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Government won’t back down on Executive Order 130

by Philippine Resources - April 23, 2021

The government has stated that it would not bow to calls to rethink Executive Order (EO) No. 130, which lifted the ban on new mining deals, noting the need for new revenue in the wake of the pandemic.

“We are not paying attention to those calling for the EO to be withdrawn because the country is facing many problems. We need to find a source of funds and this is one path to recovery,” Environment Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said in a Laging Handa briefing.

Funds provided by new mining deals, according to Mr. Leones, can be used to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and provide financial assistance to the sick.

He went on to say that EO 130 is one of the government's measures to resolve its financial problems during the public health emergency.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Executive Order 130 on April 14, allowing the government to review active mining agreements for future renegotiation. The EO modifies a 2012 order by former President Benigno S. C. Aquino III that halted the issuance of new mining agreements.

The EO has been met with opposition based on concerns that it would damage the climate and indigenous communities.

Mr. Leones stated that there are 100 mining ventures in the works, with total revenue of P21 billion for the government.

“We can use the country’s resources to generate the necessary income for our economy,” Mr. Leones said.

Mr. Leones went on to say that the forthcoming mining deals are divided into two phases, with Phase 1 containing 35 mining projects that are able to be launched quickly and Phase 2 containing 65 projects.

Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Wilfredo G. Moncano said Phase 1 projects are scheduled to begin within months and are in the process of securing the required approvals before moving forward with mining.

Phase 2 projects, according to Mr. Moncano, are those that can be mobilized by next year and have reached benchmarks such as the Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility.

Significant investments have been made in three projects in the pipeline, according to Ronald S. Recidoro, executive director of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, who said in a cell phone message that the Tampakan Copper Project of Sagittarius Mines, Inc.; the King-King Copper-Gold Project of the Nationwide Development Corp. and St. Augustine Gold & Copper Ltd.; and the Silangan Copper and Gold Project of Philex Mining Corp.

“We are already looking at over $4 billion in capital expenditure, with over P40 billion in local government unit (LGU) taxes, P20 billion in social development projects, and P15 billion paid to indigenous peoples as royalties,” Mr. Recidoro said.

“Of course, this will not come immediately, or in one go, but it will be spread over the life of the mining project. But to get this significant amount of revenue spread over years, and spent in the remote areas that need it most, is definitely a plus,” he added.

Francis Joseph G. Ballesteros, Jr., Philex Mining's Head of Public and Regulatory Affairs, said in a text message that the firm is also searching for a commercial partner for its Silangan project in Surigao del Norte.

“We are still aggressively on the lookout for a business partner for Silangan. Perhaps, with this new EO 130, investor interest will be encouraged. We hope that we can accomplish this within the year,” Mr. Ballesteros said.

The MGB predicted that the size of the metallic mining industry's production will rise 1.13 per cent to P132.21 billion in 2020, with nickel ore and its by-products accounting for 51.8 per cent (P68.48 billion), gold 36 per cent (P47.60 billion), copper 11.25 per cent (P14.88 billion), and silver, chromite, and iron accounting for P1.26 billion.



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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. [1] 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. [2] 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. [2] 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. [2] 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. [3] 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). [3]  “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. [3] 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: [1] Flores, Alena Mae S. (31 Jan. 2021). Manila Standard. "Apollo Global announces subsidiary’s start of magnetite mining operations in Cagayan". [2] Gamboa, J. Albert (5 Feb. 2021). Business World. "Building back better in Cagayan Valley". [3] 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".

Mining

Philippine Resources - April 15, 2021

Duterte Lifts Mining Ban

To boost government revenues and stimulate economic growth, President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted a nine-year ban on awarding new mining agreements. Executive Order (EO) 130, given by Duterte, directs the government to “enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations." Benigno Aquino III, Duterte's predecessor, instituted the ban in 2012. Duterte said in his EO that the Philippines has only used about 5% of its natural resources endowment. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was assigned by the EO to "formulate the terms and conditions in the new mineral agreements that will maximize government revenues and share from production, including the possibility of declaring these areas as mineral reservations to obtain appropriate royalties, in accordance with existing laws, rules, and regulations." It also requested the DENR to do a review of current mining contracts and arrangements and see whether the terms and conditions could be renegotiated. On the other hand, the DENR and the Department of Finance will take steps to streamline current revenue sharing programs and processes. New mining agreements, according to EO 130, will stimulate economic development, which is required to fund government programs like Build, Build, Build and the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Scheme. The government hopes that lifting the ban would result in more job opportunities in remote rural areas where mining operations are taking place, "thereby stimulating countryside growth." DENR completed a comprehensive analysis of the mining industry's regulatory system and "has [put] in place new laws, legislation, and strategies providing for and reinforcing environmental protections to ensure that mining activities observe environmental security," according to EO 130. EO 130 also permits DENR to continue issuing Exploration Permits under existing laws, rules, and guidelines. Following the acceptance of the declaration of mining project feasibility, the beneficiaries of such exploration licenses will have rights under the said regulations, regulations, and guidelines over the permitted exploration area and will be given the right of first choice to cultivate and exploit the minerals in their respective exploration area.

Mining

Marcelle P. Villegas - March 17, 2021

The Aftermath of the Carmen Copper Mine Landslide

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.” [1] 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. [1] 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). [1] 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. [2] 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. [3] 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. [3] 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. [4] 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. [5] 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. [5] 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. [6] 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. [6] 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?” [6] 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.” [6] “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. [6] Garcia assured the Province will provide assistance and support to the families of miners who died and those who remain missing after the landslide. [6] 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.” [7] Acknowledgement: Ryan Peter Vivo Penaranda for Cebuano to English translation from some news articles   Reference: [1] Mines and Geosciences Bureau Press Release (22 Dec. 2020)."Carmen Copper Mine In-Pit Landslide Incident". [2] ANV (23 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Listahan sa namatay, missing sa Carmen pit gipagawas". [3] WBS and PR (27 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Carmen Copper Corp. commits to help landslide victims' families".  [4] 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". [5] 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". [6] 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 [7] 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

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Construction

Philippine Resources - May 04, 2021

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Philippine Resources - May 04, 2021

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Philippine Resources - May 04, 2021

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