THE mining sector said it will keep up a campaign to persuade the public on the benefits of open-pit mining, despite the apparent unlikelihood of a change of heart by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who supports the current ban.
“We will continue to work with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on their Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign informing the public (of) what responsible mining is,” Rocky G. Dimaculangan, vice-president for communications of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, said in a mobile phone message Monday when asked for comment on remarks from the Palace indicating that the ban may remain.
He added: “Open-pit mining is a globally-accepted method, can be operated safely, and can be rehabilitated properly in a manner that provides productive land use after the life of the mine.”
Mr. Dimaculangan also said the Chamber supports the recommendation of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to lift the ban on open-pit mining.
The President’s Spokesperson, Salvador S. Panelo, said last week that he believes the President will “maintain” the ban.
“He does not like open-pit mining. That is his policy,” he said.
The ban on open-pit mining was imposed by the late former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez, an environmental advocate, in April 2017. She was supported by Mr. Duterte, who rejected a proposal by the MICC to lift the ban in November 2017.
Rodolfo L. Velasco, head of the MGB’s Mine Safety, Environment and Social Development division, said in a conference last week that the lifting of the ban will depend on the recommendation of the current environment secretary, Roy A. Cimatu.
He noted that the ban has had a significant negative impact on the attractiveness of the country for mining investors.
The most significant project that was put on hold, according to Mr. Velasco, is the $5.9-billion Tampakan project in South Cotabato, touted as one of the largest gold prospects in the world, which Ms. Lopez rejected in 2016. Its operator is Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) which was able to secure declaration of mining feasibility and was steps away from starting operations. — Arjay L. Balinbin