Green group rejects environment agency move to allow open pit mining

Press Release

September 4, 2017

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a coalition of mining-affected communities and their support groups, rejects the Department of Environment and Natural Resources disposition to reverse the agency’s order to prohibit open pit mining.

ATM supports DAO 2017-10 as open pit mining is the most destructive form of mining, as experienced in mining provinces in the country. Open pit mines have left many mining areas devastated since miners explored and exploited the country’s mineral resources.

Open pit mining is a method that introduces permanent changes in the land, and permanent changes in land use. It cuts down trees and forests. It disturbs waterways, rivers and the watertables. It brings in massive infrastructures that destroy farms and livelihoods. It displaces homes and disrupts existing livelihoods. The mineral processing brings toxic chemicals.

A very glaring example is the Marcopper Mines in Marinduque Island, which has been closed down for over two decades already but still remains a threat to communities. By-products of mines, mostly open pit mines, remain even after mine closure. This leaves the task of long-term and perpetual maintenance of mined areas to the government.

“We believe that the reversal of DAO 2017-10 is going to be a big failure on the part of DENR – the agency tasked to balance the protection of environment and natural resources and exploitation of our national wealth. While the Mining Act of 1995 implemented now allows for all methods of mining, we believe the DENR has the power to impose such policy for the right reasons,” said ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera.

DAO 2017-10 was signed into order by then Sec. Gina Lopez who led the audit of more than 40 large-scale mining projects. During Lopez’s stint in the DENR, a study on open pit mines in the country was down which resulted in a strong evidence of perpetual damage and liabilities caused by such mines.

The alliance believes that the ban on open-pit benefited from research and consultations with affected communities. The legal basis for the open-pit ban is informed by the 1987 Constitution. The Secretary of the DENR has the mandate and the obligation to ensure that the “common good” and the “right to a safe and sound ecology” are upheld. This is the spirit of the ban on open-pit mining.

Garganera added, “To reverse this orders means to allow mining as destructive as this to continue. Pres. Duterte was aghast upon seeing the destructions caused by mining projects all over the country and promised to address the mining issues. We call on him to retain and implement this order through his appointed DENR Secretary Cimatu. We also call on him to affirm the suspension and closure orders issued by Lopez in February 2017, and declare a moratorium on all mining operations in the country.”

The alliance also reiterated that these continuing issues against irresponsible mining can only be resolved if a new mining law is passed by Congress. Currently, the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) is still in pending at the House of Representatives and the Senate.

President Duterte has stated in his recent SONA that he will support the enactment of a new mining law to re-draw the minerals management policy, and ensure that Filipinos benefit from mining, as well as protecting the environment at the same time.

“The ban on open-pit mining should stay, until the government is able to prove that the benefits of mining outweigh the costs that we shoulder. These include environmental, social, cultural and health costs”, Garganera concluded.

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ATM is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. ATM is pushing for the repeal of RA7942 and the enactment of the Philippine Mineral Resources Act.

For more information:

Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0927) 761.76.02 <nc@alyansatigilmina.net>

Karl Isaac Santos, Media and Communications Officer, (0917) 301.19.34 <media.comms@alyansatigilmina.net>

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