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The Aftermath of the Carmen Copper Mine Landslide
by Marcelle P. Villegas - March 17, 2021
After the tragic landslide that occurred at the open pit’s north wall at around 4:15 p.m. on Monday, 21 Dec. 2020, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7 ordered the immediate suspension of the mine operations in Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC). According to MGB’s report last 22 Dec. 2020 on their official website, they stated “Initial investigations revealed there was no mining activity in the area on that day.” 
On that day, landslide debris fell on the water at the pit bottom. This has an elevation of 41m above sea level. The landslide created a tsunami-like wave that reached an elevation of 105m in the southern portion of the pit where the workers were located. On 22 Dec. 2020, four fatalities were recorded along with six missing. 
Further on, an assessment of the area was conducted by Director Pacquito Melicor Jr. (DENR Central Visayas Regional Executive Director), Director Armando Malicse (MGB 7 Regional Director), MGB Region 7 team, and Mine Safety, Environment and Social Development Division.
CCC and Toledo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management team continued their search and retrieval operations on a limited scale due to unstable condition. MGB 7 technical personnel continues its on-site inspection and investigation in accordance with R.A. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995) and the DENR Administrative Order Nos. 2010-21 (Consolidated IRR of RA 7942) and 2000-98 (Mine Safety and Health Standards). 
A list of names of workers who died was given by CCC to the Toledo Police Station Chief, Lt. Col. Junnel Caadlawon. The second list contains the names of those who are still missing. 
Those who died from the landslide are the following:
- Junil S. Lagola, age 44, from Barangay Don Andres Soriano, leadman
- Ernesto G. Caspe, age 54, from Dasmamac, Lutopan, checker
- Juan M. Tapang, age 44, from Don Andres Soriano Village, heavy equipment operator
- Dionisio Labang, from barangay Uling, Naga, backhoe operator/Anseca Contractor
Those who are still missing are the following:
- Jose B. Carpentero, age 31, from Barangay Biga, heavy equipment operator from Mine Services Department
- Jonwel S. Herediano, age 33, from Barangay Don Andres Soriano, pump operator
- Simeon B. Laconas, age 33, from Barangay Biga, leadman - mine services department
- John Paul L. Resuelo, age 27, from Barangay Biga, heavy equipment operator
- Renante F. Sepada, age 35, from Barangay Bagakay, pump operator
- Alfred C. Tautho, age 33, from Barangay Mainggit, welder
Carmen Copper Corp. (CCC) expressed their support and commitment to provide free education until college and allowances to all the children of its employees who died or are still missing after the tragedy last December. Based on a press statement of the company last 27 Dec. 2020, they have provided various forms of financial and other assistance to the immediate families of its deceased workers. 
Additionally, CCC also offered employment opportunities for the victims’ next of kin, spouse and children.
“CCC has given the same attention to the immediate family of the missing CCC employees and will afford them of the same commitments CCC provided to the family of the deceased,” according to the company’s statement.
CCC also extended support to the family of the contractor who was among the victims. 
On 8 Feb. 2021, Toledo City Mayor, Hon. Marjorie Piczon-Perales along with Vice-Mayor Jay B. Go met the families of the victims at the open shed of the City Hall Garden to provide them with “ayuda” or financial assistance. This was posted on the Toledo City Public Information Office social media page. The mayor granted the families of deceased workers the amount of Php15 million. For the victims who are injured, they were given Php5 million. Additionally, they were all given food packs. 
On 29 Jan. 2021, the Office of Senator Christopher “Bong” Go distributed assistance to the Toledo City residents who were affected by the landslide in CCC mine. This was held at the Carmen Copper Recreation Center, Toledo City, Cebu. During the distribution, 248 families received meals, financial assistance, food packs, vitamins, face masks and face shields. Senator Go also gave bicycles and shoes to selected recipients, and computer tablets for their children to be used for online classes. Health and safety protocols were strictly implemented to avoid the further spread of COVID-19. The Senator was not present during the distribution but he sent them a video message with words of encouragement. 
