The government is currently reviewing an order which prohibits the use of open-pit mining for prospective gold, silver and copper mining projects earlier imposed by former Environment secretary Regina Lopez, an official said Wednesday.
Environment Undersecretary for planning, policy and international affairs Jonas Leones said the Mining Industry Coordinating Council was reviewing the order, although the ban would stay until the MICC released the results on the review of the policy.
“Secretary [Roy] Cimatu has not yet issued an order revoking that [open-pit ban] but what I know is that policy is now being evaluated by the MICC, being the policy council evaluating mining policies,” Leones said at the sidelines of the Mining Philippines Conference in Manila.
Leones said the Environment Department through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau was providing technical inputs to the MICC.
“What we can assure you all is that whatever the solutions that will be undertaken by the department and the MICC will be based on the best practices and the national acceptable standard, so we cannot say that open-pit will be used, will be revoked. But what we know is we are evaluating because the president already announced that mining operations will continue because of the mining laws. So if that’s the direction of the president, then we will implement,” said Leones.
Leones said the mining law does not clearly state if open-pit mining is allowed or prohibited in the country.
“There is no categorical mention in the law that open-pit mining is allowed and there’s also no clear mention that open-pit mining is prohibited but we experience things that in old mining operations, open-pit mining is the only method or one of the methods that we can extract the minerals. So perhaps the MICC is looking at the possible alternatives, looking at the experience of other countries,” Leones said.
“I don’t want to pressure the MICC but since there is already clamor, I think the MICC is fast-tracking the review of the policy. We cannot really issue an order because the MICC is doing a review. What we are doing now is providing technical inputs so that they can have a technical evaluation,” Leones said.
Leones said DENR’s decision on whether or not it would lift the open-pit ban would be based on the evaluation of the MICC.
“It will be based on the evaluation but that is recommendatory. The secretary will review and we will consult the president and the Chamber of Mines. As soon as there is already a result, these groups will sit down and discuss, together with the different stakeholders,” said Leones.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said it was willing to work with the government and assured that the group would continue to adhere to highest standards of mining.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he asked Cimatu for the “eventual closing of open-pit mining” in the country.
Duterte said, however, he would give mining companies enough elbow room for eventual change in the modality of getting what’s inside the bowels of the earth.
CoMP executive director Ronald Recidoro said he understood the president’s sentiment for it was “clearly an expression of his frustration over the images of illegal mining that he has so far seen in the country”.
Recidoro said the group was willing to work with the government to ensure responsible mining of the country’s mineral resources. He said the commitment would also apply to the utilization of the highly scrutinized open-pit mining method.