DENR probes ‘midnight deals’ on mining firms’ operations

>> Friday, October 7, 2016

Lepanto Mines, Benguet Corp in suspension list; Philex monitored 

By Raadees Sausa

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Gina Lopez has ordered investigation of alleged “midnight deals” involving some officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and mining companies granted extension or expansion of their operations during the last days of the Aquino administration.
This, as the DENR recommended suspension of 20 mining firms, two of which are in Benguet – Benguet Corp. in Itogon town and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company in Mankayan. Oceano Gold of Nueva Vizcaya was also recommended for suspension.
Philex Mining Corporation, although not included for suspension is being monitored by DENR for “infractions.”
The DENR bared this Tuesday following completion of its audit of mining operations in the country.
These mining firms will be given a show cause order and will be asked to answer within seven days upon receiving the order.  
Lopez met with mining firms that have "failed" and "passed" the audit on Thursday in Manila.
"At the end of the day, what we want is a mining industry that is much, much more committed to the common good," she added.
Following these, sources said the mining companies will file their separate letters of reconsideration with the DENR asking for re-audit of their firms.

Firms up for suspension
Among those recommended for suspension were the following: Libjo Mining Corporation, AAM-Phil Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corporation - Parcel 1 and Parcel 2B, Krominco Incorporated, Carrascal Nickel Corporation, Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation, Filminera Resources Corporation, Strongbuilt Mining Development Corporation and Sinosteel Philippines HY Mining Corporation
Others recommended for suspension were Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation, Wellex Mining Corporation, Century Peak Corporation - Rapid City Nickel Project and Casiguran Nickel Project, Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corporation, CTP Construction and Mining Corporation, Agata Mining Ventures Incorporated, Hinatuan Mining Corporation, Benguet Corporation, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, OceanaGold Phils, Incorporated, Adnama Mining Resources, Incorporated and SR Metals, Incorporated.
Acting on a complaint from the Alyansa Tigil-Mina (ATM), Lopez demanded an audit of all mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA), commonly known as mining license, approved by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in May and June this year.
In a press statement, Jayvee Garganera, ATM national coordinator, said a dozen mining firms were granted extension of their MPSA by then MGB director and now undersecretary Leo Jasareno despite an executive order issued by then President Benigno Aquino 3rd suspending the issuance or renewal of mining licenses.

Jasareno probed
Lopez, in ordering the probe, wants to find out who gave Jasareno the go-signal to  grant the expansion permits.
Executive Order (EO) 79 states that no new mineral agreement shall be issued by MGB pending approval of a legislation clarifying existing revenue-sharing scheme and mechanisms for the mining industry.
“The extension of mining licenses by MGB is questionable since it was against the order of PNoy, who was still the President at that time. Worse, some of these licenses were expansion of contract areas, meaning expanded operations,” Garganera said.
He said these “midnight deals” were approved just days before Aquino stepped down.
The MGB’s website showed that Jasareno approved some of the licenses on June 28 this year, just two days before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office.

Firms given extension
The companies given an extension were Sinosteel Phils. H.Y. Mining Corp. in Dinagat Island; Surigao Integrated Resources Corp., in Surigao Del Norte; Chromerock Dev. Corp. in Eastern Samar; and Mt. Labo Exploration and Dev. Corp. in Camarines Norte.
Those awarded with license for expansion of operations are Adnama Mining Resources Inc.; Holcim Mining; Shangfil Mining and Trading; Kingking Mining; Core Mining Corp.; Stagno Mining; Sinophil Mining; Quarry Ventured Phils. Inc.; Rapid City and Dev. Corp.; Global Mini-Met Resources; Parvisgold Inc.; Mina Tierra Gracia Inc.; Investwell Resources Inc; Surigao Integrated Resources Corp., Shuley Mine Inc.; Mt. Labo Exploration; and Westchinamin Corp.
This, as Jasareno told a news briefing in Manila where he and  Lopez presented results of the audit that most common violations were siltation, dust, no tree-cutting permits, and unsystematic mining methods.
"I want to make it clear, I have no beef with mining, but I'm vehemently against adverse effects that may happen, that are happening," Lopez said on Tuesday.
"For a hundred years, we turned a blind eye. I don't even blame it on the mining industry; it's because we at DENR have been lax."
On Tuesday, Jasareno also revealed the 11 mining firms that are not recommended for suspension, but will continue to be monitored.
They are: Philex Mining Corporation, Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation, Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation, Techiron Resources Incorporated, Cagdianao Mining Corporation, Taganito Mining Corporation, Platinum Group Metals Corporation and Greenstone Resources Corporation.
Others are Philsaga Mining Corporation, Pacific Nickel Philippines, Incorporated and Apex Mining Company Incorporated
Jasareno said while these firms are not recommended for suspension, they also have to correct their infractions.

10 firms suspended
The DENR has already suspended the mining operations of 10 firms, bringing the total of all metallic operating mines in the country to 41.
Jasareno said there are about 18 nickel mines from the 30 mining firms that are already suspended or recommended for suspension.
About 55.5% of the country's nickel production as  of 2015 were attributed to these mines.
The DENR found out in its compliance with safety standards audit that siltation and cutting trees without necessary permits were some of the violations being committed by 20 mining operations in different parts of the country.
These are now the grounds that the DENR holds in issuing a suspension order against these mining operations.
But the DENR will give them a week to convince the agency not to do so.
“Once we receive their explanation, the department will review the explanation. If the department will find that there is strong reason that they be stopped in the meantime while they have to mitigate the violations, then the department may issue the suspension order,”  Jasareno said.
“We cannot allow them to continue to make money while people suffer. It’s not just right at all. It’s against the constitution,” said Lopez.

11 firms to be monitored
The DENR did not suspend 11 of the 41 mining operations in the country but they will continue to monitor them.
Prior to the announcement, 10 mining sites have already been suspended due to different violations.
They have to comply with the DENR’s to-do list like rehabilitation to restore their operation.
The chamber of mines of the Philippines is questioning the inclusion of anti-mining groups in the auditing team.
The DENR, however, said these NGOs have the same advocacy in mining as well as the government.
“We find it objectionable that Anti-mining Civil Society Organizations are included in the mine audit because they are patently anti-mining (operations) so you have bias against mining,” said Ronald Recidoro, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines’ vice president for legal and policy.

“Alyansa Tigil Mina is not really against mining. They are against irresponsible mining which the president is against and which the audit team is against,” Lopez said. – With reports from and UNTV 


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