The Department of Finance (DOF) has expressed its support behind the recent decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to lift the ban on open-pit mining as it voiced full confidence in the government’s capability to strictly regulate mining operations to address and minimize the impact posed by these extractive activities on the environment.
In backing the DENR’s decision, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Republic Act (RA) No. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 does not prohibit open-pit mining as there are economic, safety, and environmental considerations for employing this method.
“As co-chair of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), I support DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu’s decision to lift the ban on open-pit mining. The matter was extensively discussed in the MICC and with advice and guidance from experts, the recommendation was to lift the ban,” he said.
Dominguez said adequate safeguards can be implemented to ensure the safety of this mining method.
“Strict monitoring and enforcement to ensure compliance with environmental standards shall be undertaken to prevent any abuse in the implementation of this type of mining activity,” he said. “I am confident that the DENR is fully capable of regulating mining operations in the country so that mining activities are conducted safely with due regard to the protection of the environment.”
As the official representative of the President to the Climate Change Commission (CCC), Dominguez said he is mindful of the impact of mining activities on the environment and the country’s goal to significantly reduce its carbon footprint.
“The protection of the environment is non-negotiable. We have to strike a careful balance between preserving and protecting the environment and pursuing our economic development objectives,” he said.
With the lifting of the ban, Dominguez said the mining industry can become a key contributor to the nation’s economic recovery as the DENR has projected that open-pit mining will lead to the immediate development of 11 pending projects that are expected to generate about PHP11 billion combined in yearly government revenue, increase annual exports by PHP36 billion, and provide employment to 22,880 people living in remote municipalities.
“Clearly, it will revive an industry that will create jobs and spur economic growth in the countryside,” he said.
“More importantly, the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining will help revitalize the economy as we begin to recover from the pandemic by generating additional revenues, royalty fees, export value, and even more jobs in related industries. These economic prospects can still be realized while we continuously implement strategies to manage and avoid the negative impacts of the open-pit mining method,” he added.
Dominguez said tight monitoring and enforcement to ensure that mines strictly comply with laws and regulations can be done as proven by the operations of thousands of mines worldwide that effectively and safely use the open-pit mining method.
These include open-pit mines in Australia, Canada, China, and the United States (US).
Open-pit mining is a globally accepted method that is considered to be the most feasible option for mining near-surface or shallow one deposits.
As observed by the DENR, major issues concerning mining operations, including open-pit mining, cannot be attributed to the use of the method itself, but rather to accidents involving wastes and tailings confinements, which can be prevented through strict monitoring and regulation of such mining activities.