Confusion over the mining list: How did DENR decide on closure?

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Confusion over the mining list: How did DENR decide on closure?
'This is what Duterte likes, he doesn't like it when papers go really slow, and MGB has been really, really slow. I'm not happy with them at all,' says Environment Secretary Gina Lopez

CLOSURE. Environment Secretary Gina Lopez announces the closure of mining operations of 23 mining firms. File photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

It was a historic day indeed after Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Thursday, February 2, announced the closure of 23 mining operations in the country and the suspension of 5 others. Only 12 mining firms passed the mining audit that started 7 months ago.

The basis for the closure? The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) decided to close any kind of mining operation in “functional watersheds.”

Lopez was quick to admit that both the national government and the DENR were to blame for the suffering that mining has caused communities.

But she’s not happy either with how the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) did the recently-concluded mining audit.

“They took so long – 6 months – and I said I’m not gonna wait anymore, because if you keep things hanging, it’s not also good for the investor. You say, ‘Yes, no, yes, no,’ then finish. Why do you keep them hanging? It’s not honest to them also. And this is what Duterte likes, he doesn’t like it when papers go really slow, and MGB has been really, really slow. I’m not happy with them at all,” Lopez explained.

She insisted that the MGB is only recommendatory to the Cabinet secretary and that she still calls the shots in the end.

On Thursday, when reporters asked if they could get a copy of the MGB’s recommendations on mining operations, Lopez initially said she’d think about it.

“I’m gonna think about it, because if I don’t agree with it then I’m not gonna give it to you. Because I don’t agree with it, so why will I give it to you? If it’s not resonant with the principles on which DENR runs, and it’s not consonant with my own observations of my going [to mining sites], why will I give it to you if I don’t agree with it?”

When reporters prodded her further, Lopez became visibly annoyed.

“I don’t have to have you privy to the processes on which I make my decisions. What I’m sharing with you are the principles on which I stand by, and I truly hope you share the same principles because you’re Filipino.”

She added: “I’m not going to show you…because I don’t want anything complicated, and I don’t want to rock the boat. Just leave it already, I’ve made my decision and accept it. That’s what you write about, don’t try to make things complicated.”

Another reporter asked why the announcement of the results got delayed if Lopez herself has the final say anyway.

To this, the environment secretary replied: “We wanted to follow due process, but if you take too long, I’m not gonna wait forever. I’m giving them [MGB] the chance to fulfill their responsibilities. If they take long, I’m gonna take action.”

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) on Thursday questioned the fairness of DENR’s mining audit, with one official saying that Lopez’ decision to close the 23 mining operations “may not have been based on the review conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.”

“Reports reaching us even said MGB personnel were even banned from her press conference,” COMP Executive Vice President Nelia Halcon was quoted in an Inquirer report as saying.

Lopez may not be willing to show reporters the recommendations of the MGB, but she said she’d give it to the President if he asks for it.

“I’m under no obligation to let you know what’s happening,” she told reporters. “If the President asks me, I am under obligation to give it to him.”

What’s available to reporters is a list of mining operations covered by the mining audit, and the results of the said audit.

At Thursday’s press conference, however, using a PowerPoint presentation, Lopez announced the names of the mining firms that will be shut down. 

Platinum Group Metals Corporation (PGMC) was among the companies flashed on the screen. In fact, the slide is still up on Lopez’s Facebook page as of this posting:

Rappler reported this, but the “final” list sent to reporters hours after the press conference did not include PGMC. Instead, the list mysteriously included Platinum Development Corporation.

Some people who read the story wondered about Platinum Development Corporation. The “mining” company is supposed to have mining operations in Surigao del Norte, but the only Platinum Development Corporation with an online presence and a website is involved in custom homebuilding in the US. Nothing related to mining.

Two additional names – Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation and Benguet Corporation – appeared on the final list  of mining operations facing closure sent to reporters at 5 pm.

In the initial list released to reporters before Lopez’ press conference ended at around 2 pm, Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation was just listed as suspended.

Everyone thought they got the final DENR list regarding the mining audit findings on Thursday – until the DENR posted what was supposed to be the real final list on its website on Friday. Platinum Development Corporation was removed, and PGMC was included. (READ: Final DENR list: PGMC’s mine ni Surigao also faces closure)

The companies can still appeal the decision before the Office of the President. That list sure did create a lot of confusion. –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.