“In the 28th MICC meeting held on 24 October 2017, wherein a quorum was acting and present throughout, majority of the members of the MICC members voted to recommend a change in the policy of the DENR with regard to Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2017-10, particularly, that the DENR lift the ban on open pit mining provided that mining laws are strictly enforced,” the council said in a statement after their meeting.

During the meeting, the MICC also agreed that it should be the DENR, through its Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), that should “take a close look and take appropriate action” on the issue involving the expansion of 24 mining areas covered by Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs).

The MICC is co-chaired by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

On the “fact-finding and science-based” review of the first batch of 26 mines ordered either closed or suspended by the previous DENR leadership, the MICC expects preliminary results of the review in January next year and the final report by March.

MICC said the composition of the Technical Review Teams (TRTs) and the methodologies they would undertake to conduct the review were finalized in the second week of October.

As proposed by Dominguez, the MICC agreed to conduct another review in 2019 and succeeding ones every two years thereafter, in keeping with the MICC mandate under Exeutive Order No. 79 on a review of all mining operations once every two years.

Last April 27, then DENR Secretary Regina Lopez issued Department Administrative Order (DAO)-2017-10 imposing a ban on the open pit method of extraction for copper, gold, silver and complex ores.

In its Aug. 23 meeting, the MICC tasked its technical working groups (TWGs) on Economic Concerns (EC) and on Environmental Protection and Legislation (EPL) to review and formulate the MICC policy recommendations in relation to the open pit mining ban.

The TWGs were also directed to clarify related policy concerns that include conflicting national and local level policies and issuances; and strengthening the enforcement of existing mining laws, regulations and contracts related to open pit mining.

According to DOF Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, the TWGs were guided by the policy statements of President Duterte on the issue.

“The study also covered the economic, technical, legal and social aspects of open-pit mining,” Agabin said.

During the Aug. 23 meeting, Cimatu had informed the MICC that the President’s (Rodrigo Duterte) policy directives on mining include: improving the regulatory functions of the government on mining; investigating and resolving issues concerning security and safety in small scale mining; addressing the adverse environmental and social impacts of mining, particularly in coastal areas; strengthening regulations on open pit mining; and strictly implementing the mining law and other pertinent environmental laws and regulations to ensure the protection of the environment.

On the 26 mines ordered either closed or suspended under Lopez’s term last year, the MICC earlier said it would tap the expertise of the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) to implement and manage the “fact-finding and science-based” review process on these mining operations.  

The review will be conducted by experts who will be divided into five TRTs, said Agabin.

Agabin said the clustering of the mines for review were based on the types of minerals and locations — TRT Team 1 for gold, copper and nickel mines in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) , Cagayan Valley (Region II) and Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan (Region IV-B); TRT 2 for iron and nickel mines in Central Luzon (Region III); TRT 3 for chromite, nickel and iron mines in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) and CARAGA; and TRTs 4 and 5 for nickel and chromite mines in CARAGA.

The five TRTs will look at the environmental, economic, social, legal and technical aspects of the mining operations. (PNA) 

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