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Lifting of open-pit mining freeze being readied in draft IRR

THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said the draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Executive Order (EO) No. 130 includes a repealing clause that would lift the open-pit mining ban implemented in 2017.

MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said during the first session of the two-day consultative meetings for the EO’s IRR Wednesday that the repealing clause will lift the four-year ban on open pit mining.

The first session of the MGB’s two-day consultative meetings involved mining companies.

“One of the administrative orders mentioned in the repealing clause of the draft IRR includes Department of Environment and Natural Resources Order (DAO) 2017-10 that was issued by the late former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez,” Mr. Moncano said.   

“That DAO is covered by the repealing clause meaning that… the open pit mining ban will be lifted through this IRR,” he added.

Ms. Lopez implemented the open pit mining ban in 2017, citing the adverse effects of the mining method on the environment.

The mining industry has continued to press for the restoration of open-pit mining, noting its efficiency and its acceptance as a mining practice worldwide.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has said that the ban needs to go to allow the industry to achieve its full potential.

Anti-mining groups such as Alyansa Tigil Mina said the open-pit mining method creates permanent changes in the land and disturbs waterways and livelihoods.

On April 14, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed EO 130, which lifted the nine-year moratorium on new mineral agreements and authorized a review of current mining deals for potential renegotiation.

The MGB has said that some P21 billion in revenue can be generated by the 100 mining projects in the pipeline, adding that the potential funds will aid the economic recovery following the downturn caused by the pandemic.   

Josephine V. Sescon, MGB Policy and Technical Working Group head, said during the meeting that the repealing clause of EO 130’s draft IRR also covers Section 23-A of DAO 2010-21 that provides for the conversion of exploration permits to mineral agreements and other existing orders that are inconsistent with the EO.

Other features of the draft IRR include recommendations to declare as mineral reservations areas covered by mineral agreements, except for holders of mineral agreements (metallic) with mineral processing plants; the strict implementation of mine and environment safety rules including the use of technology; and research on acid mine drainage.

The MGB is set to hold the second session Thursday (May 20). It will involve representatives from the academe and non-government organizations.

In 2020, the MGB reported that the value of metallic mining output improved 1.13% to P132.21 billion, of which nickel ore and its by-products accounted for 51.8% or P68.48 billion; gold 36% or P47.60 billion; copper 11.25% or P14.88 billion; and silver, chromite, and iron P1.26 billion.  — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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