiality of the audit from the very start with Secretary Lopez’s early statements that she does not like mining and would like to see mines closed,” said the chamber’s executive vice president Nelia Halcon.
“With the inclusion of anti-mining groups in the audit teams, you can see that the audit was compromised. The participation of these anti-mining activists immediately raises the question of whether or not the results are impartial,” she added.
The chamber also lamented how the audit review findings were first made known through a press conference.
“If the audit found violations, the law provides for a procedure. She should have filed the appropriate cases or invoked the arbitration clause of the mining agreements. Our members have not received any formal decision but have already been subjected to trial by publicity. Unfortunately, it seems that her decision to close these mines was based merely on a quick fly-by over Surigao del Sur last week in a chopper during the height of the rainy season. It may not have been based on the review conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. Reports reaching us even said MGB personnel were even banned from her press conference,” Halcon said.
The chamber called on the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), co-chaired by the Department of Finance, to convene and review the policies and actions of Lopez.
“Her drastic action of publicly announcing the closure and suspension of 28 mining operations without due process will have detrimental and far-reaching impacts on the economy, the mining industry, and the country,” Halcon said.
Lawmakers vowed to press for a congressional investigation of Lopez’s closure order.
The lawmakers, led by Surigao del Norte Rep. Prospero Pichay, said they will file a House resolution on Monday questioning Lopez’s decision to order the closure of 21 mining operations in several areas of the country.
“Gina Lopez doesn’t know what she’s doing. She does not know her job,” Pichay told the Manila Standard.
“The closure order is illegal and arbitrary,” said Pichay.
The congressman explained that Lopez issued the closure order without according all mining firms the “due process” and without regard to thousands of mine workers and their families that would be hurt by her arbitrariness.
Pichay said some 10,000 mine workers were directly employed in his mining firm and some 60,000 families were indirectly benefitting from the business.
This would also deprive the government of billions in revenues, he said.
For this reason, Pichay said Lopez has violated all pertinent laws about mining, including the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement that the mining firms signed with the government.
“We have entered into a contract with the government and without Lopez even conferring with us, she abrogated the contract. Contracts are signed by two parties. Two parties should agree whether to abrogate or honor the contracts. Now, she is using the government against us, misusing her powers and prosecuting us for alleged violations that she all had imagined,” he said.
“In the first place, the mining areas in Mindanao are well-within the areas that President Manuel Quezon declared as mineral reservation. Meaning, the areas are intended for mining, not for agriculture or other purposes. There is no watershed in these mining areas,” Pichay said.
Pichay also said that once an audit is decided, the government must inform the company about its intention to conduct the audit.
“This is a sad day for the mining industry. Lopez’s instruction to suspend the operations of mining companies just added 10,000 unemployed in Surigao provinces alone,” Pichay said.
“I am afraid that this would also cause massive poverty in the area and contribute to the insurgency problem. Most of the 10,000 mining workers were former rebels who might lose confidence in the government as a result of this decision and go back to the mountains as rebels,” Pichay said.
Pichay said the local government units of Surigao provinces were collecting P1.8 billion a year in taxes and fees from mining companies in the area. With Rio N. Araja and John Paolo Bencito
21 to be closed
BenguetCorp. Nickel Mines Inc.
Eramen Minerals Inc.
Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation
LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc.
Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp.
Emir Minerals Corp.
TechIron Mineral Resources Inc.
AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration
Sino Steel Philippines H.Y. Minng Corporation
Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation
Wellex Mining Corporation
Libjo Mining Corporation
Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp.
ADNAMA Mining Resources Corpopration
Claver Mineral Development Corp.
Platinum Development Corp.
CTP Construction and Mining Corp.
Carrascal Nickel Corporation
Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation
Hinatuan Mining Corporation-Tagana-an
6 to be suspended
Berong Nickel Corporation
Oceanagold Phils., Inc.
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp.
Citinickel Mines and Development Corp.
Ore Asia Mining Corp.
Strong Built Mining Development Corporation