Miners face longer wait for end to open-pit ban

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News5 video grab file of a mining operation.

MANILA, Philippines – Miners in the country will have to wait longer for the government to decide on a move to lift an open-pit mining ban that has been in place for more than half a year, after President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s spokesman said Monday that the prohibition stays for now.

“I verified this personally with the President: he says that the ban on new open-pit mining remains,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque Jr., said in a press briefing in Malacañan Palace when asked for an update.

“This is one of the instances when I personally asked the President… if there’s been a change in policy and he says that there is still no new policy on this — there is still a ban on new open pit mining.”

In its Oct. 24 meeting, the multi-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) decided to recommend to Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu the lifting of the ban that was put in place by his predecessor, environment activist Regina Paz L. Lopez, through Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2017-10 dated April 27. Mr. Cimatu had said after that meeting that he concurred with the recommendation, but that he would have to consult fellow Cabinet members before making a final decision.

Asked whether the Office of the President (OP) has rejected the MICC recommendation, Mr. Roque replied: “That’s the response I got. I’m not sure about whether or not the MICC recommendation has reached the President. I will verify.”

Asked if the Cabinet has discussed the MICC recommendation, Finance Sec. Carlos G. Dominguez III — who co-chairs the multi-agency body with Mr. Cimatu — replied in a mobile phone message: “I have not received any notice from the OP re: Cabinet meeting on this topic.”

Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin, who represents his department at MICC meetings in the absence of Mr. Dominguez, replied separately via text message that “I am not aware if the recommendation has been given to the President or if he has already made a decision.”

Ronald S. Recidoro, executive director of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, said via text that “Sec. Roque is correct in saying that there has been no change in policy and that the open-pit mining ban is still in place.”

“Since the MICC issued its recommendation last 25 Oct., the matter has not been acted upon. We hope, however, that the situation will change and that an administrative order will eventually be issued reversing DENR DAO 2017-10, as recommended by the MICC.”

Lifting the ban would pave the way for more big-ticket projects like a prospective mine in central Mindanao — believed to hold 15 million tons of copper and nearly 18 million ounces of gold — previously estimated to cost $5.9 billion. Value of production at the Tampakan project had been estimated at $37 billion over 20 years. — Rosemarie A. Zamora with inputs from E. J. C. Tubayan