Category Archives: Mining

Business as usual for Philippine miners?

General Roy Cimatu is in, and so are the Chinese.  The connection? Mining.

This week, both the Philippines and China inked six deals that covered mutual cooperation in the areas of logistics, mining exports, hydro power energy, tourism, as well as charter flights.

It was interesting to note that local miner Carrascal Nickel Corp​. was in the loop.

carrascal-nickel

“This business deal involves the export of laterite nickel ore to China by Carrascal Nickel Corp​ via the Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port Group Co. Ltd.

CNC will supply no less than 1.5 million tons of laterite nickel ore to subordinate companies designated by the Port Group.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 May 2017)

Carrascal Nickel Corp​. was previously recommended for closure by the former DENR Secretary and Environmentalist, Regina Lopez.

Based on Special Order 2016 – 655 last 8 Nov. 2016, the MGB findings on CNC were the following:
CNC is liable to pay for fines with the implementation of corrective measures (MPSA NO 243-2007-XIII (SMR)). EMB Regional Office is to file appropriate charges in the Pollution Adjudication Board for violation of RA no. 9275 or the “Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004”. Fines include Php 61,600 for the MGB, and Php 100,000 for the EMB.  

The fines? Pocket change. But what about the RA violation?

While Lopez has already been booted out by the Commission of Appointments, the mining companies she has recommended for suspension and closure still have to undergo MICC’s review.

And though the industry can breath a bit easy with the new DENR Chief (General Roy Cimatu), does this mean that it’s business as usual for those previously recommended for suspension and closure?

Note that during Lopez’s CA hearings, the mining companies CNC included, complained that they were not given due process during the mine site audit.

If indeed that this MICC review is already taking place, is it fair enough to assume that no deals be done yet while MICC is still reviewing each case?  Why is CNC signing a deal with our Chinese neighbors, as if it’s already in the bag? Where is the due process?

 

REFERENCES: 
Philippine-Chinese firms ink business deals. 

 

 

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From Black Sand Mining to the Great Silk Road

On May 20 2017, ten foreigners were arrested by NBI agents for extracting black sand and lahar from the mouth of Macolcol river in Zambales province. NBI Deputy Director Czar Nuqui identified them as Zhining Tang, Liao Nantu, Yichang Lin, Zhibin Xu, Jingwei Chen, Hongming Zhou, Wen Haihu, Yong Wang and Tang Peilong, all Chinese nationals; and Afrixon Hary, an Indonesian.

The NBI received information that the dredging activities lacked permits to operate from the MGB, DOLE and the Maritime Industry Authority.

The suspects were arrested as they were caught operating the dredging vessel, siphoning black sand and transporting its cargo to the mother vessel.  While the ship’s country of origin was still being determined, NBI personnel reported that the vessel’s name was “written in Chinese characters”. Seized from the operation were five vessels consisting of a dredger vessel, a tugboat, and three dumb barge.

Nuqui said lahar and black sand collected from the river were “intended for the foreign market,” as minerals such as magnetite could be extracted from these. The foreigners apparently were commissioned by local firms. The men are facing 10 years of imprisonment for violating Republic Act No. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995).

black sand mining_zambales macolcol river
Illegal black sand mining is found at the mouth of Macolcol River at San Felipe Zambales. Ten Chinese nationals and an Indonesian were arrested and are now facing 10 years of imprisonment for violating Republic Act No. 7942 otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

 

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The infamous Silk Road of China was once believed to be the great artery of trade and culture that connects the West to the great kingdoms of the East. This belief is once again made possible through President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road Initiative.

The “One Belt” refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt while the “One Road” refers to the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road. Jointly, they’re meant to be a revival of the ancient Silk Road trading routes. Under President Xi’s leadership, China will take those ancient trading routes and plow in billions of dollars in infrastructure mostly centered around transport and energy (roads, bridges, gas pipelines, ports, railways, and power plants) to connect various countries along the way. In essence, it will be easier to trade with China, the world and vice versa.

The project is considered as China’s masterstroke to establish itself as a world-leading economy and superpower, particularly in the South Asian region. China has already invested billions of dollars in several South Asian countries (Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan) to improve their basic infrastructure, with important implications for both China’s trade regime and military influence.

Critics claim that it facilitates Chinese economic and strategic domination of the countries along these routes. This is a strategy to push China to take a larger role in global affairs, and the desire to coordinate manufacturing capacity with other countries in areas such as steel manufacturing. This initiative will pave the way of extending Chinese influence for regional leadership in Asia (versus President Trump’s America First initiative).

On the economic front, China has been criticized for using its massive financial assets to dominate smaller economies through long-term control of infrastructure, natural resources, associated land assets, and through offering less than desirable credit terms for infrastructure loans. Further, the ‘production capacity cooperation’ involves the transfer of Chinese-owned production capacity to countries where production is cheaper that can result in China exerting some control over local markets, labor and export policies.

