In a bid to speed up the approval process, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) has transferred to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) the task of validating applications for expansion of areas filed by operating miners. The transfer has been made from the MICC Technical Working Group on Environmental Protection and Legislation.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is allowing operating mines to expand their contract areas provided they are proven to have viable economic reserves.
The DENR, through the recommendation of the MGB last year issued Administrative Order 2014-06 providing for the expansion of areas of existing mines with viable economic deposits subject to validation by the MICC through its Technical Working Group on Environmental Protection which the MGB is part of.
The order was issued in consideration of a number of operating mines that need to expand in existing contract areas to sustain operations.
Recognizing limitations of the technical working group due to lack of technical capability among others, finance secretary Cesar Purisima and environment secretary Ramon Paje resolved to transfer the validation function to the MGB regional office (RO) covering the application, which will conduct field verification while the MGB central office will approve the application, if warranted.
MGB director Leo Jasareno earlier said that operations of existing mines with dwindling resources can be expanded provided the expansion area applied for is adjacent to the contract area or is within the immediate vicinity. He said a declaration of mining project pre-feasibility should be submitted for the expansion of areas to prove the economic viability of deposits.
The new regulation applies to existing contract areas covered by mineral production and sharing agreements (MPSA) as well as Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA). As the new mining policy bans the issuance of new mining contracts pending the legislation of a new taxation scheme for the extractive industry, the new mining areas would be considered an expansion of the existing MPSA and FTAA areas.
While allowing expansion of existing contract areas, the MGB will still observe the area limitation of a maximum of 8000 hectares per mining company in the province it is operating in and a maximum of 16,000 hectares nationwide.
Leo Jasareno says this is the government’s way of protecting investments and making sure that responsible mining companies will have continuity in their operations.
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