DENR limits areas for mining activities

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
DENR limits areas for mining activities
Nickel mines that are producing up to one million metric tons annually will be allowed to work on 50 hectares and can reach up to 100 hectares for those with output of more than nine million MT.

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is limiting the areas to be mined and developed as the government moves toward prioritizing environmental rehabilitation of the country’s mineral operations.

Based on its latest department administrative order, which is up for Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu’s signature, DENR is limiting production areas from 50 to 162 hectares depending on the mine’s annual production volumes.

Nickel mines that are producing up to one million metric tons annually will be allowed to work on 50 hectares and can reach up to 100 hectares for those with output of more than nine million MT.

Mine sites with processing plants can develop up to 162 hectares.

“Based on our existing guidelines, we do not have progressive rehabilitation which means that during mining operations, disturbed mine sites are just being left as they are. Miners just do the rehabilitation at the end of the mine life,” Environment Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonas Leones told The STAR.

“We no longer want that. Miners cannot just open and expand without rehabilitating the initial areas first,” he said.

The DENR’s move is in line with President Duterte’s order directing mining companies to prioritize rehabilitation and tree planting projects or face revocation of permits.

“The DAO simply asks miners not to open everything because that would be more prone to pollution and sedimentation. Mining operators have their responsibilities and it should not be at the expense of the environment,” Leones said.

 “ We will allow them but they need to rehabilitate first instead of waiting for the end of the mine life. They are earning from our mineral deposits, they should also do their part in protecting the environment,” he added.

While it gave a counter proposal to DENR’s new policy, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said it would comply with the government’s order.

“We were proposing to subdivide the mineral tenements into three: active mining area, idle area where we can do temporary revegetation and the mined out area where we can immediately do final rehabilitation,” COMP executive director Ronald Recidoro told The STAR in a separate interview.

“Our concern is that it could impact mining operations that have thin mineralization. They insisted on their model. On our end, we saw the rationale of the DAO and we have to comply with the President’s order to increase the green areas in mine sites,” he added.

The mining firms have also expressed concern over the schedule of the implementation of order. The DENR wants it implemented in the next six months.

“We’re proposing it to be done from the start of the rainy season to ensure our survival,” Recidoro said.

“We already told them during our discussion that all projects had feasibility studies to accommodate the operations but MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) said that based on their data, the 50-hectare limit has already an allowance if a mine wants to procure about one million MT,” he explained.

“But we accept the principle and rationale of the DAO since we also want to address the perception of the public. We have to do it and we will just probably discuss it with them again once we encounter any problem,” Recidoro said.

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