Where is the Philippines in all of these?

Plenty.  Now that we are in the Golden Age of Infrastructure with a slogan proposing to “Build, Build, Build”, the Duterte administration has been making loans from its neighbors particularly China to help achieve this. The Duterte administration is making sure that this relationship will reap its rewards.

The brazen and aggressive illegal black sand mining that happened in Zambales is just a speck of what the China-Philippine partnership can do to our shores. With steel manufacturing a priority in China, the Zambales case is no coincidence and will most likely happen again especially now that the pact (and fate) between these two countries are inevitably sealed.

one belt one road
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road Initiative aims to bring together the following countries, the Philippines included, to advance each other’s economy. This initiative will pave the way of extending Chinese influence for regional leadership in Asia. Photo credits to thevolatilian.com

 

 

References:
Foreigners nabbed for black sand extraction.
Foreigners charged for illegal extraction of minerals in Zambales.
What is China’s One Belt One Road.
China’s Road. 
Guide to Understanding China’s One Belt One Road Forum for its New Silk Road. 

An Economy Built on Mining – Learning from South Africa

On 11 March 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte says he is willing to let go of the P70-billion earnings the government collects from mining operations. “We can live without it. I would rather follow Gina. Maghanap-buhay na lang tayo ng iba, get the P70 billion somewhere else and preserve the environment. ‘Wag na tayong magbolahan,” he said on Saturday.

P70-billion is no small amount. This is a substantial amount of money which can be used to develop areas and communities that are beyond the reach of the government. A substantial amount of money that can be utilized by the Filipino people whose battle-cry has long been ‘inclusive growth’.

Based on the World Bank for the current 2017 fiscal year, and calculated using the World Bank Atlas method:

Low-income economies are defined as those with a GNI per capita of $1,025 or less.

Lower middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $1,026 and $4,035. Fifty-two (52) countries including the Philippines are in this bracket.

Upper middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $4,036 and $12,475. Fifty-six (56) countries including South Africa are in this bracket.

While High-income economies are those with a GNI per capita of $12,476 or more. Seventy-nine (79) countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States are included in this list.

How can a country such as the Philippines move from a low-income economy to a high-income one? The best way is to take a long hard look at its neighbors.

Though jumping from a low-income economy to a high-income one may be a tall order, and the Philippines using the mining models of Australia, Canada and the US are too idealistic, it would be to the country’s best interest to redirect its gaze to a country with similar trades, businesses and the challenges that go with it. When it comes to minerals development, South Africa is the country closest to the Philippines.

The billion dollar question (no pun intended) which begs to be answered: Can an economy be built on mining?

South African Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Martin Slabber shares with us his insights on what Africa was, to what it is now because of mining. A privileged discussion, this story was crafted in the hopes of giving the Philippine government a glimpse of “what our economy could be” if ethical and responsible mining practices were done in the Philippines.  

For the full story, refer to page 38 of the Philippine Resources Journal with the subject – An economy that was built on mining: How the Philippines can learn from South Africa by Maria Paula Tolentino

For more information about this story, contact its author:
MissTolentino  
Twitter – @misstolentino22  
Facebook – www.facebook.com/misstolentino22/

Lopez fights for DENR Post, CA still to give nod

What is the Commission of Appointments and How Powerful Is It?2

The CA is a constitutional body under the 1987 Constitution. It is an independent body separate and distinct from the Legislature, although its membership is confined to members of Congress.*

The CA does not curtail the President’s appointing authority but serves as a check against its abuse. It assures that the President has exercised the power to appoint wisely, by appointing only those who are fit and qualified…

‘Cognizant of the fact that the power of appointment is vested in the President of the Philippines, and that the President, in the exercise of that power, had carefully considered the fitness and qualifications of nominees or appointees, the Commission on Appointments shall accord the nomination or appointment weight and respect, to the end that all doubts should be resolved in favor of approval or confirmation.

‘On the other hand, the Commission, being part of our republican system of checks and balances, shall act as a restraint against abuse of the appointing authority, to the end that the power of disapproval should be exercised to protect and enhance the public interest.’

*Pimentel Jr. vs. Ermita (G.R. No 164978; 472 SCRA 587)

How is the Appointment Process done?2

The regular appointments which are contemplated under the 1987 Constitution go through the following stages:

  • nomination
  • consent
  • appointment
  • acceptance by the nominee

What the President sends to the Commission is just a nomination. After the Commission has given its consent, the President issues the appointment. It is only when the last stage has been completed may the officer concerned take his oath of office.

The second paragraph of Article VII, Sec. 16, of the 1987 Constitution also empowers the President to issue appointments while Congress is not in session. Such appointments are called ad interim appointments, and it goes through the following stages:

  • appointment
  • confirmation

An ad interim appointment is permanent in nature and takes effect immediately. Thus, one who was issued an ad interim appointment may immediately enter upon the discharge of his functions. An ad interim appointment ceases to be valid upon disapproval by the Commission on Appointments or, if not confirmed, until the next adjournment of Congress.


