‘Human face’ of mining upheld by audit


BAGUIO CITY  – Two large-scale mining companies operating in Benguet were recommended for suspension after the recent audit results showed alleged deficiencies and non-compliance on their part to certain responsible mining regulations while the third mining company passed the audit but will still be strictly monitored for their adherence to responsible mining laws, rules and regulations.

The companies that were recommended for suspension were the Itogon-based Benguet Corporation (BC) and the Mankayan-based Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC) while the Tuba-based Philex Mining Corporation passed the mine audit but the mine firm will still be subjected to monitoring relative to their compliance to responsible mining polices of the government.

Earlier, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the conduct of an audit of all mining companies nationwide where 20 companies were recommended for closure while 11 companies passed the stringent requirements of the audit.

BC and LCMC managements have yet to issue official statements relative to the findings and recommendations of the audit for their temporary suspension while Philex Mining Corp. is grateful to government regulators for having confirmed that the company has, indeed, “put a human face” on responsible mining, as it welcomed efforts by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to continuously monitor its operations.

This develops as the company passed the mine audit conducted Aug. 8 – 10 by a technical team sent over by the DENR to its Padcal mine, in Benguet, where it has shelled out tens of billions of pesos for projects on social development and environmental protection, as well as for the various forms of taxes paid toward government coffers, in its 60 years of gold-and-copper production.

“We are thankful, actually, to have shown and once again proved to the government our adherence to responsible mining,” Eulalio Austin, Jr., CEO and president of Philex Mining, said. “We have long ago put a human face on the principle of responsible mining, and our passing the mine audit has confirmed this to everyone, especially industry regulators.”

The company’s SVP and Padcal resident manager, Manuel Agcaoili, echoed Austin, saying while the mine audit was nerve-racking, it was a challenge that had been well received and obliged to by the company. “We have shown the auditors the inner workings of a world-class miner, which has been a fulcrum of community development and environmental protection.”

Both officials expressed hopes, meanwhile, that the mining companies recommended for suspension would be able to correct the infractions they may have committed so they could continue their operations for the benefit of all their stakeholders.

On Tuesday, the DENR announced the recommendation to suspend 20 mining firms after the nationwide audit on the industry, the results of which were presented by Secretary Regina Lopez and Undersecretary Leo Jasareno in a news conference. The latter cited such common violations as siltation, dust, no tree-cutting permits, and unsystematic mining methods.

Already, the DENR has suspended the operations of 10 mining firms, so there are, all-in-all, 41 metallic mine operations in the Philippines.

Eligio Ildefonso, secretariat executive director of DENR’s National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), said in an earlier interview that there was no need for a re-audit of Philex Mining, as it had not violated any regulatory measures at its operations in the towns of Tuba and Itogon.

He led the 14-man delegation that conducted the mine audit at Padcal, where they witnessed with awe the social-development projects and environmental protection programs implemented at the mine site as well as in the host and neighboring communities.

Speaking at the exit conference held Aug. 15 at the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-DENR, in Brgy. Pacdal, Baguio City, Ildefonso asked the company, however, to strengthen its information campaign for a wider public coverage of its commendable efforts on community development and economic progress.

Philex Mining has said its social-projects partnerships with the outlying communities—both host and neighboring—reached P110 million for this year, or 1.5 percent of the company’s operating expenses of P7.3 billion in 2015. It had also paid 100 percent of the required regular taxes amounting to P6.6 billion as well as the P3.5 billion in mining-related taxes in the five years to 2015. It had, therefore, paid 153 percent in taxes for the said period.

The company, which holds various certifications on International Organization for Standardization (ISO), has also said it shelled out P65 million for reforestation program since 1987 that involves 8 million trees of various species planted across 2,750 hectares of land at its host municipalities. There had been community-based refo activities before that.

Working toward obtaining ISO 26000, which covers Social Responsibility Guidance Standard, Philex Mining is already certified for Integrated Management System (IMS), which proves its success in carrying out various projects on environmental protection and work safety. Granted by TÜV Rheinland, a Germany-based technical services provider, the certification covers Philex Mining’s environmental management system and safety management, which includes operations in mining, milling, and tailing storage facilities.

The mine-audit team was composed of technical personnel from the central and regional offices of the DENR; regional offices of EMB and the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-DENR; regional offices of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR); the Department of Health-Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR); and the Social Action Commission (SAC), a religious social group under the Diocese of Baguio.