Senator Go also offered assistance to those who needed major medical operations such as heart surgeries. He urged those in need of such medical attention to seek assistance from any of the Malasakit Centers in the province. 
While the local and national government along with CCC are busy sending assistance to the families of the victims of the December landslide, mining industry in general received backlashes from various groups who believe that the deaths and injuries could have been prevented.
Barely a month before the landslide, there had been reports from residents of Barangay Biga in Toledo City who claim they warned officials of the MGB Central Visayas and CCC as well about large cracks in the village prior to the landslide. However, they said that their appeal was not properly addressed. 
Biga Barangay Captian Pedro Sepada Jr. told a local newspaper in Cebu last 29 Dec. 2020 that prior to the landslide, barangay officials called for an emergency consultative meeting on 26 Nov. 2020 with representatives of CCC, MGB 7 and Biga residents to talk about the possible measures to be done after the cracks were discovered. Sepada said that MGB 7 Director Armando Malicse and CCC Vice President for Safety, Ignas Alburo were present. No representative from the Toledo City government was present. Sepada noted that during the meeting, they were not given a concrete response or alternative solution by CCC or MGB to provide assurance to the residents that they will all be safe while mining operations are ongoing. But Sepada said that they were simply told by MGB 7 and CCC officials that their place remained safe. 
According to the local news reports in Toledo City, residents now believe the huge cracks caused the fatal landslide. “It was only after the landslide last Dec. 21, that they declared our area to be unsafe within a radius of 600-meter distance from the pipeline of Carmen Copper. They now say it’s unsafe. What happened to their guarantee of safety before?” 
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said last December that they shall leave the investigation to MGB before implementing any course of action. She mentioned that she will leave it up to the MGB 7 to decide whether or not CCC has any liability.
Garcia said, “The investigation is not our expertise nor is that our mandate. MGB has already issued a suspension of operations and MGB is going to undertake the investigation. So let’s put things in proper perspective. While the investigation is ongoing, perhaps it is best to wait for the results.” 
“I am not taking any sides. I want to be as objective as possible. However, there are some personalities who are not as objective because they have their own interest in Carmen Copper. They want to control so that they can do business with Carmen Copper. This is a warning to those who want to make it difficult.”
Garcia also noted that CCC mining operations have given so much to Toledo City in terms of employment and the city’s development. She said that a thorough investigation is needed in order to prevent those with “personal interest” in the mining operations of CCC from ruining the lives of so many people working there.  Garcia assured the Province will provide assistance and support to the families of miners who died and those who remain missing after the landslide. 
Renester P. Suraltra, a college professor wrote a commentary last December on SunStar Cebu with the title “Toledo tragedy: The untold story”. He wrote, “Who is always responsible for any mining accident? Is it nature or man? Who is at fault? Is it the bad weather or the safety engineer?”
“Accidents may happen in the workplace but it can also be avoided. We can’t discount the fact that accidents can happen because of unsafe supervision, lack of situation awareness, and failure to identify the potential threat. That’s the job of the safety engineer under the direction and supervision of sympathetic and responsible management. If workers are dying frequently then responsible mining is a big issue.” “There is another lesson to be learned in the Toledo mining tragedy. We should never compromise safety and security. We can’t always blame nature out of man’s folly. One should think that the mining industry provides short-term revenue but long-term harmful effect on nature and the environment. Life is much precious than copper and gold.” 
Ryan Peter Vivo Penaranda for Cebuano to English translation from some news articles
 Mines and Geosciences Bureau Press Release (22 Dec. 2020)."Carmen Copper Mine In-Pit Landslide Incident".
 ANV (23 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Listahan sa namatay, missing sa Carmen pit gipagawas".
 WBS and PR (27 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Carmen Copper Corp. commits to help landslide victims' families".
