Philippine mining companies are keenly awaiting the results of a nationwide government audit of their environmental standards, due for completion by the end of August, with some voicing concern that they could be hobbled by stricter rules.
The country’s industry, dominated by nickel miners, was surprised by President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of Gina Lopez, an anti-mining advocate, as secretary for environment and natural resources in June, and her subsequent announcement of a national audit of all miners.
Lopez has said that less than one third of mining companies operating in the Philippines are complying with international mining standards. The previous government had decreed in 2015 that all miners had to secure ISO 14001 — an environmental management certification — to meet international environmental standards by April 2016, but had not enforced that rule.
“The audit is being done across the entire mining sector which consists of about 40 mines,” said Mick Wilkes, chief executive of OceanaGold, an Australian-listed miner with operations in the Philippines.
Wilkes said that the review was being carried out in a “professional way,” a view backed by Nelia Halcon, executive vice-president at the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
“We will be left with responsible miners, and we like that,” said Halcon.
She said that half of the 44 operating metallic mines are large-scale operations owned by members of the chamber, and most of them were already compliant with ISO 14001. The smaller miners were the ones still failing to meet environmental standards, she added.
Halcon noted that the chamber was “concerned” about the government’s attitude toward mining, pointing to the fact that many mining companies were publicly listed. She said that some foreign investors were also “concerned” about government policies toward mining, and that the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce had raised queries.
“There is some kind of uncertainty as of now, some members are thinking if they will still be pursing their projects,” Halcon said.