COMP confident of ‘positive’ mine-audit results

THE Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) is confident of “positive results” of the mines audit conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last month.

In a statement, COMP EVP Nelia Halcon said they expect the findings to be fair, anchored on the promise by President Duterte of a clean government under his watch.

COMP issued the statement as the audit teams prepare to report the result of the mine audit, which ended on August 31.

The DENR, led by Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez, was supposed to announce the results of the audit at a news conference to be called by the DENR chief last week.

Since Lopez took the helm of the DENR, 10 mining operations have been suspended for failing environmental standards. Lopez had vowed to stop mining operations that cause environmental degradation or destruction and people to suffer. DENR Senior Undersecretary Leo J. Jasareno, the former chief of the DENR’s COMP who led the nationwide audit, said the audit teams have completed the site inspection and were in the process of writing the report and recommendations.

COMP, which represents the mining industry’s big players, were promised fair and transparent audit of mining operations by Lopez, an environmental advocate who has been vocal against the destructive nature of mining in the Philippines.

During the Mining Philippines 2016 Conference and Exhibition last month, MGB Director Mario Luis Jacinto assured participants on-going mine audit would benefit responsible miners as it is the Duterte administration’s way of weeding out the irresponsible miners.

“We expect the findings to be fair, anchored on the promise of President Duterte of giving us a clean government. 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,” Halcon said.

During the mining conference and exhibition, COMP President Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez welcomed the audit and boldly said, “We have nothing to fear,” adding that their members have long been practicing responsible mining.

COMP had earlier said the majority of its members with operating mines have already secured the ISO 14001 certification, required of all mining companies by DENR Administrative Order 2015-07 signed by former Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in 2015.

Halcon said COMP members are confident of passing the stringent audit criteria of the DENR, which, on top of the physical or technical aspect of mining, has included social, environmental and biodiversity conservation, among the considerations.

“We continue to abide by transparency, accountability and integrity in all that we do. We expect no less from the DENR,” Halcon said.

Meanwhile, scholars in the mining communities of BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc. (BNMI) stand to lose their second-semester tuition and allowances for SY 2016-2017 due to the continued suspension of the company’s nickel-mining operations.

The BNMI, a subsidiary of Benguet Corp., subsidizes the tuition and daily allowances of 329 scholars composed of 272 high-school students and 57 college and technical and vocational schools students from 23 barangays.

The company is host to nine barangays in their jurisdiction in Santa Cruz, but has adopted 14 additional barangays near their nickel-mining operations. BNMI 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.

The students have lamented what they describe as “unfortunate turn of events,” as their parents will now have to face the grueling and helpless task of looking for financial assistance elsewhere, otherwise, their children would have to postpone their studies indefinitely until mining operations may resume.

The operation of the BNMI was among the first casualties of Lopez’s campaign against irresponsible mining operations.

Prior to the suspension, BNMI was certified under the ISO 14001:2015 on Environmental Management System by TUVRheinland on March 17.

The DENR suspension has severely affected not just the mining operations of the company, but the communities most of all.

Close to 10,000 miners stand to permanently lose their jobs should the DENR decide to stop their operation for good.

Lopez had earlier vowed to help those who would be affected by the campaign against irresponsible mining operations by making them partners of the DENR through its various projects, particularly the National Greening Program (NGP), the massive reforestation, anti-poverty and food security program launched in 2010 by former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.