DENR asks 22 mining firms to explain incomplete deposits to rehab fund
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revealed on Friday, February 24, that it has issued show cause orders to 22 mining companies for failing to complete the deposit of their Final Mine Rehabilitation/Decommissioning Fund.
"[They were issued show cause orders on] why they should not be penalized for failing to complete the deposit of their final mining rehabilitation fund," Environment Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna said in a press conference on Friday.
"Hindi kumpleto 'yung deposit nila based on schedules that they have to deposit (Their deposit is incomplete based on schedules that they have to deposit)."
According to Luna, the 22 companies were issued show cause orders on February 14 for violation of Section 71 of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Under the law, contractors and permittees are mandated to "technically and biologically rehabilitate the excavated, mined-out, tailings covered and disturbed areas to the condition of environmental safety."
Thus, a mine rehabilitation fund must be created "based on the contractor's approved work program," and this fund must be deposited as a trust fund in a government depository bank.
The fund will be used for "physical and social rehabilitation of areas and communities affected by mining activities and for research on the social, technical and preventive aspects of rehabilitation."
Failure to comply with this obligation "shall mean immediate suspension or closure of the mining activities of the contractor/permittee concerned."
On Friday, Luna said about P3 billion should already be in the fund, but only P500 million has been accounted for as of 2016.
The DENR must approve the final mining rehabilitation plans of mining companies before they can begin mining "so that we will know that if they start, that they can rehabilitate."
"Some of the reasons given kung bakit 'di pa sila nakapag-deposit ay hindi pa approved 'yung kanilang final mining rehabilitation plan (Some of the reasons given on why they were not able to deposit was that their final mining rehabilitation plan has not been approved yet)," she explained.
"I think the secretary is alarmed and that's why she issued these show cause orders, because there are certain things in a mine that you cannot rehabilitate to as near a condition as possible which is required under the forestry code," she added.
Luna cited as example an open pit mine which is "there forever."
"Hindi mo na mare-rehabilitate to a condition that is as good as possible to the previous environment, so it's alarming to see if kung kulang pa 'yung na-deposit nila sa rehabilitation fund, lalong 'di mo mare-rehabilitate ng maayos," she explained.
(You can't rehabilitate to a condition that is as good as possible to the previous environment, so it's alarming to see if their deposit to the rehabilitation fund is incomplete, because they can't rehabilitate well.)
The DENR is expected to announce the list of the 22 companies on Monday, February 27.
The department has already announced this month the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements in watersheds all over the country, as well as the closure and suspension of 28 mining companies. – Rappler.com