Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said Monday the ban on open pit mining remains in effect in the country.
Cimatu said the ban, first imposed by his predecessor, Regina Lopez, would stay until the Cabinet came out with a more definitive policy.
“Open pit (ban) is still in effect. It is still the subject of discussion in the Mining Industry Coordinating Council because there are pros and cons. It’s a policy issue and these are being discussed in the MICC,” said Cimatu.
Former environment secretary Regina Lopez earlier issued an order banning prospective open-pit mines. She blamed open-pit mines for the serious degradation of the environment.
Mines affected by the order included the $5.8-billion Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines Inc., the $1.2-billion Silangan mine project of Silangan Mindanao Mining Co. and the $2-billion King-king copper-gold project of St. Augustine Gold & Copper Ltd.
“I brought this [open-pit mining] up during the last MICC meeting. We will be meeting again several weeks from now,” said Cimatu said.
Cimatu earlier said the Environment Department would release this month the results of the assessment of mining companies. He said the agency was reviewing the appeals made by mining companies which Lopez ordered to be shut down.
“I’m afraid we cannot yet release it [results] today. In due time we will announce it. The documents submitted by the mining companies are very voluminous. I thought it was just several pieces of paper,” Cimatu said.
Lopez earlier ordered a review on the operations of all operating metallic mines in the country. Following the audit, Lopez announced that 23 mining operations would be up for closure and five more would be suspended. Twelve mining companies passed the audit.
She also announced that the government would cancel the contracts of 75 mining projects which were found within or near watersheds.
Mining companies questioned the decision and filed their appeal with the Environment Department. Some companies also opted to file their appeal with the Office of the President.
“I don’t want to rush because this is really an exhaustive review. This is reconsideration, not an initial case so I have to get all evidences submitted by the companies. There are responsible mining companies but there are also those who are irresponsible. If they cannot improve their operations, then get out of the business,” Cimatu said.
“I am the DENR secretary and I am pro-environment. I am neither anti or pro [mining]. I should respect that mandate of the secretary,” said Cimatu.
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