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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has suspended two nickel mining firms in Zambales.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno identified the two suspended mining firms as the Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation (ZDMC) and the Benguetcorp Nickel Mines, Inc, (BNMI). MGB is a line bureau under the DENR.

According to Jasareno, the suspension of the two mining companies stemmed from “various alleged environmental crimes, violations of the mining and environmental laws, and complaints of various groups against the alleged environmental impacts” of their mining operations.

The suspension of ZDMC and BNMI was contained in a letter addressed to Cesar F. Simbulan, Jr., President of ZDMC, and Leopoldo P. Sison, President of BNMI. MGB Region 3 Director Lope O. Cariño, Environmental Management Bureau Region 3 Director Lormelyn E. Claudio and DENR Region 3 Director Francisco E. Milla, Jr. signed the letter.

The letter, dated July 7, 2016, referred to the Writ of Kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court in the case filed by the Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz, Zambales (GR No. 224375) against the mining operations in Zambales, Executive Order No. 01 issued by the Provincial Government of Zambales suspending the said mining operations and the complaints filed by various private groups.

It said that the suspension will "ensure that the environment, particularly the communities, farmlands and water bodies are not compromised as a result of the mining operations pursuant to the pertinent mining and environmental laws."

The letter ordered the two companies to comply with the conditions cited, among which are to address the issues arising from the tree-cutting and earthballing operations, the completion of construction of an exclusive mine haul road, rehabilitation of mined-out and open areas, and the full deposit of the Final Mine Rehabilitation/Decommissioning Funds.

It also directed the rehabilitation and compensation of all owners of farmlands, fishponds and water bodies adversely affected by the mining operations, and the repair of all damaged portions of roads as a result of hauling operations.

A composite team of the DENR will conduct an audit of the mining operations of both firms to determine compliance with the mining and environmental laws.

In 2014, a suspension order was issued by MGB Region 3 to the other operating nickel mines in Zambales: lnl Archipelago Minerals, lnc. and Eramen Minerals, Inc. on the extraction and future expansion of their mining areas until they have employed systematic mining methods by removing all stockpiles in the mining area and piling them in designated stockpile areas equipped with proper drainage system. They were also ordered to implement a care and maintenance plan/measures for the duration of the suspension order.

With the latest suspension order, all 4 large-scale mining operations in Zambales are now suspended. ###

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