Digging for profits: Who owns PH mines?
Name of mining firm: Berong Nickel Corp.
Location: Quezon, Palawan
Mining area: 288 hectares
Metals extracted/mine products: Nickel
Nickel production (2020): 719,251 dry metric tons (direct shipping ore) valued at P1,061,060,654
Mining permit period: 2007-2031
Incorporation date: Sept. 27, 2004
Nickeline Resources Holdings Inc.
Toledo Mining Corp. Ltd.
Reyes, Tulsi Das C.
Simbulan, Cesar Jr. F.
Ramos, Adrian S.
Consunji, Isidro A.
Consunji, Jorge A.
Dybuncio, Frederic C.
Chairperson of the Board: Consunji, Isidro A.
Current assets: P668.64 million (2019)
Current liabilities: P381.06 million (2019)
Total revenue: P1.33 billion (2019)
Net income: P319.4 million (2019)
MINE AUDIT FINDINGS (2016/2017)
According to the Notice of Issuance of an Order issued to BNC, an order was issued to the firm on Feb. 8, 2017 pertaining to operations under MPSA 235-2007-IVB.
The order stated that the company had violated certain provisions of the following laws, rules, and regulations:
- RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995;
- DAO 2010-21 or the Revised IRR of RA 7942; and
- DAO 2015-07 Mandating Mining Contractors to Secure ISO 14001 Certification.
The full report and/or copy of the DENR order may be viewed here.
STATUS OF RECOMMENDATIONS / COMPANY RESPONSE (AS OF FEBRUARY 2022)
In its Feb. 17, 2022 response to PCIJ, BNC made three points to clarify what it considered “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading reports” about the matter:
1. BNC garnered high marks on almost all the criteria set by DENR Memorandum Order No. 2016-01 or the mine audit.
The audit team did not make any recommendation to suspend BNC's mining operations. It directed BNC to submit and/or comply with certain conditions (Annual Land Use Report, Approved Survey Plan, and ISO Certification) which BNC later compiled with.
BNC claims that despite “the high audit marks, full cooperation and prompt submission of BNC, DENR Secretary Gina Lopez announced the suspension of our mine operations in a live press conference on February 2, 2017.”
“Also highly irregular, no formal suspension order was sent to BNC prior to the DENR press conference. We only received the Order on February 13, 2017. The document was dated February 8, 2017—nearly one week after the press conference,” BNC said.
2. BNC took strong exception to the DENR suspension order. On Feb. 28, 2017, the company filed a motion before the Office of the DENR Secretary seeking the reconsideration of the Order on account that (1) “the grounds for suspension were very sweeping and general”; (2) “the Order is not consistent with the findings of the audit team”; and (3) “while the audit team cited specific acts for completion by BNC, these acts are considered as minor and should not warrant an excessive penalty (i.e. suspension) especially since it involved the livelihood of hundreds of local workers and their families.”
Moreover, BNC “passed the MICC review with few suggestions on other measures that the company may undertake for further environmental protection, such as reduction of soil erosion, dust generation, and earth-balling.”
On Nov. 12, 2018, DENR issued its Resolution lifting the Feb. 8, 2017 suspension. Of the 13 mining companies audited, only BNC passed the review.
3. Since the lifting of its suspension, BNC has been recognized by the national, regional and local government for its environmental and social performance.
BNC’s response may be may be viewed here.
STATUS OF OPERATIONS
On Feb. 8, 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an order cancelling Berong Nickel’s operations.
In July 2020, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda was quoted in a news report as saying that the company, along with other four firms, were “granted approval by the Office of the President (OP) after complying with mining laws.” The other firms that were allowed to resume operations were Emir Mineral Resources Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Strong Built Mining Development Corp., and Zambales Diversified Metals Corp.
Municipality class of mining location: Quezon, Palawan (1st class)
Population: 60,980 (2015)
Poverty incidence rate: 39.1% (2015)
Human Development Index: 0.58 (2012, provincial)
Indigenous peoples living within or near the mining location: Pala'wan, Tagbanua
IN THE NEWS
LIST: Mining companies allowed to operate again by Duterte gov't
General Information Sheet, 2020
Financial Statement, 2019
List of existing Mineral Production Sharing Agreements, Mining and Geosciences Bureau
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
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.
— PCIJ, March 2021