MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Denr Stops Operations Of Palawan Mining Firm

Published by MAC on 2006-10-20
Source: Inquirer

DENR stops operations of Palawan mining firm

By Blanche Rivera, Jofelle Tesorio, Inquirer -

20th October 2006

Published on Page A18 of the October 20, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE GOVERNMENT has stopped the operations of Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) in Palawan after the firm was found to have over-extracted metals during its year-long operations in the province.

Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes cancelled the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of PGMC and Olympic Mines and Development Corp., which leased its mining tenement to PGMC, due to various violations of the ECC.

"It is clear in the submitted report of the investigating team ... that the PGMC ... is overextracting beyond what are issued by the ECC," Reyes said in his order dated Sept. 25.

The investigating team, led by the Environmental Management Bureau, found that PGMC has already extracted 282,729.35 tons of nickel as of September, more than five times the 50,000-ton annual extraction rate allowed by its ECC.

There were recent reports that the PGMC was able to mine and export to Australia some 300,000 metric tons of ore in only two years of operations in Narra, Palawan.

Other violations

The DENR order also cited other ECC violations, including pollution generated by mining as evidenced from the farmers' complaint letters, mining outside the boundaries of its small scale mining permit, construction of a 6-km road in Sitio Jambangan without a permit, and mining contrary to the plan submitted by PGMC to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

"PGMC is undertaking high-grading operation which leaves behind patches of valuable low grade nickel resources," Reyes said.

PGMC last year acquired a permit from Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, chair of the provincial mines and regulatory board, to extract 10.3 million tons of laterite and saprolite nickel ores in Barangay San Isidro in Narra and Barangays Pulot Interior, Punang, Labog, all of Sofronio Espanola.

Appeal rejected

The EMB wrote PGMC's Benjamin Obra on Sept. 11 to inform the company of its violations. The PGMC appealed the notice of violation but it was rejected by the DENR.

"They immediately stopped when the order was served," DENR regional director Vicente Paragas said.

According to Elizabeth Maclang, project coordinator of the Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI), an umbrella organization of non-government organizations in Palawan, they received information that the ECC of PGMC was cancelled effective Sept. 25.

But PNNI has yet to send a request letter to Secretary Reyes for the copy of the order of cancellation.

Maclang said that the small scale mining permit issued to PGMC by Governor Reyes should have been canceled as well.

According to the communities living in the area where PGMC operates, the company has stopped extracting mineral ore since the issuance of the cancellation order.

In August, a network of NGOs in Manila composed of organizations like Defend Patrimony, Brigadang Berde and Concerned Citizens Against Pollution said they filed complaint documents at the provincial government and the regional office of the DENR pointing to environmental damage allegedly caused by the illegal operations of PGMC in Narra, Palawan.

PGMC officials, according to sources, are expected to appeal DENR's order.

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