Riding the Wave at Mining PH 2019
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
By Marcelle Villegas
The annual Mining Philippine International Conference and Exhibition 2019 (10-12 September 2019) tackled several issues about the mining sector of the Philippines from regulations, audits, environmental concerns and recent changes in global market trends. This year’s theme is “Riding the Wave: Capitalizing on Opportunities”.
Honorable Analiza Teh, Undersecretary, Climate Change and Mining Concerns, DENR, discussed on first two days of the conference some updates about mining permits and audits.
She reported five pending major investments or mining projects that are expected to generate growth for the industry. Undersecretary Teh said, “Our goal now is how to maximize this potential to boost growth without compromising the protection of the environment and ensuring the sustainability of mining practices,"
She also mentioned that there are five mining projects that are expected to increase the contribution of the mining sector to the economy.  The following mining companies are:
Tampakan Copper-Gold project in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur with a total capital investment of USD8.20 billion
Kingking Copper-Gold mining project in Compostela Valley -- USD2.29 billion
Silangan Copper-Gold in Surigao del Norte -- USD40.43 billion
Pujada Nickel project in Davao Oriental -- PHP540.36 billion
Balabag Gold-Silver project in Zamboanga del Sur -- PHP1.04 billion 
Undersecretary Teh noted, "These mining projects are expected to bring billions of US dollars worth of revenues during its operations.".
"The government and the industry need to work on improving public perception and enhance public confidence in the industry's capacity to implement genuine responsible mining." 
During the morning session of Day One of the conference, a protestor addressed a question to the Undersecretary after her speech. He is Paul Nieves, Media Coordinator of “Alyansa Tigil Mina”, a Phlippine anti-mining group. He later said during an interview by ABS-CBN, "What is DENR doing regarding irresponsible miners? I have shown to Undersecretary (Analyza Teh) the people's mining audit. It shows the environmental destruction." He was questioning the credibility of the government’s audits. 
There was also a group of female protestors from the same anti-mining group who did a non-violent, silent protest at the lobby of the hotel where the conference was held. The ladies were arrested and detained by police and hotel security. 
Environmental Undersecretary Analiza Teh mentioned that the MICC audit are even stricter than the audits done by the late DENR Secretary Gina Lopez which resulted in closure and suspension orders for some 26 mines. She also emphasised the audits are meant to ensure that miners don't harm the environment and to allow responsible miners to continue operations. 
"It really covered several aspects: legal, technical, environmental and social compliance, so this is more thorough.” Additionally, she said that different mining companies have different corrective measures.
The MICC will start another audit of the mining sector within the next two months, and according to Undersecretary, this one will cover 17 mining companies which passed previous evaluations. The second audit aims to ensure all industry players are complying with laws that protect the environment. 
She mentioned that despite the completion of the last audit, MICC decided not to publish the results as some of the information are confidential.
In contrast to this, Mr Gerard Brimo (Chairman, Chamber of Mines of the Phils.) said that the audit results should be released. "The fact is the majority of the companies have passed, so it paints a different picture than the results of the first audit when some 26 companies, more than half of the operating mines were serving closure orders." 
Mr Brimo said that the mining industry has been “in a tough situation for years now with growth stifled by the ongoing moratorium on new mining permits, the ban on open-pit mining and prevailing uncertainty regarding mining taxation”. 
The 17 mining companies covered by the MICC Review Phase II are:
Agata Mining Ventures Inc.
Apex Mining Corp.
Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp.
Cagdianao Mining Corp.
Century Peak Corp.
FCF Minerals Corp.
Filminera Resources Corp.
Greenstone Resources Corp.
Pacific Nickel Phils.
Philex Mining Corp.
Philsaga Mining Corp.
Platinum Group Metals
Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp.
SR Metals Inc.
Taganito Mining Corp.
TechIron Resources Inc.
Tribal Mining Corp.
