Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mine shutdowns worry PSE, future engineers

By BusinessMirror - By Jonathan L. Mayuga  & Catherine N. Pillas

The decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to padlock large-scale mines, particularly those that are publicly listed, could cause firms to incur losses and worsen unemployment in the country.
Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) President and CEO Hans B. Sicat told reporters in a recent news briefing hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the failure of the DENR to give advance notice to affected mining companies is “worrisome”.
“One main job at the PSE is to operate a financial market that is not only efficient, but more important, is fair. The surprise announcement in the media of the suspension and closure of particular mines, including those that are publicly listed, is a very worrisome trend, if not an irresponsible move by the DENR,” Sicat said.
“Our concern was not just wealth lost by some of these firms but clearly with a lot of confusion in the marketplace, there was misdirection in one level from the financial market viewpoint,” he added.Sicat said the PSE and the Capital Markets Integrity Corp., the PSE’s independent audit unit, continues to survey movements of share prices to determine if these were “unusual”.
Of the firms shuttered by the DENR, 20 are publicly listed. The mining industry as a whole accounts for 3 precent of all listed companies’ value. (See related story on B2)

Engineers’ apprehension
The University of the Philippines’s Mining Engineering Society (UP Miners) on Sunday said the decision of Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez to close mines would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs, but also employment opportunities for future miners.
In a statement, UP Miners reiterated its call for transparency in the conduct of the mine audit and backed the call for review of the mine audit as resolved by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) last week.
Despite the MICC’s call for review of the mine audit, Lopez said the 28 of the 41 mines which failed her audit criteria will stay closed unless they appeal to the DENR or President Duterte, who has the final say on the issue.
An antimining advocate, Lopez said the MICC multistakeholders committee’s recommendation or advise to the DENR will be set aside if it is incongruent with the reasons behind her decision to close the mines.
“The MICC is only recommendatory,” she said.
UP Miners, however, insisted that the details of the mine audit should be made public “in the name of transparency.”
“For as long as the transparency of the mining audit remains inaccessible, as future engineers, we shall keep invoking our right to access detailed information regarding the said mining audit in order for us to know what needs to be improved in the industry,” the group said.
“As students of the University of the Philippines, we uphold honor, excellence and the values of responsible mining. We, thus, challenge the government to do the same,” the statement added.
The UP Miners, whose primary goal is to advance the mining engineering profession and help ensure responsible mining, questioned the credibility of the audit done by Lopez on the 28 affected mine sites.
“For the DENR to ban the Mines and Geosciences Bureau during the [press] conference, where the mine suspensions list was released, places the integrity of the department and credibility of the audit in jeopardy,” the group said.
The group added that even mine sites with an international ISO-14001 certification eventually failed the audit. This, even as Lopez initially deemed the certification as sufficient to prove that a firm adheres to international standards. The UP Miners also questioned how an audit done by Lopez’s team was eventually preferred over one that was based on international standards.
“The action by the DENR has instigated issues of employment panic and dilemma to future engineers and scientists of the industry, aside from the questionable mining audit itself,” the group said.
“It defeats the purpose of studying the technicalities and philosophies of the field and the industry when the industry itself is without a defined standard acceptable to the government,” it added.
The closure of mines, the group said, jeopardized the future of new graduates and students of mining engineering, geology, metallurgical engineering and other related fields, along with the plight of some 1.2 million people in the affected mine sites.
According to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), Lopez “is slowly killing an industry that has faithfully paid billions in taxes and fees annually.”
The mining industry paid P10.1 billion in taxes to the government in 2015. The mining operations that were closed or suspended accounted for 46 percent, or P4.6 billion, of the amount.
The COMP added that about $22 billion (equivalent to around P1 trillion) in mining investments will be put on hold as a result of the government’s “inconsistent policies on mining”.

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