Top-to-bottom review of PHL mines begins this month

The interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is set to begin this January its “fact-finding and science-based” review of an initial batch of 26 mine sites ordered either suspended or shut down last year by the previous leadership at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), following the completion of the list of 25 experts who will undertake this reevaluation.

Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, who represented the Department of Finance (DOF) at the yearend meeting of the MICC last  December, said the 25 experts will comprise the five technical review teams (TRTs) tasked to conduct the review of these 26 mining operations. 

The MICC is co-chaired by Secretary Roy Cimatu of the DENR and Secretary Carlos Dominguez III of the Department of Finance (DOF).  

Agabin said the MICC will tap the expertise of the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) to implement and manage the “fact-finding and science-based”  review process on the mining operations. 

Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the review should come up with recommendations on mining-related methodologies and procedures to maximize the benefits of mining and avoid damages; the list of inefficiencies/violations/ damages done by mining companies that are difficult to address by the DENR alone; and the appropriate penalties that have to be imposed for such inefficiencies/violations/ damages done. 

The TRTs are also expected to recommend measures that need to be instituted to avoid the recurrence of such inefficiencies/violations/ damages, and to improve mining operations with a view to effectively safeguard the environment and protect the rights of resource-dependent communities, Sombilla said. 

She said a list of provisions in any laws, rules and regulations that need to be revised or amended to improve mining operations and ensure the development of a responsible mining sector, along with a framework, or set of standards and procedures to institutionalize the conduct of review for the remaining existing operating mines should also be covered by the study to be done by the TRTs.

“The final report will be a consolidated one.  We will not see individual reports for each of the mines. It's going to be consolidated. It's going to be general -- the key results that will come out of the 26 mining sites,” Sombilla said. 

She said the members of the TRTs have already been meeting even before the finalization of the mining review framework “to finalize how they will strategize in doing the research considering the limited time that we're allotting them -- three months.” 

“So they've already been meeting since the pre-workshop that we had sometime early November,” Sombilla said at the Dec. 18 meeting of the MICC. “They will finally submit before the end of the year their final framework. By then they would have already been contracted, so they could start on the actual work, the study, in January.” 

Earlier, Agabin said the clustering of the mines for review  was based on the types of minerals and locations, which are as follows: TRT Team 1 for gold, copper and nickel mines in  the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Cagayan Valley (Region II)  and  Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan (Region IV-B); TRT 2 for iron and nickel mines in Central Luzon (Region III); TRT 3 for chromite, nickel and iron mines in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) and CARAGA; TRTs 4 and 5 for nickel and chromite mines in CARAGA.  

The five TRTs will look at the environmental, economic, social, legal and technical aspects of the mining operations.

As proposed by Dominguez during the MICC meeting last Oct. 24, the Council agreed to conduct another review in 2019 and succeeding ones every two years thereafter, in keeping with the MICC mandate under Executive Order No. 79 on a review of all mining operations once every two years.

“I have to congratulate all of you because this group was set up in 2012.  It’s the first time ever that we are going to do this review,” Dominguez said at the MICC meeting last Oct. 24.  

Dominguez recalled that the first time the MICC met under the Duterte administration and began to discuss the conduct of a multi-stakeholder review was last February. “So after that, we got things done. Congratulations to everybody,” he told his fellow members in the Council during that October meeting. (DOF)