Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers hailed on Tuesday, Oct. 27, the Department of Finance’s (DoF) move to create an inter-agency task group that would help revive the Philippine mining industry.
Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said the government should lead the way in clearing legal roadblocks being faced by stalled mining firms as a result of lawsuits filed by the private sector against the operations of these once-flourishing mining assets.
“There are at least five huge government mining assets with legal impediments [that have been ] pending for several decades now. We need to clear these legal roadblocks to harness and increase their output, and contribute to our currently threatened economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Barbers, one of the principal mining advocates in the Lower House, earlier urged the country’s economic managers to revisit existing regulations and come up with new sound policies in order to attract foreign investors to the local mining sector.
He said he expects the DoF inter-agency team to clear legal impediments, fast track privatization, revive operations, and generate jobs from several non-operating government mining assets.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III bared on Oct. 24 that the inter-agency team would be composed of representatives from the DoF, the Privatization and Management Office (PMO), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), as well as the Office of the Solicitor General.
The PMO earlier told the DoF chief that the following government-held assets were under litigation: Maricalum Mining Corp.’s copper-gold project in Negros Occidental, Nonoc Mining and Industrial Corp.’s nickel mines in Surigao del Norte, and North Davao Mining’s property in Davao del Norte, which the DOF described as “gold- and copper-rich.”
“Maricalum Mining, Nonoc Mining, and North Davao Mining were once successful mining companies that have failed to settle their debts with government financial institutions, leading to their foreclosure and transfer of their assets and shares of stocks to the national government,” the DOF said.
The government then auctioned off the shares of these mining firms, but the firms with the highest bid failed to fulfill their obligations, which resulted in decades of litigation that have left these mining assets idle, the DOF added.
Two other assets—the Basay Mining Corp.’s copper mines in Negros Oriental as well as Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corp.’s former nickel mine (MMIC Bagacay Mine) in Western Samar—are deemed by PMO as “inoperational because of legal concerns on how these assets should be disposed.”
A PMO technical study indicated that the Basay mine contains an estimated 105 million tons of copper ore and could generate at least P1 billion.
Barbers has called the revival of the mining industry as a “feasible and realistic solution” to the economic challenges caused by the pandemic.
“While we are months or years away [from] a COVID vaccine, our economy needs immediate vaccination. And mining is the solution,” the lawmaker from Mindanao said in a privilege speech last Aug. 10.