Mining firms press for release of audit results

Enrico Dela Cruz, Reuters

Posted at Feb 07 2017 02:46 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2017 07:03 PM

A worker looks at the Rapu Rapu open pit mine owned by the Australian firm Lafayette mining in Albay province. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters/File

MANILA (UPDATE) - A mining industry body said it would file a freedom of information request on Tuesday to press the government to release the results of a mining audit, following an order to close over half of the country's mines.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez last week ordered 23 mines to shut permanently, even though a team that reviewed an audit of 41 mines had recommended suspensions and fines for environmental violations, rather than closure, sources told Reuters. 

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said it wants to get all the information related to the audit to know exactly what the violations were that led to the closure orders.

"This is quite a shock to everybody in the industry," the chamber's chairman Artemio Disini told a press conference.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Lopez said she would not reconsider her decision, saying the Philippines was "unfit for mining" due to its unique ecosystem.

Lopez launched the enviromental mine audit in July, initially suspending 10 and saying 20 more were at risk of being halted. A long-time environmentalist, she took over the department that oversees the mining sector last June when tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

Duterte, who has said that the Philippines can survive without a mining industry, has thrown his support behind Lopez's decision. She will present it formally at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Less than a month after he took office, Duterte ordered all agencies directly under his watch to open their records to the public as part of his promise to crack down on corruption and promote transparency in government.

"If she still refuses to release the audit results, then clearly she is going against the Duterte administration's mandate to promote transparency in government," the chamber's spokesperson, Ronald Recidoro, said in the same briefing.

Lopez, meanwhile, said the audit is "an open book," and the recommendations made by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau can be accessed by the mining companies.

“We have released the report. This is the thing where I wasn't keen on showing it but if they want to see it, they can see it. It’s where the recommendations were not in resonance with what I wanted to do,” Lopez told ANC's "Headstart."

"It's an open book. We did a show cause, we did an audit report and we gave it to the mines...they replied, and then I made my decision,” she added.