Government tightens audit standards for miners
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has imposed stricter audit standards for mining companies as part of efforts to put a stop to irresponsible mining.

MGB director Leo Jasareno said Environment Secretary Gina Lopez  wanted to raise the bar on responsible mining in the country with a stricter set of criteria in the audit of around 105 metallic and non-metallic mines nationwide, including quarrying and small-scale mining.

“The comprehensive review will focus on the companies’ compliance with the requirements of the Mining Act of 1995, Environmental

Compliance Certificate, Forestry Law, and other laws pertaining to mining. We want to see whether a specific violation will entail suspension of operations,” Jasareno said.

He added that the new round of audit would look beyond regulatory requirements such as the social and economic impact of the mining operations nationwide.

Based on the initial review on mining companies, the MGB chief confirmed there were frequent violators of mining rules and regulations.

“You’ll be surprised with the number of companies violating the conditions of their contract, majority of which were slapped with equivalent amount of penalty depending on the discretion of who conducted the review,” Jasareno said.

“With the new round of audit. There will be a list of criteria they need to comply with, otherwise they may face suspension,” he added.

However, Jasareno refused to name the companies included in the list of violators, saying they have already submitted their findings to the DENR secretary.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) on Tuesday called for the release of the list of cancelled mining applications and companies violating mining laws.

Just recently, Lopez issued her first memorandum order on the official audit of all operating mines and the moratorium on the approval of new mining projects.

In Memorandum Order No.2016-01, she ordered the audit of all operating and suspended mines while the moratorium covers the acceptance, processing and approval of applications and projects for all metallic and non-metallic minerals.

The order takes effect immediately and “shall remain in force and in effect until formally terminated.”

Mining firms, however, decried Lopez’s directive, which they said, would likely delay mining investments in the country.

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

Meanwhile, non-government organization Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) lauded Lopez on her first order but remained firm that “responsible mining remains to be a myth and it has no legal definition yet”.

She also pushed for the passage of the Alternative Minerals Resources Bill (AMMB) to frame the legal and operational definition of responsible mining.

“We challenge both the COMP and the DENR to seriously consider the AMMB as a starting point to discuss the concept of responsible mining.  We assert that ‘responsible mining’ cannot be reduced to ISO certification, as earlier proposed,” ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said.

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