Mining chamber welcomes MICC  recommendation to lift open-pit ban

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The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) welcomes the recommendation of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to lift the open-pit mining ban for select ores, including gold, copper and silver, and complex ores.

In a text message, COMP Executive Director Ronald S. Recidoro said the MICC recommendation is a “positive development” for the mining industry, which experienced what he described as “a policy storm” under the watch of environmentalist Regina Paz L. Lopez during her short stint as chief steward of the country’s environment and natural resources.

Department Administrative Order  2017-10, which imposes a ban on open-pit mining method for select ores, was signed by Lopez on April 27 more than a month before her rejection by the Commission on Appointments.

Prior to the open-pit mining ban, Lopez launched a crackdown against irresponsible mining and has recommended the closure or suspension of a total of 26 large-scale operating mines that failed audit criteria that includes social, environmental and biodiversity considerations.

COMP, which represents the big players in the country’s mining industry, is seeking a reversal of what they described as Lopez’s “antimining” policies, with the ban on open-pit mining being their priority.

COMP Chairman Gerard H. Brimo, in an earlier interview, said surface or open-pit mining is the only way to mine in the Philippines because most of the deposits are low grade and are situated near the surface.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, who cochairs the MICC along with Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III was quoted in news report as expressing hope that the open-pit mining ban will be lifted before the end of the year.

Cimatu has deferred action on the issue of open-pit mining ban and the mine closure and suspension orders affecting more than two dozen large-scale operating mines to the MICC.

He vowed to bring up the MICC recommendation during a meeting in Malacañang early this week.

The open-pit mining ban would have effectively stopped several multibillion-dollar mining projects currently in the pipeline, including the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, King-king Copper-Gold Project and the Silangan Gold Project, all in Mindanao.

President Duterte had earlier vowed to prohibit the open-pit mining method in the future, but also said he is willing to give mining companies some elbow room to continue operations because of the existing mining law.

“We see the MICC recommendation as a positive development for the mining industry.  Open-pit mining is an accepted mining method that is practiced worldwide.  It is proven to be safe, efficient and can be fully rehabilitated post-mining,” Recidoro said.

He also expressed hope that the MICC recommendation will send positive signals to investors, but was quick to add that another major hurdle that prevents mining investment to flow into the country is the ban on new mining projects.

“However, the other issue that must still be resolved is the moratorium on new mining projects,” he added.

According to Recidoro, after the issue of the open-pit mining is resolved, COMP hopes to bring the matter of the moratorium on new mining projects up with Cimatu.

Cimatu said he is in favor of increasing the government’s share in mining revenues, and is eyeing an increase from the current 2-percent to 5-percent excise tax charged against mining companies.

“But we understand also that the moratorium is conditioned on the passage of a new fiscal regime.  That’s what we need to resolve,” he added.

The MICC is scheduled to release its resolutions on the issue of the mine closure and suspension orders in January 2018.



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