On Day Two of the conference, Undersecretary Teh gave a presentation titled “Where are we going? Government’s way forward for the mining industry”. During the open forum after the first set of speakers, Atty. Leo G. Dominguez, President of OLLI Consulting Group, Inc., asked a question to Undersecretary Teh. The question pertained to her statement the day before that the results of the MICC audit have been forwarded to the Office of the President (OP), for concerns relating to the Privacy Act of the audit results cannot be made public, and therefore matters relating to the audit are no longer in the hands of the DENR. If companies need to follow up on the resolution of appeals pending with the OP as affected by the audit, these companies should not come to the DENR but go directly to the OP.
Atty Dominguez asked whether or not the Undersecretary believed that the OP has the expertise to understand the audit report, because it has been there for 18 months with no action. His concern reflects the situation of the companies being audited and whose operations have been on hold pending government action on the audit results. Because the report has not been released to the mining companies concerned and to the public, then the mining companies have no idea exactly where they stand in respect of the audit, and what actions they need to take to pass the audits, or how long their operations will need to be on hold.
Undersecretary Teh responded to Atty. Dominguez by saying that mining companies subject of the audit could go to her at the DENR and seek the DENR’s assistance. If the meetings indicate that a specific mining company’s position is meritorious, the DENR would forward a favorable endorsement and recommendation to the OP in respect of that company’s pending appeal.
In effect, this is how Undersecretary Teh proposed that the OP’s lack of expertise to understand the audit results could be addressed. So, again, in effect, Undersecretary Teh admitted that contrary to her statement the day before that the audit results were no longer in the hands of the DENR, the DENR’s additional input was in fact still necessary for the OP to act on the audit results vis-a-vis appeals by mining companies of Orders of Cancellation of their operations issued by former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.
Loss of time is critical in any business operation. Plus a vagueness in process flow of approvals and audits puts the mining companies involved in an awkward position of waiting for the unknown.
The Undersecretary said she would forward Atty. Dominguez’s concern to the Office…
The 3-day conference had many notable speakers such as Director Nestor Arcansalin (Resources-Based Industries Service, Board on Investment) who talked about “Identifying Opportunities Under the Government’s Manufacturing Resurgence Program”, Mr Pierre Gratton (President and CEO, Mining Association of Canada) on “Updates on the Towards Sustainable Mining Initiative”, Atty Dante Bravo (President, Phil. Nickel Association Industry) on “What;s next for the nickel in the face of the looming EV market”, Engr. Eulalio B. Austin, Jr. (President and CEO, Philex Mining Corp.) on “The Silangan Project - Surigao del Norte”, Mr Rob Longey (Technical Director - Tailings and Mine Rehabilitation, GHD) on “Dam Design and Safety”, and more.
On Day One of the conference, a Focus Group Discussion was held to talk about the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code and Its Relevance to the Philippine Mineral Industry. The discussion was led by Atty. Ronald S. Recidoro (Chamber of Mines of the Phils. Executive Director) and moderated by Atty. Dennis A. Quintero (PABC Chair and Meeting Chair).
Presenters for the Focus Group Discussion were Engr. Ramon N. Santos (GSP CPAC Secretariat Head) who reported about the “Basics of the Phil. Mineral Reporting Code 2007 and Its Implementing Rules and Regulations”, Engr. Juancho Calvez (MGB Chief Metallurgical Engineering) on “PMRC Committee: Role and Composition”, Mr George Baquiran (GSP CPAC Chair) on “CRIRSCO & International Reporting Codes”, and Mr Joey Nelson Ayson (PMEA President) on “PMRC: Updates and Relevance to the Minerals Industry”.
The Focus Group Discussion was ended with an open forum that was moderated by Engr. Roger A. De Dios (PSEM National President).
 Ison, Lilybeth. (10 Sept. 2019) "5 projects seen to boost growth of PH mining sector". Philippine News Agency
 Deguzman, Warren. (10 Sept. 2019). "Environmental groups question PH officials on credibility of mining audits". ANC 24/7, ABS-CBN News