No mining operation will be spared from audit, says DENR

Secretary Gina Lopez has warned that all operating mining projects, whether big or small, will be covered by the audit being done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"We're doing all -- small, big, everyone," Lopez told in a press conference. "All mining areas will be audited, all ECCs (environmental compliance certificates), permits, everything will be audited in the light of the common good."

She said the DENR won't hesitate to shut down all mining operations found to have violated environmental and health and safety laws and regulations.

"If you break the law, you face the consequences of breaking the law. Whatever the law says that's what we should follow. If you break the law, there are penalties," Lopez pointed out.

It was during the press conference that Lopez announced the suspension of the Bulacan-based Ore Asia Mining Development Corp. for failure to secure an ISO 14001 Certification, which the DENR required of mining companies in an administrative order it issued last year.

ISO 14001 sets out the requirements of an environmental management system (EMS) for small to large organizations. EMS is a systematic approach to handling environmental issues within an organization.

Ore Asia is the eighth mining firm suspended by the DENR since Lopez assumed office on July 1.

Undersecretary Leo Jasareno, head of the DENR's mining audit team, said the agency has suspended Ore Asia's ore transport permit, which effectively stopped its operation.

Ore Asia is the only iron-producing mine in the country. It produced about 40,000 tons of iron ore last year.

"The ore transport permit is the permit that allows the transport of the ore from the mines to the market. So, if you withhold the permit, effectively, hauling will stop," Jasareno explained.

The DENR was able to verify complaints from residents that Ore Asia's operations have caused siltation in the river that serves as a tributary of Sibul spring, and have discolored the water to reddish brown.

"Kalawang na 'yung kulay ng river," Jasareno said.

Echoing Lopez's statement, Jasareno said all mining companies, regardless of size, will be included in the audit.

"We're auditing Lepanto and Philex in Luzon, Atlas Consolidated in Visayas, Oceana Gold in Region 2, and Filminera in Masbate. We are waiting for the findings on Taganito and SR (Metals Inc.)," Jasareno said.

He also cited Citinickel Mines and Development Corp., Berong Nickel Corp. and Benguet Corp., which are all major industry players.

Lopez, meanwhile, reiterated that all mining firms should get their act together if they want the industry to thrive.

The DENR chief noted the case of Zambales province where mining companies are responsible for polluting the river and degrading the forests.

"In Zambales, if you fly over that, the river is virtually red, they cut 20,000 trees from the watershed, the fishpond, the farmland," Lopez said.

"Before they (mining firms) even consider doing anything, they have to give the people back their farmland, plant the trees they cut without permit," she added.

Aside from Ore Asia, the DENR also suspended the operations of Eramin Minerals Inc. and LNL Archipelago, Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. and Benguetcorp Nickel Mines Inc., all in Zambales; Berong Nickel Corp. and Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. in Palawan; and Claver Minerals in Surigao del Norte.

Source: Philippine Information Agency