Allows government to stop improper private mining operations
On September 5, 2013, the 23rd Division of the Court of Appeals issued a 60-day Temporary Restraining Order stopping RTC Surigao City, Branch 29 Judge Victor A. Canoy from implementing and enforcing his Order dated June 14, 2013 and Writ of Preliminary Injunction dated June 17, 2013 in Civil Case No. 7692 against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Privatization and Management Office (PMO).
The Surigao Mineral Reservation, located primarily on Nonoc Island, Surigao, has been found to be among the largest nickel deposits in the world, estimated to contain 150 million dry metric tons of ore reserves with valuation of at least US$ 15 Billion.Shuley Mines, Inc. (SHULEY) has been operating in the mineral reservation since 2009. Average shipments out of the reservation is estimated at between USD 1million to USD 2million per shipment.
Judge Canoy had ordered the DENR, MGB and PMO not to implement MGB’s suspension order against SHULEY conducting mining and shipping operations, including the extraction and shipment of nickel ores out of Nonoc Island, and ordered MGB to issue and release ore transport permits and mineral ore export permits to SHULEY, as well as grant SHULEY’s future applications for such OTPs and MOEPs, despite the expiration of SHULEY’s Mines Operating Agreement (MOA) with Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) holder Pacific Nickel Philippines, Inc. (PNPI) on April 27, 2013.
Judge Canoy is also presiding in an indirect contempt case filed by SHULEY against MGB Director Jasareno in relation to the latter’s stoppage orders. On August 28, 2013, Judge Canoy had issued a warrant of arrest against Director Jasareno ostensibly to ensure the latter’s attendance at a hearing scheduled on 12 September 2013.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) questioned Judge Canoy’s issuances before the CA through a petition for certiorari wherein it pointed out that, despite the expiration of the MOA, SHULEY continues to unlawfully extract the mineral ores owned by the State, to the prejudice of the State since the nickel ores being illegally extracted are valued in the amount of more than PhP150 million.
The CA ruled that all the requirements for the issuance of a TRO are present: (1) the government’s clear and unmistakeable right to be protected, (2) a material and substantial invasion of such right, (c) the urgent need for the injunctive writ to prevent irreparable injury to the government since mineral resources are irreplaceable, and (d) the lack of any other ordinary, speedy and adequate remedy to prevent the infliction of such irreparable injury.
The Constitution reserves to the State the ownership of all minerals that may be found in public and private lands, and as emphasized by the CA, the extraction of mineral resources is a distinct privilege granted only to a few. SHULEY’s authority to continue its mining operations is doubtful, and there exists an urgent and paramount necessity warranting the issuance of an injunctive writ against Judge Canoy’s Order and Writ of Preliminary Injunction. The CA deemed it sensible and judicious to issue the TRO to prevent the irreparable damage caused by the continuing extraction of the State’s mineral resources.