The government’s audit report clearing Semirara Mining and Power Corp., the country’s largest coal producer, likely prevented power outages, an executive said over the weekend.
“The closure of the Semirara coal mine would have been disastrous for the economy and the public, and possibly could create unnecessary political risks for the administration. Without coal, there would be outages, business disruption and retrenchment, and, in the case of affected cement companies, perhaps a supply lack that could affect infrastructure and housing,” Semirara resident manager Ruben Lozada said in a statement.
Lozada said Semirara was consistently protecting the environment while extracting coal.
“The audit reports confirm that commitment. We are responsible miners and keep upgrading our systems and processes when new technologies come to the market,” Lozada said.
The Energy Department and the Environment Department’s Environmental Management Bureau issued separate audits last week, saying that Semirara complied with all government regulations on the protection of the environment.
The company accounts for 97 percent of local coal production which is used mostly for power generation. Cement companies also use local coal as fuel.
Coal accounts for 45 percent of total power generated in 2015 and is considered a cheap source of electricity.
Data showed that electricity from coal plants owned by Semirara’s sister company was sold to power retailer Manila Electric Co. for P2.517 per kilowatt-hour, the lowest cost of power produced.
Lozada said the cost of power from other suppliers ranged from P3 to more than P8 per kWh.
The Energy Department conducted a technical audit on Aug. 25 in response to the concerns raised by the Environment Department such as toxic waste affecting mangroves, sulfur content of coal produced, adverse effect on the lives of seaweed farmers, 47 percent poverty level on Semirara Island, mining overburden affecting the housing community within the operating area and land-grabbing issue.
Semirara received a copy of the technical audit results from the Energy Department dated Sept. 21, 2016 which stated that the DOE audit team verified that the mining operation of Semirara and the company “does not discharge toxic materials to the mangroves, the sulfur content of the coal is below one percent, there is no seaweed farm affected, and the dumping of overburden materials does not affect the nearby housing communities.”