DENR draft order lifting open-pit mining ban ready for Cimatu’s OK


Months after the signing of Executive Order (EO) 130, which lifts the moratorium on the processing of new mining projects, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now poised to reverse the ban on open-pit mining method for copper, gold, silver, and complex ores before the end of the year.

The lifting of the ban imposed by former Secretary Regina Paz Lopez, through DENR Administrative Order (DAO)  2017-10, will be in the form of another DAO to be signed by Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, the BusinessMirror gathered.

The move, which was rejected by anti-mining groups under the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) stated that the draft DAO aims “to revitalize the mining industry and usher in significant economic benefits to the country by providing raw materials for the construction and development of other industries and by increasing employment opportunities in rural areas where there are mining activities thereby stimulating countryside development.

“We reject this move of the DENR to lift the ban on open-pit mining. DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu must not sign this Department Administrative Order, especially in the light of the coming COP 26 climate summit. Such a policy move is a drastic reversal of preventing deforestation and protecting the remaining key biodiversity areas,” Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM told the BusinessMirror when sought for comment.

The group also demanded that President Duterte, who was vocal against destructive large-scale mining operations, to categorically instruct the DENR not to sign any order lifting the ban on open-pit mining.

Nevertheless, Garganera said, they will not be surprised if Duterte would actually remain silent or even be supportive of such a move by the DENR.

“It is simple to understand that huge Chinese demand for our minerals is driving this policy direction of aggressively promoting mining amid the pandemic,” he alleged.

Aside from lifting the ban on open-pit mining for select ores, the five-page draft DAO also aims “to establish enhanced parameters and criteria for the types of surface mining methods under the Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility [DMPF] to address the environmental and safety issues of surface mining methods, particularly with open-pit mining.”

To recall, President Duterte signed EO 130 in April this year, amending Section 4 of President Benigno Aquino’s mining policy, EO 79 which imposes the ban in the processing of new mining projects pending the enactment of a measure that will increase the government’s share in mining revenues. The lifting of the mining moratorium is expected to open the floodgates for more mining projects in the Philippines.

In recommending the lifting of open-pit mining ban, members of the technical working group of the DENR have put more weight on the arguments made by big mining industry players under the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP).

The draft order states that open-pit mining, which requires scraping of forests, flattening of mountains, and digging huge holes to extract minerals, is a globally accepted method of mining considered to be the most feasible option for mining near-surface or shallow ore deposits, and that not all open-pit mines produce acid rock drainage or acidic contaminants.

It also said that:

There are best practice control strategies and technologies that can help avoid or manage the negative impacts of open-pit mining;

There are existing policies/laws that designate areas that are not allowed for mining (e.g., protected areas, critical watershed, ancestral lands, and prime agricultural lands);

Major issues concerning mining, including open-pit mining, cannot be attributed to the use of the method itself, but rather on the accidents involving wastes and tailings confinement;

Progressive rehabilitation of mined-out areas is now being practiced to restore vegetative cover and reduce adverse impacts on the environment;

Continuing the ban on open-pit mining may result in loss of economic opportunity.

To recall, an environmentalist and anti-mining advocate, Lopez issued the ban on open-pit mining and cited as the reason the lessons learned as evidenced by the so-called legacy mines in various parts of the country.

These legacy mines are open-pit mines that were eventually abandoned by mining companies after extracting minerals in the area. These areas are usually turned into huge man-made lakes with water tainted with toxic chemicals or heavy metals.

Moreover, Lopez said then, open-pit mining can cause enormous and irreversible damage to the environment, citing the case of the Marcopper Mining Disaster, one of the worst mining environmental disasters in the country’s history that happened on March 24, 1996, on the island province of Marinduque.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

Leave a Reply