DENR suspends 2 mining firms
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has suspended the operation of two mining and mineral processing firms in Cebu that harvested the dolomite used as white sand substitute in the Manila Bay rehabilitation program.
“We have to suspend all its operations to give way for the investigation and pending the results of the water quality monitoring, coral reef assessment, and ambient air quality and other possible violations on environmental laws, rules and regulations being conducted by the Environmental Management Bureau ( EMB) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB),” Cimatu said in a statement released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Covered by the suspension are Dolomite Mining Corporation and Philippine Mining Service Corporation, both based in the southern town of Alcoy.
The suspension came shortly after the soft reopening of Manila Bay in Manila that showcased the “white sands” from Cebu.
DMC is the only largescale producer of dolomite materials being a holder of a 25-year mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) contract denominated as MPSA No. 208- 2005VII covering 524.6103 hectares, which will expire in 2030.
Meanwhile, PMSC is a holder of a mineral p r o c e s s i n g p e r m i t denominated as MPP007- 2005VII, which will expire in 2023. It undertakes crushing and screening of raw materials into lump ore, fine ore, and other desired and market specified sizes.
D o l o m i t e i s a sedimentary carbonate rock that has a high content of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2.
E a r l i e r , D E N R Undersecretary Bennie A n t i p o r d a s a i d t h e government i s but a customer and has no hand in the extraction of dolomites in Cebu. Still, this does not mean t hey are not acting on complaints and concerns raised in relation to dolomites.
Yesterday, Cimatu met with Alcoy Mayor Michael Angelo Sestoso; Vice Mayor Jimmy Abajon; PMSC Senior Manager for Corporate Planning Antonio Castillo, and officials of the regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Environmental Management Bureau to look into allegations and the complaint of the provincial government to improve mining operations.
After t he meeting, Cimutu inspected the ship loading facility after the provincial government, in a report from Knight Stewards of the Sea, claimed the extraction of dolomite rocks from Alcoy damaged the coral reef.
“Ang concern ko talaga ay ang environmental issues na na- bring out by the Province ( Cebu) against these companies,” Cimatu said.
(My concern really are the environmental issues raised by the province against these companies.)
There was no ongoing mineral processing and ship loading operation at the time of the inspection but Cimatu decided still to suspend operations.
Earlier, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued a cease and desist order pursuant t o Executive Order No. 25- A for the domestic sale and transport of dolomite used as a sand and gravel substitute.
Should DENR find t hat t he mining firms violated regulations, the companies themselves may be suspended.
“After the investigation, kung malaman na may violation man… Kung may violation man, then we will proceed with the suspension of the company,” Cimatu said.
(After investigation will find that the companies have violations, we will suspend the companies.)
Now, the two firms are facing additional burden with the suspension of the issuance of the ore transport permit (OTP) for both local and international shipment of dolomite. The permit is being issued by MGB.
Last August 26, 2020, MGB-7 issued an OTP to PMSC to transport 3,500 WMT of processed dolomite (size -5mm) to the Manila Integrated Cargo Terminal. The dolomite shipment was utilized for the beach nourishment project in Manila Bay.
Along with yesterday's inspection, a team from EMB- 7 collected water samples from t he ship loading facility to determine whether the water quality there is within standards pursuant to the Clean Water Act.
Ambient air quality was also measured.
“Aside from the corals, we are looking into the quality of the water, the quality of the air here para naman sa mga tao, sa community dito,” Cimatu said.
In another development, Cimatu ordered MGB to convene the Cebu Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) to discuss mining related issues and concerns.
Meanwhile, Garcia thanked Cimatu for the "quick action" against the mining firms.
She said the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) found violations committed by the firms.
"There are obvious violations on ECC and water discharge permit. So these are violations that are causing degradation of our seabed," Garcia said.
The CDO she issued earlier stopped "further transporting and selling dolomite, associated mineral deposits, and other quarry resources in the domestic and local market used as substitutes for sand and gravel, soil conditioner, and other purposes."
Garcia issued the CDO after Capitol learned that the firms in Alcoy have been selling dolomites without the proper permit from the province. —