 Toledo City Public Information Office Facebook Page (8 Feb. 2021). "Families of the victims of the land in Biga Pit Gitagaan ug ayuda in Toledo".
 Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Facebook Page (31 Jan. 2021). "Hundreds of Toledo City, Cebu residents affected by a copper mine landslide receive assistance from Senator Bong Go".
 Sabalo, Wenilyn (30 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Biga chief claims please ignored before landslide". Retrieved from - https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1881418/Cebu/Local-News/Biga-chief-claims-pleas-ignored-before-landslide
 Suralta, Renester P. (27 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Tell it to SunStar: Toledo tragedy: The untold story". Retrieved from - https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1881194
Marcelle P. Villegas - March 17, 2021
First Offshore Magnetite Iron Mining in the PH
Last December, Apollo Global Capital’s (PSE: APL) subsidiary, JDVC Resources Corporation, announced that Department of Environment and Natural Resources granted them a permit to start the commercial operations of the country’s first offshore magnetite iron mining project. According to JDVC and APL consultant, Jun Herrera, the mining operations in Cagayan are expected to start by mid or end of February. He said that the first newly-built deep sea mining vessel arrived in Cagayan and needed to take shelter for now due to strong sea currents. In relation to this project, they assured the government that there will be minimal impact on the marine ecosystem as per the studies and survey conducted by a Singapore-based company. Their study shows that there is no coral or aquamarine life within the mining area which is located 150 meters below sea level. Herrera stated that three more vessels are expected to arrive this year. The vessel is capable of commercial extraction, sampling, testing and production of magnetite iron.  With regards to the apprehension of some residents of Ballesteros in Cagayan that this offshore mining operation will destroy the coral ecosystem, APL addressed the issue by stating that such assumption by the locals has no basis. APL stated last January, “We won’t even be mining in their waters. In the first place, our mining operation will be in the waters of Buguey and Gonzaga towns, and at a distance of over 14 kilometers. That’s more than two horizon lengths away from the shoreline.” Lazaro Ramos, a resident of Ballesteros, sent a formal complaint to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu. Ramos warned them of the possible “catastrophe” that the offshore mining will bring about should it resumes. He mentioned in comparison a study conducted by Craig Smith from the University of Hawaii regarding the ocean seabed in the NE Pacific abyssal waters. APL, however, contradicted this argument by Ramos and said that the study by Craig Smith is applicable to a different part of the ocean and not necessarily comparable with the mining site in Cagayan. “That’s a different part of the Pacific. It looks at the ocean bed more than 200 meters below sea level, whereas we can only go down to 150 meters with current technology. Moreover, the Smith study did not look at magnetite iron reserves. From the experience of countries like Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand, magnetite iron is known to be toxic to corals, fish and other aquamarine life.” Moreover, JDVC emphasised on the study results done by the Singapore-based survey company whom they commissioned to conduct a full “sea bottom profile” of its mining tenements off Cagayan. As mentioned, their study reveals no corals or aquamarine life in the area. APL also reported that they have done their part in coordinating with the locals and providing corporate social responsibility activities for the residents of Buguey and Gonzaga. “We’re proud to say that over 90 percent of the residents support us and are even anxious for us to get started.” According to Herrera, the municipalities of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga received funding from the Development Bank of the Philippines. These are the municipalities covered by the mining project. DBP grated JDVC a grant worth $8-million credit line for the magnetite iron mining project. Herrera said, “We have proven to them [DBP] that it’s environmentally safe.” He added, “The DBP loan has zero borrowings yet as of now, hence, our company remains to be zero debts and internally funded by our shareholders. The DBP loan will only kick off once we have the letter of credit presented to the bank for the discounting the letter of credit of export buyers, to obtain a 90-day working capital, to fund the production of the ordered iron ore.” This project is seen as profitable, because magnetite mining has a strong market globally. In China, for example, they consider the steel industry as their “roadmap for their economic recovery”. Herrera mentioned that JVDC is an ISO-certified company. This means that there is an assurance that they shall comply with environmental standards. With all these assurances of a promising mining project ahead, some still have apprehension about it, perhaps rooting down to past incidents. In November 2020, the Cagayan Valley region was greatly affected by the Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses. The two simultaneous typhoons are classified as category-5 and category-4 tropical cyclones respectively. As an effect, the devastation was great marked by massive flooding in Isabela and Cagayan provinces.  