Sep 212016

Last month, the Environment department required the country’s largest coal mine to explain alleged violations in its Molave Coal Mine Expansion Project. File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has maintained that there is no decision yet on Consunji-led Semirara Mining and Power Corp.’s (SMPC) environment compliance despite the company’s claims of a positive result of the agency’s recently concluded mining audit.

“I am shocked and that’s an understatement that the regional director of EMB (Environmental Management Bureau) sent a report, showed it to the mining company without the knowledge of the EMB director, or even the head of the audit for that matter,” Lopez said in a text message to The STAR.

“We’re still gonna go over it. I’m very careful about just saying anything because it will send a message,” Lopez said.

Ahead of audit result announcement, Semirara has requested last week from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-EMB (DENR-EMB) Region 6 (Western Visayas) the copies of the reports and disclosed it to the local bourse yesterday.

“That’s so out of protocol and leaves to serious doubt the validity for that report. We’re having a full day planning with many of our scientists to make sure that the audit report covers all angles and is within current DENR standards. That report is absolutely premature and that regional director is in hot water,” Lopez said.

Last month, the DENR required the country’s largest coal mine to explain alleged violations in its Molave Coal Mine Expansion Project or face possible suspension of operations.

Based on the agency’s fact finding, DENR said there was “no proper stockpiling and disposal of the materials scooped out from the settling ponds, and other solid wastes impermanent, stabilized areas to avoid pollution of any water body and drainage systems, and maintaining them in safe and non-polluting conditions.”

But, in summary, the DENR claimed that SMPC is responsible for its actions after its two-day audit last August.

Based on the DENR report, Semirara has fully complied with all the conditions of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) including proper land use, implementation of climate change initiatives, risk management plan and rehabilitation plan, among others.

“SMPC is responsible for its actions. Although they extracted the coal reserve of the island, they have an intensive care not only of the abandoned mine pit but their perseverance and hard work to the marine environment shows their serious payback for what they took in the island’s natural resources,” it said.

The DENR said coal excavation and hauling were handled properly and no quantities of hazardous substances were noted with regards to the coal mine project.

“With these processes of operations, no hazardous substances were noted that, in contact with air, land, water or fire, will react by forming toxic pollutants or releasing harmful metals,” the report said.

It added that mining in the island is considered short term because after all coal reserve are mined out, it will become inhabitable since the area has not enough freshwater reserve to cater the needs of the community in their industrial, commercial and agricultural use.

Lopez earlier said closing Semirara would not be easy, as Semirara produces 90 percent of coal supply and supplies 30 percent of the power requirement in the country.

Semirara is the only large-scale coal producer in the Philippines and is engaged in surface open cut mining of thermal coal from its Panian mine.

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