Citinickel questions suspension sans audit

Louise Maureen Simeon - Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines -- Citinickel Mines and Development Corp., a subsidiary of listed Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc., may file legal actions against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for issuing a suspension order prior to an actual mining audit.
"We will pursue all actions necessary to prove to the DENR that the suspension order issued was unwarranted and even pursue legal action should this be necessary to protect the interest of the shareholders of ORE and Citinickel," Citinickel president Caroline Tanchay said.
"ORE and Citinickel are exerting all administrative and legal efforts to have the suspension order lifted. We are optimistic that MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) shall reasonably appreciate the validity of the contentions of Citinickel and that the suspension order shall be lifted at the soonest possible time,"she added.
In a statement, Citinickel said the suspension order from the MGB last month "was prematurely and improperly issued as there was no prior audit conducted on the operations of Citinickel."
Citinickel is the sole claim owner of Pulot Mine and Toronto Mine in Sofronio Española and Narra in Palawan.
Last month, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the audit of all mining firms in the country as part of the government’s thrust of implementing responsible mining in the country.
"Without prior audit therefore and any legal basis for a finding of any such violation of environmental and mining laws, the immediate imposition of the penalty of suspension was improper," Tanchay said.
The mining company emphasized that should nickel ore prices in the world market become competitively attractive again, Citinickel will not be able to make its shipments should the suspension order remain in effect.
"This will prevent Citinickel from generating any revenue, which ultimately have a negative effect on the financial condition of the company on consolidation," she said.
The company said that the government has no reason to issue the suspension as it has already slowed down operations and has held shipments due to low world prices of nickel ore.

World prices to affect firm more 

Citinickel clarified that the order has no direct effect on the financial condition of the company and that possible current decline in sales would be attributed to low price of nickel ore not because of the suspension order.
Citinickel emphasized that their mines are compliant with the rules, regulations and mandate of the Philippine Mining Act 1995 and other environmental laws as well as the obligations and restrictions imposed under the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA).
The company also announced that DENR finished its audit on Citinickel last week and no issues, irregularities or violations on mining and environmental laws were highlighted against the company during the exit meeting.
"We are confident that the findings will enlighten the DENR that Citinickel is compliant with the rules, regulations and mandate of the Mining Act and other environmental laws as well as the obligations and restrictions imposed on us under the MPSA," it said.
Prior to the issuance of the mining audit order, Citinickel said it haD secured the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 certification for Environmental Management System (EMS) for nickel operations and post-mining activities.
"At that time of validation and standard audit, no issues or irregularities were found or highlighted by the certifying body. Hence, we are very shocked and surprised that a suspension order was all of a sudden issued against us," Tanchay said.
The ISO 14001 EMS standard is a systematic framework to manage the immediate and long term environmental impacts of an organization’s products, services and processes.
The DENR requires all mining contractors to secure ISO 14001 certification to show they have passed international standards have a good environmental management system.
ISO certification ensures that appropriate measures are put in place to achieve minimal negative impacts of mining on the environment and guarantees the compliance of mining contractors with applicable mining and environmental laws, regulations, and requirements in mining operations while gearing towards growth.

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