The residents in those areas blame the National Irrigation Association (NIA) for the flood when they opened the floodgates of the nearby Magat Dam on the last minute. The two provinces were submerged in high waters as high as a two-storey building. NIA on the other hand firmly contradicted such claim and explained that the release of water from Magat Dam was not the main cause of flooding. NIA points out that proper and sufficient warnings were given to those communities in low-lying areas. Additionally, they stated that the volume of water released was only 25% of the carrying capacity of the Cagayan River. The river is the longest stream in the Philippines that serves as the catch basin of the nine provinces in three regions.  Aside from the two typhoons, a second issue related with the river was about the illegal magnetite mining at the mouth of the Cagayan River in the municipality of Aparri. The provincial board of Cagayan appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019 to stop the dredging operations of Pacific Offshore Exploration, Inc. (POEI) due to potential threat to the environment and the livelihood of the locals. The Chinese company Zhong Hai Gravel Group headed by Dong Biao Su is POEI’s partner in that operation. The company was controversial recently after the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Coast Guard raided its Zhonhai 68 dredging vessel during a maritime security patrol off the Bataan coast. “Bureau of Customs are poised to issue a warrant of seizure and detention against the undocumented vessel.” However, the Chinese Embassy in Manila claimed that the vessel is technically non-Chinese because it is registered under an African flag of convenience.  Currently, JDVC Resources Corp. is the first and only company that was granted a declaration of mining project feasibility by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to extract magnetite sand and other minerals in Cagayan. In response to Cagayan’s decade-old black sand mining problem, the launching of Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project last February 2 is seen to solve the problem. DENR stated early in February that mining regulations will strictly monitor the extraction of magnetite or black sand in the coastal waters and rivers of Cagayan province.  With regards to APL’s/JDVC Resources Corp.’s offshore magnetite iron mining, MGB Director Wilfredo Monaco stated the project has gone through an environmental impact assessment system processes and the company has secured an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).  “JDVC has undergone environmental impact assessment and the company was issued an ECC, which means environmental issues have been considered by the EMB,” Moncano stated. Magnetite or black sand mining is supposed to be banned in the Philippines, but Moncano explained that the extraction of the said mineral offshore is allowed. He said, “Mining in shoreline is prohibited but offshore mining is allowed. If it is at least 1,500 meters from the shoreline going out to the sea, it is allowed.” He also assured that the company’s operation will be monitored by the MGB and EMB, that in case of any destruction or damage to the coastal or marine ecosystem by JDVC Resources Corp., there will be a corresponding penalty under the mining law. “What is important is that the JDVC will not cause damage to the coastal or marine ecosystem,” he said. As for mining in rivers like in the Cagayan River, it is also allowed as long as the primary purpose of the project is river rehabilitation or restoration. One example is their plan to extract some 7 million metric tons of sand to remove three of the 19 sandbars along is stretch. Moncano said that the DENR-MGB will also monitor the dredging operations because while the activity is primarily flood mitigation, the minerals to be extracted include magnetite sand.  Moncano stated, “Black sand mining is also part of the purposes that’s why we will assess the mineral content of the river channel. If the magnetite sand contained surpasses the threshold of 6 percent, we will charge the company of 4-percent excise tax.” He said that every shipment will undergo mineral assessment. (--Marcelle P. Villegas, PRJ) References:  Flores, Alena Mae S. (31 Jan. 2021). Manila Standard. "Apollo Global announces subsidiary’s start of magnetite mining operations in Cagayan".  Gamboa, J. Albert (5 Feb. 2021). Business World. "Building back better in Cagayan Valley".  Mayuga, Jonathan L. (4 Feb. 2021). Business Mirror. "MGB exec vows to keep tabs of Cagayan River magnetite quarry operations set to start in February".
