Surigao City—Surigao del Norte Rep. Guillermo A. Romarate Jr. (2nd District) is calling for a congressional investigation against a Chinese nickel miner in Claver town for allegedly operating even while under suspension.
The lawmaker filed House Resolution No. 361 on October 3, 2013, directing the House Committees on Natural Resources, Indigenous People and Labor and employment to investigate the reported continued mining operations of Shenzhou Mining Group Corporation (SMGC) despite its suspension due to violations of mining and environmental laws.
HR 361 noted that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) suspended SMGC on July 18, 2013 due to the company’s failure to address the issue on excessive siltation in the shoreline, which connects the boundaries of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur provinces.
The siltation was worsened by SMGC’s construction of a settling pond right on seashore.
According to Rep. Romarate, Surigao del Sur Representative Philip A. Pichay and other Caraga Congressmen have also signified their intention to sign the resolution as co-authors.
The resolution further cited the complaints against the mining company over its the alleged non-payment of national and local taxes and royalties to the Mamanwa community, the Indigenous People recognized by the NCIP as claimant of the mining concession.
It also noted several complaints by employees who accused SMGC of failing to pay salaries and employment benefits.
“It is clear that this mining company violated not only environmental laws but likewise appropriate tax and labor laws and the IPRA. The charges against them are piling up and yet it keeps on skirting them,” Romarate said. “ It’s directors should be made to explain and Congress should conduct an ocular inspection as soon as possible.”
The lawmaker urged the appropriate committees to act in the form of legislation on the affected areas, indigenous people, mining workers and employees and tax collecting agencies of the government.
“I personally filed this resolution heeding the strong clamor of my constituents. At its worst, the irregularities cited by the MGB strongly suggest that an environmental disaster is looming. The MGB and the courts have spoken and directed Shenzou Mining not just to suspend operations but to vacate its mining premises as well,” he told reporters.
“From all reports, it appears to be violating the orders by being able to still ship ore abroad. Did it continue to pay its obligations and liabilities for taxes and duties, for IP royalties and for salaries and wages? Questions beg to be answered,” he added.
On July 15, 2013, Judge Rufo Naragas of the Regional Trial Court Branch 41 in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur ordered SMGC to vacate its mining area. SMGC is the Operator of the Claver Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC), which owns 433 hectares in the boundaries of Claver in Surigao del Norte and Carrascal in Surigao del Sur.
It was CMDC, however, that filed the petition for preliminary mandatory injunction and/or temporary restraining order as it alleged that SMGC had continued with the extraction of ore for shipment abroad despite the suspension.
SMGC corporate secretary Jacqueline Mel De Leon had denied this, telling that court that their company has not conducted any mining operation.
“The corporation is conducting rehabilitation; that there’s no truth to the allegation of petitioner that the company conducted clandestine operation,” she said.
She added that their corporation is mindful of the suspension order, adding the shipment is actually part rehabilitation program as per directive from the MGB dated March 25, 2013.
She said the MGB directive stated that the corporation is allowed to ship out stockpiles consisting of 200,000 weight metric tons and removed from the area with export permits for the purpose,” she said.