President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday lashed out at the mining industry, calling it a "sunset industry" that "will destroy the country."
At the State of Mindanao Environmental Summit in Ateneo de Davao University, Duterte reiterated his administration will go after mining companies that will not follow the strictest international standards, citing the case of in Canada and Australia where best industry practices can be found.
"We will go after mining na hindi sumusunod sa standards," he said.
But Duterte said even compliant mining companies are ultimately bad for the Philippines.
"We can only open so much ... Whether it is legal or not, it will destroy the country," he said.
Duterte once again cited a mining site in Tubay, Agusan del Norte which he earlier identified as being operated by SR Mining Inc. and an example of how the industry works in the country.
"They are not into planting. They are into open-pit mining and destroy the soil along the way," he said.
In his speech, Duterte said corruption is one of the reasons why mining companies continue to receive permits from government.
"Ang ating mga lupa dito napupunta lang sa may connections. Ang problema dito, itong mga local officials. Kapag mayor, governor mag-issue ng permit, pera iyan. It is a corrupt society," he said.
"Hindi ako nagyayabang. Kung hindi ako naging presidente, I would not know what will happen to the country. Nakakaawa eh," Duterte added.
In his war against irresponsible mining, the President appointed Gina Lopez, a staunch environmentalist and anti-mining advocate, as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last June.
When Lopez accepted the Cabinet position, the 17-stock Mining and Oil index plunged 837.14 points or 7.31 percent at 10,614.70.
"The appointed secretary is a known anti-mining advocate who caused fears among investors exposed in mining and oil," noted Astro C. del Castillo, managing director at First Grade Finance Inc.
On her first day as DENR chief, Lopez ordered all mining operations in the country to undergo an audit and secure an International Standards Organization (ISO) certification.
Since Lopez assumed the leadership of DENR, the department has suspended 7 mining firms:
- BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc.
- Eramen Minerals Inc.
- LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc.
- Zambales Diversified Metals Corp.
- Citinickel Mines & Development Corp.
- Berong Nickel Corp.
- Claver Mineral Development Corp.
Claver Mineral was the latest addition to the list of suspended mining firms which Lopez announced on Thursday.
OceanaGold supports gov't stance
In response to the President's latest tirade against the industry, Melbourne-based OceanaGold Corp. said it would continue to implement the “same high standards” of mining in the Philippines
OceanaGold operates a gold mine in Nueva Vizcaya province.
“The President has made it very clear that he wants responsible mining done to Canadian and Australian standards and we are fully supportive of his stance," OceanaGold Director and CEO Mick Wilkes said in a text message to GMA News Online.
"We operate in the Philippines, New Zealand, and the USA to these same high standards and will continue to do so, delivering significant benefits to the local communities and governments in these countries,” he said.
The company is willing to cooperate with the new administration to ensure a note of environmental and social management, according to the mining executive.
“We are very proud of our track record with environmental and social management and happy to work with the new administration to demonstrate,” he said.
GMA News Online contacted other miners listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange, as well as members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), but none of them were prepared to make a statement as of this posting.
COMP is the largest mining lobby in the Philippines, made up mostly of mining companies registered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). — With Ted Cordero/Jon Viktor Cabuenas/VVP/JST/VDS, GMA News