MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration has lifted the ban on open pit mining at a time when debates on mining and climate change are heightened due to the recent devastation brought by Typhoon Odette (Rai).
Through an administrative order issued on December 23, environment secretary Roy Cimatu reversed the ban imposed by his late predecessor Gina Lopez in 2017.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) argued that there are technologies that can “help avoid or manage the negative impacts” of open pit mining.
“Major issues concerning mining including open pit mining cannot be attributed to the use of the method itself, but rather on the accidents involving wastes and tailings confinement.”
DENR added that “progressive rehabilitation” of mined out areas are being practiced to reduce its impact on the environment.
DENR said that for companies to engage in the controversial mining method, they would have to ensure that:
- It does not pose possible hazard to public health and safety
- It does not release hazardous chemicals into the environment
- The company conduct a comprehensive stakeholders’ involvement process
- The company has sufficient geological data to conduct proper assessment of local geology, rock mass characteristics, hydrogeology, and surface hydrology
An oversight committee consisting of the DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Service, and Mining and Muslin Affairs, will ensure that miners comply with laws and regulations.
Environment group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), which had long linked mining to health hazards and flooding, said that the order is a “cruel Christmas gift from DENR and a truly ironic act of cowardice and betrayal from DENR Secretary Cimatu and President Duterte.”
“At this time when climate change brings devastating typhoons such as Odette, lifting the ban on open pit mining is a short-sighted and misplaced development priority of the government. Once again, the Duterte regime puts more premium to its flawed economic agenda categorizing destructive mining as an ‘essential industry’ as part of the pandemic recovery.”
ATM hopes that this would be an “eye-opener for all environmentalists to be more proactive in engaging in the 2022 elections.” – Rappler.com