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Appellate court tells SR Metals to stop operations

The court of Appeals has ruled that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has the right to revoke the environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) of mining firms that have exceeded their extraction limits. In a seven-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam, the former sixth division of the appellate court said: "At the risk of being repetitive, this Court emphasizes that it recognizes the DENR’s authority to issue the [cease and desist order]." "The Reorganization Act of DENR designates [it] as the primary government agency responsible for the conservation, management, development and proper use of the country’s natural resources." The resolution stemmed from the motion for partial reconsideration of SR Metals, Inc. San R Mining and Construction Corp., and Galeo Equipment Mining Corp., Inc. questioning an earlier decision that they violated ECC requirements by going beyond mining extraction limits. The DENR earlier issued a cease and desist order that cancelled the groups’ ECC for mining operations in a 20-hectare land in Tubay, Agusan del Norte. The group extracted 177,297 metric tons for a nickel-cobalt small-scale mining operations, exceeding the 50,000-metric ton limit set by Presidential Decree 1899. The group claimed Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small Scale Mining Act of 1991, which does not provide for extraction limits, repealed PD 1899. Assuming the clause existed, the group claimed it still did not violate the law since the substance extracted was not purely ore. The group further claimed the revocation of the ECC was based on allegations that it lacked the authority to engage in mining operations in their articles of incorporation. The appellate court however said that the g roup " violated the conditions of the subject ECCs." "Apart from their bare denial, petitioners have not submitted evidence to controvert proof on record that they have over capitalized and exceeded the labor cost to equipment ratio requirement." MGB vouches for miner Meanwhile, in Tacloban City, the exploration activities of Pacific Aluminum Mining (Philippines) Corp. (PAMC) in Samar were found to be legitimate and covered by a mineral production sharing agreement, the government said. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional office in Eastern Visayas would send a team to the regular session of the Samar provincial board today to make the clarification and convince the board to allow the mining company to resume operations, said Regional Director Loreto Alburo. The board last week ordered the mining company to cease operations on suspicion that it started full-blast mining operations without securing permits. "I think the legislative body in the Samar province was only misinformed about the operations of this mining firm. That’s why we have to clear this and lay down the exact facts and figures before this issue becomes bigger," Mr. Alburo said. He said PAMC has been using the mineral production sharing agreements issued to Alumina Mining Philippines, Inc. and the Bauxite Resources, Inc. The companies have been acquired by PAMC. Mr. Alburo also said that based on regular monitoring, PAMC was still in the exploration stage and has not started actual mineral extraction. "I can guarantee that what PAMC is doing right now is just exploration works and not actual extraction. After doing the exploration works, it would take at least two years for a mining company to do some actual extraction of the mineral they are mining," Mr. Alburo said. PAMC is exploring the towns of Jiabong, Motiong, and Paranas, all in Samar, for bauxite. Mr. Alburo said the MGB was aware that PAMC has gathered 5,000 metric tons of soil from the three towns for testing and sampling for bauxite. He added that PAMC needed an additional 10,000 metric tons for sampling purposes. The bureau has issued to PAMC an ore transport permit for 15,000 metric tons of samples. "The provincial board in Samar has to be informed about this because there are technicalities involved in this issue. And that our agency is the authorized office regarding mining operations like this," Mr. Alburo said. He warned that the other mining companies might be discouraged to invest in Eastern Visayas if PAMC’s operations are hampered. He earlier projected that the region would attract up to $50 million worth of mining investments in three to five years. Samar and Northern Samar provinces are rich in bauxite and manganese while Eastern Samar holds chromite and nickel. Southern Leyte is rich in copper and gold while Eastern Leyte has huge reserves of magnetite sand or iron ore. Western Leyte has industrial minerals like limestone and rock phosphate. - Ira P. Pedrasa and Lemuel L. Pagliawan/BusinessWorld
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