Miners bank on ‘fair’ DENR audit
Large-scale miners Wednesday expressed optimism that results of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ audit of all mines would be “fair.”
Findings of the audit, supervised by antimining advocate and Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, were supposed to be released today.
However, DENR staff Wednesday said the much-anticipated press conference through which Lopez would announce the results has been put off for next Thursday.
“We expect the findings to be fair, anchored on the promise of President Rodrigo Duterte of giving us a clean government,” said Nelia Halcon, executive vice president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP).
The mining industry official was hopeful “that the audit was done with utmost objectivity and that the findings will be properly transmitted to the respective audited mining companies for them to be able to address the gaps in their operations.”
She noted that last month, during the COMP-organized Mining Philippines 2016 international forum, COMP president Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez said the group welcome the audit considering that its members have long been practicing responsible mining.
“We have nothing to fear,” Romualdez said, echoing a pronouncement made by Mines and Geosciences Bureau director Mario Luis Jacinto.
Jacinto, one of the keynote speakers in the conference, said the audit was “a blessing in disguise” for responsible miners because this would differentiate them from irresponsible and illegal miners.
The audit has so far resulted in the suspension of permits for 10 companies, including Benguetcorp Nickel Mines Inc. (BNMI).
BNMI operates in Zambales, where three other nickel miners had their permits suspended for allegedly violating environmental protection laws.
In a separate statement, BNMI said 329 students—many of whom are from communities that host the nickel mine—could lose support for their school expenses in the second semester of the academic year if the suspension of the company’s operations continued.
BNMI shoulders the tuition fees and daily allowances of 272 high school students and 57 college and technical and vocational schools students from 23 barangays in Zambales.
The company’s mining asset covers nine barangays in Sta. Cruz town, but its scholarship program also covers 14 nearby barangays.
BNMI said it has formally informed the students that it will not be able to provide educational assistance for the second semester of the present school year due to financial constraints.
On July 7, the DENR under Lopez suspended the operations of BNMI effective immediately and indefinitely.
“However, prior to the suspension, BNMI was certified under the ISO 14001:2015 on Environmental Management System by TUV Rheinland on March 17, 2016,” the company said.
“The certification was in compliance with the DENR Administrative Order No. 15-07 and came well ahead of the deadline on May 2016,” it added.
BNMI said the suspension has severely affected not just the company “but the communities most of all.”
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