Mining firms remain hopeful after talks with DENR chief

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The local mining industry remains positive that uncertainties in the sector will be resolved after its meeting with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

While controversial issues like open pit ban and the results of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) audit was not discussed during the recent meeting between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and local miners, Cimatu assured them DENR would help the industry.

“He says there is hope for open pit and the MICC (Mining Industry Coordinating Council) results would need to be discussed with concerned parties first,” Philex Mining Corp. president and CEO Eulalio Austin said in a text message.

“The meeting is still a good venue to continuously educate the Secretary on right and principled mining,” he said.

Austin said the meeting focused on the reforestation and revegetation programs of mining companies. The idea of bamboo to be used in reforestation programs was also discussed,” he said.

Meanwhile, national coalition group Bantay Kita has called on the DENR to uphold the process of public consultations amid the lifting of the moratorium on exploration permits for metallic and non-metallic minerals.

“Exploration requires consent from local government units and communities. We welcome information that will help stakeholders make evidence-based decisions,” Bantay Kita coordinator Tina Pimentel said.

In July 2016, former DENR chief Gina Lopez ordered the audit of all operating and suspended mines and the moratorium on processing and approval of applications and projects for all metallic and non-metallic minerals.

DENR said Lopez’s order was questionable because exploration is allowed under Executive Order 79, which was issued by former president Benigno Aquino III. The EO only prohibits new mining contracts.

The EO allows the grant of exploration permits, despite the moratorium on the issuance of mineral agreements. It also states the exploration permit grantee shall be given the right of first option to apply for development of minerals in the exploration site.

“We implore the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to prepare the guidelines for competitive public bidding, with emphasis on transparency and citizen engagement at the soonest. We also appeal to the DENR to release the results of the mining audit which will be the basis for the lifting of the exploration permit moratorium,” Pimentel said.

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