Mining audit continues despite resignation of key official
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said its audit of mining companies continues despite the resignation of the key figure behind in the inspections.
In a text message to the Daily Manila Shimbun Friday, Lopez said “the audit goes unabated. In two weeks, we will be presenting decisions.”
Leo Jasareno, the director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, was replaced by Wilfredo Mocano. Jasareno is now a senior undersecretary in the environment department.
Jasareno led the audit the recommended the suspension of 20 mining companies.
The environment department’s suspension of operations by some metallic mining firms has pulled down production value by double digits during the first semester, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said.
Metallic mineral production value from January to June hit P48.25 billion, 13.59 percent lower than the P55.84 billion recorded during the same period last year.
The bureau cited the "suspension of mining operations" as one of the factors for the drop. The other two were the reported zero mine production and sluggish metal price movement.
"In general, the poor showing of the nickel ore and nickel product producers during the period led to the lackluster performance of the metallic minerals industry," MGB said in a statement.
Nickel ore production declined by 30 percent from 14,880,091 dry metric tons valued at P19.08 billion to 10,450,659 dry metric tons valued at P9.20 billion, implied a 4,429,432 dry metric tons and P9.88 billion cutback in volume and value.
While mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide output went down by 14 percent from 43,512 dry metric tons valued at P9.23 billion to 37,604 dry metric tons valued at P6.89 billion.
The bureau said operations of four nickel mines in Zambales have remained suspended. These are the Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation (Sta. Cruz-Candelaria Mining Project); BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc. (Sta. Cruz Nickel Mining Project); Eramen Minerals Inc. (Sta. Cruz Mining Project); and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. (Sta. Cruz Mining Project).
The environmental department has suspended the operations of the mining projects due to alleged environmental violations.
"Adding to the woes of nickel," MGB said was the reported zero production of Wellex Mining Corporation (Wellex Area II Nickel Mining Project), Oriental Vision Mining Phils. Corporation (Palhi Nickel Project) and Westernshore Nickel Corporation (Libjo Project-Phase 2) due to poor metal price and on-going care and maintenance works during the period. All three companies are located in Dinagat Island in Mindanao and are only into their second year of commercial operation.
"Still on nickel, major producers like Rio Tuba Mining Corporation in Palawan, Taganito Mining Corporation in Surigao Del Norte, Platinum Group Metals Corporation in Surigao del Norte and SR Metals Inc. in Agusan Del Norte all incurred production setback both in volume and value," it said.
Nickel was the second biggest contributor on total metallic mineral production value with 33 percent or P16.08 billion, next to gold, accounting for 47 percent or P22.67 billion. Copper with 19 percent or P9.01 billion came in third. The remaining one percent or P0.47 billion, came from collective values of silver, chromite and iron ore.
For the rest of the year, MGB admitted outlook for the mineral industry "remains challenging" with the issuance of an order from Lopez to audit all operating mines and moratorium on new mining projects in July.
The audit shall cover all operating mines and mines under suspended and/or care and maintenance status while the moratorium shall cover the acceptance, processing and/or approval of mining applications and/or new mining projects for all metallic and non-metallic minerals.
The suspension of another two nickel mines in Palawan, Berong Nickel Project of Berong Nickel Corporation and Toronto & Pulot Nickel Projects of Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation is "expected to further contribute to the overall sluggish performance of the metallic sector in 2016, MGB said.
"Should the recommended suspension ensue, the possible impact of the suspension is decline in mineral production, lower taxes collected and increase number of displaced mine workers," MGB said. Celerina Monte/DMS