MANILA, Philippines — Consunji-led Semirara Mining and Power Corp., the country’s largest coal mine, has received the order from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources requiring it to explain alleged violations or face suspension of its environment compliance certificate.
The DENR has given Semirara seven days to comply following alleged violations in its Molave Coal Mine Expansion Project.
“We received from the DENR a show-cause letter… directing us to explain and/or comply within seven days from why its ECC should not be cancelled,” Semirara said in a statement.
Based on the agency’s fact finding last May, 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.”
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said “Semirara has to get its act together. While its producing the coal needed by the country, they can’t adversely affect the lives of the farmers and fishermen.”
But she earlier admitted that closing Semirara will not be a piece of cake for the department as it produces 90 percent of the coal and supplies 30 percent of the power requirement of the country.
“They are not that easy to close because if we do that it will affect the electric supply of the country,” Lopez said.
“But the problem is that the boiler of their coal plants are not designed to take on high-quality coal. They are just using low-grade quality coal that’s making people sick,” she added.
Last week, DENR said various grounds for possible suspension include degradation of water quality, siltation of marine environment, damage of coral areas, presence of toxic contaminants in the water, displacement of local residents, and unsafe working conditions of workers, among others.
“Their mine wastes are dumped along the coasts and the issue of pollution has to be addressed as well,” Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno, who heads the audit team, said.
SMPC earlier reiterated that it has been fully complying with all relevant laws and regulations and that its mining and environmental protocols conform with the conditions of their ECCs.
“We hope that our company will be accorded due process throughout any pre- and formal audit process of the government,” it added.