By (Chino S. Leyco, Madelaine B. Miraflor, with Reuters report)
A government panel cleared 23 of 27 Philippine mines that were assessed for compliance with state regulations, the Department of Finance (DOF) confirmed yesterday, easing uncertainty about potential supply disruptions at the world’s No. 2 nickel ore supplier.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) reviewed all 27 mines that were ordered closed or suspended last year by former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez. Lopez has since been replaced by Roy Cimatu, a former soldier.
Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin, who chaired the MICC meeting yesterday, said that three nickel and one chromite mining operations did not pass the “criteria and benchmark” set by the audit teams.
Bayani, however, said that the MICC audit reports are not yet final, adding the body will meet again in July to finalize the assessments.
The finance official also said that the 23 mining operations that passed the audit are not yet out of the woods.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Assistant Director Danilo Uykieng, meanwhile, said the deadline of the submission of the final mining audit report is next week so that by July, the result will be finally presented to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“All will be known in the final report,” Uykieng said in a text message.
“Today’s [Thursday] meeting is just for the initial presentation to MICC of the report for information and consideration for acceptance based on the contract with the experts,” he added.
Most of the mines that Lopez had ordered shut were able to continue operations after lodging appeals, but Lopez’s black letter approach to environmental protection had raised concerns about the certainty of nickel ore supply among buyers, including top importer China.
The panel’s findings, including the fate of the four mines that did not pass the review, are subject to a final decision by the office of President Rodrigo Duterte and the environment ministry, the source said on Thursday.
The 27 mines were rated based on a number of criteria including legal, technical, economic, social and environmental compliance, said the source, who declined to be identified as the decision is not yet public.
“Based on the rating, four failed to get a ‘passing’ mark,” the source said, without naming the mines.
Members of the government panel are expected to announce their recommendations at a media briefing later in the day.
Mining is a deeply contentious issue in the resource-rich Southeast Asian country after past examples of environmental mismanagement.