The Philippines Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has ordered the suspension of two nickel mines in Zambales province after finding several operational violations. The licences have been suspended until the companies have complied with six conditions.

The MGB’s Central Luzon office ordered Zambales Diversified Metals Corp (ZDMC) and Benguetcorp Nickel Mines Inc (BNMI) to stop operations immediately.
In issuing the suspension order, the MGB cited as reasons the Writ of Kalakasan that the Supreme Court issued in June against ZDMC and BNMI, along with other mining firms that operate in Zambales.

The MGB said the joint suspension order was needed to “ensure that the environment, particularly the communities, farmlands and water bodies, are not in any way compromised as a result of the mining operations.”

It said the miners had to rehabilitate the farms, fish ponds and bodies of water contaminated by the mine. Their owners must be compensated for the damage.

The suspensions come at a time the mining industry is feeling nervous amid statements that the country’s new environment secretary and anti-mining advocate, Gina Lopez, has made upon assuming her post.

The nervousness has increased since new President Rodrigo Duterte officially ordered an audit of all operating mines and suspension of new mining projects through a statement made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Friday, July 8.

The audit will last for one month until it is formally terminated. “There will be a comprehensive review of the mining claims of concessions given,” according to the statement. An audit of all the mining operations in the country shall be “immediately undertaken” to determine the adequacy and efficiency of environmental protection measures of each mining operation.

Commenting on the MGB suspensions, Gina Lopez said there could be more in the future. She also said that there would be more audits coming and she has signed an order to review all operating and suspended mines.

“The audit is in line with [President Duterte’s] pronouncement to review mining concessions, and in the interest of the common good, and to address the concerns of impoverished communities,” she said.

“If they are killing our rivers, how can their business interest be more important than the lives of our people? I will not allow suffering,” she said. “The main thing is that whatever we do, the welfare of the people must be paramount.”

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