Lopez lays down the law as four Philippine mining companies shut down
Just one week after she called for a complete review of all mining operations in the Philippines, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has announced the suspension of four mining companies for violating environmental standards.
BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Incorporated, Eramen Minerals Incorporated, LNL Archipelago Minerals Incorporated and Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation.
"We're following the law. There was a Writ of Kalikasan issued against these 4 companies by no less than the Supreme Court. So we're good. I'm just following the process," Lopez said.
Lopez said the number of firms that may be suspended would depend on the department's ongoing review.
"The audit will not just be technical; it will also be social. It must also be environmental. So it's not just going to be a technical audit. We're going to have teams of agriculturists and fishery experts, to make sure that there is no adverse impact of mine operations in the surrounding areas. That's what responsible mining is all about," she said.
Lopez said the law on mining states that industry players should "follow the principle of sustainable development" for future generations of Filipinos "with the view of improving quality of life both now and in the future."
She said that telltale signs of unlawful mining operations can be seen in their impact on the lives and livelihood of people in host communities.
"If their fish yield goes down, if the rivers and streams get affected – you can't earn money by causing suffering. It's not good; it's not within the law. Their quality of life is more important, very, very important. It (mining operations) must operate within the principle of the common good," Lopez added.
Gerald Group resolves iron ore dispute with Sierra Leone
Gerald Group, the US commodity trader, will pay Sierra Leone $20mn and cede a 10% stake in an iron ore project as part of the resolution to a nearly two-year dispute that led to the shutdown of production, the two sides revealed.
Gerald's wholly-owned subsidiary SL Mining filed for arbitration in August 2019 over a royalty payment dispute and suspended the Marampa mine the following month. Sierra Leone's government responded by cancelling its mining licence.
As part of the agreement signed on Friday, Sierra Leone will take a non-dilutable 10% stake in a new company that will replace SL Mining and resume operations at Marampa by June 1, Gerald said in a statement.
Gerald will make two $10mn payments this year and will have the immediate right to ship its current stockpile of about 707,000 tonnes of iron ore, it said.
Both sides will withdraw their legal claims before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the statement added.
Gerald’s chairman and CEO Craig Dean commented: "I am delighted that we have been able to resolve our differences and have a fresh start and new beginning with the government of Sierra Leone."
Sierra Leone's Mines Minister Timothy Kabba told a news conference on Tuesday that the agreement was a milestone for the country.
"Whatever the pain we may have borne or dreaded throughout these two years ... this outcome justifies our action," he said.
Gerald estimates that Marampa holds about 1 billion tonnes of iron ore with a potential lifespan of 30 years.
Back in 2019, Dean spoke with Mining about the development of Marampa and commented: "SL Mining offers a substantial opportunity for Gerald Group as our Marampa mine in Sierra Leone is producing two million tonnes per annum of high grade iron ore in the first phase of development, with expansion possibilities of greater than six million tonnes per annum of high-grade iron ore during its operational life. If you analyse the iron ore market it has transformed, even from a couple of years ago when prices were very low. Now prices have stabilised we’re in a favourable position with our first shipments leaving for China.
"Our goal is to make ‘Marampa Blue’ an internationally recognised premium grade iron ore brand. We intend to expand the delivery of high-grade 65% iron ore concentrate to markets in Europe and Africa.”