Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has lauded the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) for starting the “fact-finding and science-based” review of mining operations across the country for the first time since the inception of this multisectoral oversight body five years ago.
Dominguez pointed out that since the MICC was reconstituted in 2012 under Executive Order No. 79, the body has failed—till now—to perform one of its main tasks under this law, which is to carry out a multi-stakeholder review of 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 recent MICC meeting.
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 their latest meeting last Oct. 24.
The MICC is co-chaired by Dominguez and Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The first batch of mining operations covered by the review are the 26 sites arbitrarily ordered either closed or suspended by the previous DENR leadership.
Considering that the MICC is mandated to conduct a review of mining operations every two years, Dominguez told his fellow members in the Council that they should start discussing in January next year the review plan for 2019, which should cover a different set of mine sites.
He projected that “after two or three cycles,” the MICC would have already covered the review of all mining sites in the entire country.
“Because it took quite a bit of time to plan for the implementation of this (first review), and because we are mandated to do this every two years, I think, in January we should already be planning what we will do for 2019,” Dominguez said.
“Let’s start planning already for the second round,” he added.
For the first round of the review covering the initial batch of 26 mines, the MICC expects preliminary results in January next year and the final report by March.
Five Technical Review Teams (TRTs) will carry out the review.
According to Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, the clustering of the mines for review were based on the types of minerals and locations, which are as follows: Technical Review (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.
In the same meeting, majority of the MICC members decided to recommend the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining provided that laws and regulations governing this method of minerals extraction are strictly enforced by the DENR.
The MICC said in a statement released after the meeting: “In the 28th MICC meeting held on 24 October 2017, wherein a quorum was acting and present throughout, majority of the members of the MICC members voted to recommend a change in the policy of the DENR with regard to Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2017-10, particularly, that the DENR lift the ban on open pit mining provided that mining laws are strictly enforced.”
In its meeting, the MICC also agreed that it should be the DENR, through its Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), that should “take a close look and take appropriate action” on the issue involving the expansion of 24 mining areas covered by Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA)
Last April 27, when the DENR was still under Regina Lopez, it issued Department Administrative Order (DAO)-2017-10 imposing a ban on the open pit method of extraction for copper, gold, silver and complex ores.
In its Aug. 23 meeting, the MICC tasked its TWGs on Economic Concerns (EC) and on Environmental Protection and Legislation (EPL) to review and formulate the MICC policy recommendations in relation to the open pit mining ban.
The TWGs were also directed to clarify related policy concerns that include (1) conflicting national and local level policies and issuances; and (2) strengthening the enforcement of existing mining laws, regulations and contracts related to open pit mining.
According to Agabin, the TWGs were guided by the policy statements of President Duterte on the issue.
Cimatu had informed the MICC during the Aug. 23 meeting that the President’s policy directives on mining include the following: 1) improving the regulatory functions of the government on mining; (2) investigating and resolving issues concerning security and safety in small scale mining; (3) addressing the adverse environmental and social impacts of mining, particularly in coastal areas; (4) strengthening regulations on open pit mining; and (5) strictly implementing the mining law and other pertinent environmental laws and regulations to ensure the protection of the environment.