Digging for profits: Who owns PH mines?


Name of mining firm: Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp.
Location: Homonhon Island, Guian, Eastern Samar
Mining area: 510.16 hectares
Metals extracted/mine products: Chromite
Mining permit period: 2011-2036


Incorporation date: April 22, 2005
Lao, Vicente T.
Lao Bee Eng, Elena T.
Lao, Jaime TR.
Ang, Ruben T.
Ang, Danny Dave L.

Chairperson of the Board: Lao, Vicente T.

Vicente T. Lao owns Vicente T. Lao Construction, one of the leading contractors of infrastructure projects implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). PCIJ reportedthat the company has been among the Top 15 contractors of DPWH since the Arroyo administration.



Current assets: P2.89 million (2018)
Current liabilities: P631,192.83 (2018)
Total revenue: P10.28 million (2018)
Revenue from sale of mine products: Not indicated (2018)
Net income: -P13.96 million (2018)



According to the Notice of Issuance of an Order sent to Mt. Sinai on Feb. 8, 2017 pertaining to operations under MPSA 351-2011-VIII, the company had violated several provisions of the following laws:

  • RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995;

  • DAO 2010-21, the Revised IRR of RA 7942;

  • DAO 2000-98 or the Mine Safety and Health Standards;

  • DAO 2015-07, Mandating Mining Contractors to secure 14001 ISO certification; and

  • PD 705, the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, particularly on the protection of watersheds.

The full report and/or copy of the DENR order may be viewed here.



These violations, according to the order, constituted sufficient grounds for the cancellation of the firm’s MPSA. PCIJ sent a letter to the company on Feb. 15, 2022 and made a follow-up on Mar. 2, 2022. We have not received a response as of this writing.



On Feb. 8, 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an order cancelling the company’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA).

On Nov. 12, 2018, DENR issued a resolution (1) partially granting the motion for reconsideration on the cancellation order; (2) suspending the operations of the company; and (3) directing the company to undertake:

a. full corrective measures on ail violations and deficiencies; and

b. full payment of all fines and penalties immediately upon receipt of the resolution.

Prior to the 2017 order, a DENR audit team found that Mt. Sinai was causing siltation in the coastal waters of Eastern Samar. Former DENR undersecretary Leo Jasareno, who headed the audit, said in a news report that “Mt. Sinai was not practicing engineered mining methods and caused deforestation in the area.” DENR suspended Mt. Sinai’s operations in August 2016. 



Municipality class of mining location: Guiuan, Eastern Samar (2nd class)
Population: 52,991 (2015)
Poverty incidence rate: 34.6% (2015)
Human Development Index: 0.41 (2012, province)



Govt shuts down 2 E. Samar mines
Suspended mining firms submit rehabilitation plans



General Information Sheet, 2019
Financial Statement, 2018
List of existing Mineral Production Sharing Agreements
Philippine Metallic Mineral Production, Mines and Geosciences Bureau
Poverty and socioeconomic indicators, Philippines Statistics Authority

Copy of full Mine Audit Reports by company, 2016
Copy of Notices of Issuance of an Order, 2017
Copy of Orders of Cancellation and/or Suspension, 2017

Acronyms used:

RA (Republic Act)
IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations)
PD (Presidential Decree)
DAO (Department Administrative Order)
MPSA (Mineral Production Sharing Agreement)
SDMP (Social Development and Management Plan) 

Disclaimer: The mine audit was conducted in 2016 after Regina “Gina” Paz Lopez assumed the post of environment secretary. The findings in the reports, which authorities sent to the mining firms in 2016, were likely addressed in the succeeding years following a review conducted by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council after the audit led by Lopez, who died in 2019. PCIJ has verified the reports and reached out to each company for comment. We suggest you also confirm findings included in the reports as some information may have changed over time.

The reports come from files that PCIJ has received in connection with various environmental investigations. We are releasing them in full, recognizing the public value of the files to mining communities, miners, policymakers, civil society, and researchers.
Note: The Human Development Index is a measure of how well a country has performed, not only in terms of real income growth, but also in terms of social indicators that measure people's ability to lead a long and healthy life, acquire knowledge and skills, and have access to the resources needed to afford a decent standard of living. An HDI value below 0.550 is considered low and below 0.399 is very low. The national average for the Philippines is 0.718 as of 2020.

This article was produced with the support of Internews' Earth Journalism Network.