By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu wants to meet with miners regularly to show them the administration’s uncompromising stance about responsible mining wherein non-compliant firms immediately face consequences.
In his recent meeting with Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), Cimatu told the members to “shape up.” He also informed them of their next meeting in February.
“Our campaign against non-compliant mining companies is continuous,” Cimatu said.
Cimatu told mining companies to get their acts together to counter the negative public perception towards mining activities by promoting responsible mining and ensuring their operations have minimal impact on the environment and local communities.
Instead of focusing more on profits, Cimatu said the mining industry should promote environmental protection and sustainable development, and look after the welfare of people affected by mining operations.
Cimatu said it was not enough for mining firms to pay higher taxes as this does not contribute to improving public perception towards the highly extractive industry.
“It’s not about money, it’s about the attitude of the mining company to show that you are doing something, not only in greening, but also with your water discharge and tailings disposal,” Cimatu told representatives of COMP member companies.
Cimatu made the statement following the presentation of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) showing the shortcomings of mining companies, especially those who failed the mining audit earlier conducted by the DENR.
According to the MGB, several mining companies are guilty of the following: Damage to land and private properties; siltation and discoloration of water bodies; dust generation; non-submission of reports; inadequate information, education and communication campaign; poor implementation of social development and management program; and operation beyond or outside their declared feasibility areas.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier warned mining companies to take responsibility to rehabilitate mining areas they destroyed or he will put an end to mining.
Cimatu said the President was “really mad at those who are destroying the environment.”
“The areas you disturb are visible or shown to the public and this easily causes a bias against you. Do not disturb areas which you do not plan on using immediately, so that you minimize the damage,” Cimatu said.
In response, miners agreed to undertake “progressive rehabilitation” in order to accelerate restoration of disturbed areas.
Progressive rehabilitation requires miners to expose only the maximum area allowed by the MGB at any given time, and prescribes a standard time in leaving such areas exposed.