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Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021
Philippines Unlikely to Fulfill China's Nickel Ore Requirements
Despite the resumption of many mining operations in the region, the Philippines is unlikely to fulfill China's nickel ore requirements, according to an S&P report. Philippine mined nickel production is expected to increase over the next five years, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence industry survey, as producers aim to satisfy Chinese nickel ore demand. However, S&P analysts said, “We believe that legislation will remain a major hurdle for restarts and new projects, therefore the Philippines will be unable to meet Chinese nickel ore demand over our forecast period.” Three nickel mines in the world that had been closed due to the coronavirus disease in 2019 were reopened in 2020 when the government turned to the mining industry to help offset the economic effects of the disease (Covid-19). These restarts and demand from current mining facilities, according to foreign analysts, are expected to raise Philippine mined nickel output from 340,000 tonnes in 2020 to 550,000 tonnes in 2025. “However, we believe that existing environmental restrictions on Philippine mining will limit the scope for further mine restarts or additional production from new mining projects in the medium term,” S&P analysts said. “This will prevent the Philippines from meeting China’s nickel ore requirements in Indonesia’s absence, driving Chinese primary output down from an estimated 715,000 tonnes in 2020 to 490,000 tonnes in 2025.” The Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) previously reported that the country's nickel export value increased by P1 billion from January to September 2020, compared to P24 billion in the same timeframe last year. According to a survey from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Philippine nickel industry produced 18.5 million dry metric tons (DMT) in 2020, down 14% from the previous year's 21.6 million DMT production. MGB stated that the lower output was primarily due to the increased community quarantine imposed by Covid-19 from March to May 2020, during which mineral product movement was restricted across the world. The increased performance in export value for the nickel industry, according to PNIA President Dante Bravo, was primarily motivated by demand increases in nickel prices. China's consistent demand boosted the world nickel price in 2020.
Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021
Forecasts for PH Development in 2021 Have Been Reduced
Fitch Solutions, a London-based think tank, has slashed its economic growth forecast for the Philippines this year, citing the return to tough lockdown measures in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is expected to dampen domestic investment in the short term. Fitch Solutions now expects the Philippines' actual gross domestic product (GDP) to rise by 5.8% this year, down from the initial estimate of 7.6%, due to the government's capital spending push being derailed. “The surge in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines in March and lockdown measures imposed reflect the continued risks to the archipelago’s economic outlook,” the think tank said in a research note dated April 1. The government has reimposed curfew policies in Metro Manila and neighbouring provinces, affecting an unprecedented 24 million inhabitants, as it struggles to control the pandemic. Given the continuing increase in cases and the long-term effect on hospital capacity, Fitch Solutions expects the lockout steps to be extended beyond two weeks. “The likelihood of further outbreaks in other regions remains high and given the slow vaccination rollout in the country (less than 1 per cent of the population has been vaccinated as of end-March) we believe the Philippines’ recovery will continue to be hampered by the pandemic,” Fitch Solutions said. Regional outlook The think tank went on to say that its new estimate of 5.8% also had downside risks. It stated that its forecast for a moderate recovery this year was based on the assumption that domestic demand would steadily improve and the government's investment plans would be realized, resulting in a sharp increase in domestic activity. “However, the slow vaccine rollout and recurrent difficulties in containing outbreaks look set to stall the recovery further,” it noted. A survey of economists in the Asean-5 and India found that the Philippines' growth projection was 5.2 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent in the previous poll last December. Although Asian countries that carried out mass vaccination earlier, such as India, Indonesia, and Singapore, saw their near-term economic prospects boost, gradual inoculation tempered economists' growth aspirations for the Philippines, according to a poll released on Monday by the think tank Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER). Economists following