MANILA—The inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) on Thursday approved a resolution that calls for the creation of group that will review mining contracts and other related laws and formulate measures to help people displaced by closed mines.
In a briefing Thursday night after the MICC meeting, Finance Secretary and MICC co-chair Carlos Dominguez III said due process would be followed as the government audits mining firms, particularly the 28 companies covered by the closure and suspension orders by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
He said a technical working group would be formed and its members would be identified and nominated by the Secretaries of the agencies that compose the Council.
He said the Council would assist the DENR on the implementation of the closure and suspension orders and assists people and localities affected by the mine closures.
“The government has to prepare for the fall out of these decisions,” he said.
MICC Resolution No. 6. requires mining companies to “strictly observe the law, rules and regulations” related to their operations and those found guilty of violations “shall be meted the appropriate penalty under relevant laws.”
It said the review would be based on the mining companies’ contracts and relevant laws, taking into account “the valid exercise of the State’s police power to serve the common good, especially of the poor.”
Dominguez said mining companies may appeal the decision of the DENR’s recommendations before the Office of the President.
”There is a clause there that they can appeal or invoke arbitration. They may do so and the government commits, as Secretary Lopez has said, that the government will follow the law,” he added.
DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, during the same briefing, clarified that the review and audit on the 28 companies started in July 2016 and they have been issued show cause orders.
She said DENR has submitted its recommendations to the Office of the President but also said that “the mines are not closed until the President decides.”
She admitted that DENR has not issued either the closure or suspension orders to the mining firms and only 12 has been signed as of Thursday.
”(But the) closure remains…When they get it (the Order) they can appeal,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lopez said the DENR, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) would tie up to help a small mining area in the Cordilleras in northern Luzon on their operations.
She said the small mining area, located some 30 minutes away from Baguio City, which in turn is located some 206 kilometers from Manila, still adopted the traditional mining method of using cyanide instead of mercury to extract gold from the mountains and the people did not cut trees for their operations.
“By next week I’m going to authorize it as Minahang Bayan (community mining) and we’re going to make the place really, really beautiful,” she said.
“They are mining for gold and the mining process does not destroy the environment. And because it is still beautiful…it is a mining possibility that benefits the community,” she added.