Two mining projects threatened with closure for violating environmental laws

Two mining projects face possible closure orders for violating environmental and mining laws, a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) official said.

While refusing to identify the two mistaken mining companies, DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones told reporters in an online press conference on Monday that these mining projects had previously been recommended for closure or suspension by the late and former DENR secretary. Regina Paz L. Lopez following a mining audit during her short stint as the country’s environment and natural resources official in 2017.

However, due to their pending appeal to the Office of the President (OP), he said, both companies are still in business.

“The PO does not have a restraining order. Although they are licensed to operate, they must comply with DENR requirements. We will issue a cease and desist order to these businesses [if they fail to comply]”Leones said.

He explained that of the 26 mining operations that were previously recommended suspended or closed by Lopez, 13 went directly to file an appeal with the OP, while 13 filed their appeal with the DENR.

Of those who appealed their cases through the regular DENR channels, 10 were allowed to continue their activities after taking corrective action.

The rest, he said, are still in the process of complying with the corrective actions prescribed by the DENR through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

He explained that mining companies, after being slapped by Lopez’s suspension or shutdown order, were given 6 months to comply and many were able to comply, eventually gaining permission to continue operations.

New DENR OCI Secretary Jim Sampulna also clarified on Monday the issue of surface mining as it relates to lifting the ban through Duterte’s Executive Order 130.

Sampulna served as Under-Secretary for Attached Agencies, Mines and Muslim Affairs before taking charge of DENR’s OCI.

“It is in the law that surface mining is authorized. However, we have policies and guidelines on surface mining which must be clear and followed,” Sampulna emphasized.

“There are misnomers that if it’s in the open then it’s destructive. But even before the project starts, there is already a rehabilitation plan where the degree of environmental degradation has already been measured… it will be restored after their exploitation,” he added.

He also noted that constant monitoring of mining operations is carried out by the national government, neighboring mining communities and the “very strict” Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).