By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Baguio City – Even after the government recently gave awards to some of the country’s biggest miners for adhering to safety and environmental standards, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has remained skeptical on the mining sector.
At her message at the souvenir program of the 63rd Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference (ANMSEC), which she didn’t attend, Lopez said that while there are ongoing efforts to make the mining sector a safe industry, the welfare of the communities surrounding a mine site is yet to be addressed.
“The PMSEA [Philippine Mines Safety and Environment Association] has come a long way in improving safety in mine sites, particularly to mine workers. We wish the same can be said for the welfare of the people in host communities and surrounding areas, and for the environment, including biodiversity,” Lopez said.
“We look forward to seeing the mining industry deliver results according to standards set by law and the expectations of the people; verily, it is because of failures to do so that we have stopped the operations of several mining companies. Doing it right, fully and consistently, is the only way for the mining industry to move forward,” she added.
OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., SR Metals, Inc. (SRMI), and Coral Bay Nickel Corp. are this year’s recipients of the prestigious Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA), the highest award conferred by PMSEA.
PMIEA, which was acknowledged and signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, is the highlight of ANMSEC, which was organized by Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB), an attached agency to the Department of Natural and Environment Resources, Philippine Society of Mining Engineers, and PMSEA.
But Lopez is not necessarily keen on the results of the awards, saying that “if people are adversely affected, there are really should be no award.”
To recall, OceanaGold is one of the most highly criticized mining companies by Lopez for its Didipio Mine in Nueva Vizcaya. It is also one of the mining companies recommended for suspension by the DENR’s Mining Audit Team.
SRMI is also one of the 21 companies that are at risk of losing its permit to operate, based on the mining audit results.
The DENR is particularly asking SR Metals to explain why it should not be held liable for its “violations”, one of which is use of a provincial road as a private mine road.
The PMIEA gives the award every year to outstanding mining companies in line with the call for the Philippine mining industry to promote and practice responsible mining.
It recognizes outstanding levels of dedication, initiative and innovation in the pursuit of companies involved in various aspects of mineral utilization.