Engaging in innuendo and intrigues, DENR Chief-apparent Lopez takes flak.

Lopez’s unfair remark is the “height of irresponsibility” and puts undue pressure on Commission on Appointments.

Lopez told members of the Rotary Club of Makati of an alleged bribe offer of P50 million for every CA member  who would vote against her after she ordered the closure of 23 mines and the scrapping of 75 mining contracts. She did not name names, and neither did she say where she got the information. But she said then: “I was told every congressman was offered P50 million if they voted against me. Well, people talk. Let the dice fall where it may.”

However, Lopez on Thursday admitted that she could not substantiate her claim, stressing that she made the allegation “casually.”

But two CA members criticized Lopez  on Thursday, accusing  her of sowing intrigue ahead of the confirmation hearing.

“It is the height of irresponsibility,” said Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas, the assistant minority leader on the CA, a constitutional body composed of senators and House members with the power to approve or disapprove appointments made by the President. “I was personally hurt by her statement,” Treñas told the Inquirer.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, the CA’s majority leader, said Lopez should name the people she claimed were involved in this “alleged attempted bribery” so they could face investigation. Otherwise, she was just “merely engaging in innuendo and intrigues,” Albano said.“Is that an example of how she will run the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) should she be confirmed?” he said.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said Lopez’s “unfair” remark “now puts undue pressure on the way they (the CA) will vote.”1

After the controversial bribery comment, Lopez sends a message to the CA in an interview with DZMM:

http://players.brightcove.net/1878978674001/rkebVmmV4_default/index.html?videoId=5328280076001

Meanwhile, the mining industry which has taken a beating since Lopez took office, is strongly against her confirmation. In a separate email sent by the Philippine Mining & Exploration Association (PMEA) on February 27 2017, the group listed down individuals and organizations against Lopez’s confirmation. The group put in detail strong grounds why Lopez is unfit for the position of DENR Chief.

Download the “Grounds for Opposition Against Regina Paz Lopez  for the position of DENR Secretary” here: opposition-against-confirmation-of-denr-sec-lopez

Lopez who has been very vocal in her bias against mining, and through the nod of the Commission on Appointments, will stand to rid the country of employed miners estimated at 42.79% if she secures the cabinet post permanently.

The role of mining when it comes to employment generation whether direct or indirect in the rural areas cannot be overly emphasized. It is estimated that about four (4) indirect jobs may be generated from every direct employment in the upstream and downstream sectors. (source: MGB)

Confirmation hearings for the DENR post will commence on March 1, 2017.

References:
1 http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/874821/gi-lo-blames-inquirer-for-bribe-story#ixzz4ZwetL0s9
2 http://www.comappt.gov.ph/about-us/the-commission-on-appointments

A throwback to Rio Tuba Nickel Mine

Midst all the controversy the mining industry is going through, I couldn’t help but look back on the stories I’ve done for the industry as a whole.

Nickel Asia Corporation was my first mine. It was also what set the benchmark earlier on in my profession as a Journalist, what an ethically-run mine looked like.

Once you’ve seen the best, it would be beneath anyone to look for anything less. The standards they’ve set up for their employees, adopted communities and IPs, operations, health and safety are extremely hard to live up to.

Allow me to get this out: This is by no means a paid ad. I am only showing you, my dear reader, what it was like for me when I took the plane there and saw for myself how professional mines are run. Together with Diwata & Atty. Patricia Bunye, I am glad I took that trip years ago.


The night of 16 July 2014, typhoon Glenda  with international name Rammasun, struck the country with ferocity. My colleagues from Diwata waited restlessly for the airline companies to cancel flights. No announcement came.

First thing on the morning of 17 July, we all flew to Puerto Princesa, Palawan to visit nickel mining company Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation at their mine site in Bataraza.

The 1 hour flight was uneventful. The road trip was a different story. The party I was with were going topsy-turvy in their seats because of the rough road with bags flying everywhere. It was a hilarious and glorious 4 hours of rough road!

What awaited us when we arrived at the hotel was a quick break and a shower. Eventually we all had to head out to explore the mine site, the communities and learn what mining has really done for that small patch of Palawan.

Below are  memories captured in photographs.

 

 

I apologize if these photos don’t do much justice for the experience, but this is as far as I can share: You have to go there and see for yourself.

Ask a geologist, engineer or someone from the academe. Ask them what makes a responsible mine. Do your own research.

It’s not enough that you read it on the news or watch it on TV or the internet. Ignorance is dangerous and we cannot afford ignorance right now especially if millions of lives hang on the balance.

Even before the term ‘responsible mining’ was trendy, Rio Tuba was already at the forefront. It may have been my first mine, but it certainly won’t be my last.

 

Liked this story? please contact the Author:
MARIA PAULA TOLENTINO
mpatolentino at gmail dot com