the Philippines predicted that GDP will contract by 3.8 per cent year on year in the first quarter, up from 0.7 per cent a year before. GDP will rise 8.4% year over year in the second quarter, 5.6 per cent in the third quarter, and 4.5 per cent in the fourth quarter due to base effects from last year's low. Malaysia and Thailand, including the Philippines, have weaker growth forecasts for 2021. “Most economists see the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination as one of the most significant positive developments over the last three months and all three upward-trending countries have rolled out vaccinations relatively sooner. This may have improved economists’ outlooks. Delays in vaccination and the spread of COVID-19 variants are listed as factors that might damage the economies,” JCER said. Top concerns Faster dissemination of COVID-19 variants and delayed vaccination, or "corona shock," were described as top economic issues in the Philippines, but higher inflation was also identified as a major threat to the country's recovery from the pandemic-induced recession. According to analysts, headline inflation will average 4.5 per cent in the first quarter, 4.8 per cent in the second, 4.7 per cent in the third, and 4.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, averaging 4.5 per cent in 2021, way above the target range of 2-4 per cent. With a 6.1 per cent increase, Singapore is forecast to lead economic growth in the Asean-5 this year, led by Malaysia's 5.3 per cent and Philippines' 5.2 per cent. According to the JCER report, India will rise at a higher rate of 11.2 per cent in 2021. Economists predicted that the Philippines' average GDP growth will be 6% in 2022, up from 5.8% in December but still below the government's goal.
Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021
Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Expected to Open in June 2021
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is concentrating not only on the civil work’s development of the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Project but also on keeping the workplace secure and clean. DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said, "that at 86 per cent and with just a few more days to fully complete the new Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, we are mindful that a single case of COVID-19 in the project can lead to an interruption, if not total work stoppage" Secretary Villar recently issued revised guidelines in Department Order #30 for the implementation of ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ infrastructure projects, both public and private, during the public health crisis. "Although the bridge project is being rushed for completion in June 2021, it is critical that construction firms be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with the increased risk of illness from COVID-19," Secretary Villar added. Emil K. Sadain, Undersecretary for Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) Operations, and UPMO Roads Management Cluster 1 Project Manager Benjamin Bautista checked the physical progress of the bridge project on Monday, April 5, 2021, and the contractor's compliance with protocols that cover prevention, detection, and rapid response to maintain construction work continuity as workers who have been living in the barracks resume work after the Lenten season. “Let’s get to work healthy to get the job done”, Undersecretary Sadain reminded the contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation citing the current health situation, particularly in the NCR Plus bubble. In his report to Secretary Villar, Undersecretary Sadain reported that the project is more than 12% ahead of time, having completed all bridge substructure works for abutments A and B on both sides and piers of the Makati approach bridge; the V-shaped piers for the Main Bridge; concrete box girder for the approach bridge; and the V-shaped piers for the Main Bridg; and two (2) prestressed concrete box girder segments using the traditional approach. Post-tensioning and grouting works, formworks and rebar installation for the closure section in the side spans, formworks installation for the 2-meter closure section in the main bridge span, and preparatory works for approach road construction on both sides are now the focus of bridge construction activities. The new 506-linear meter bridge, funded by China and introduced by the DPWH UPMO - Roads Management Cluster 1 (Bilateral), would have a diameter of 21.65 meters, capable of four (4) lanes instead of two (2), and three-meter sidewalks on both sides. The P1.46 billion new Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2021, will handle 50,000 vehicles a day and minimize travel time between Mandaluyong and Makati to 12 minutes. The bridge will connect Estrella Street in Makati to Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong, helping to relieve traffic congestion on EDSA by providing an alternative route for motorists.