The Mines and Geosciences Bureau denied the request of a lawyer for a cease-and-desist order against the Runruno Gold Project of FCF Minerals Corp. in Nueva Vizcaya province.
“We find no legal basis to issue a cease-and-desist order against the mining operation of FCF and/or cancel FTAA [financial or technical assistance agreement] No. 004," MGB acting director Wilfredo Moncano said in a letter dated Aug. 5, 2020 to Atty. Victor Valeña of Valeña Law office.
MGB issued the statement in response to a July 13 letter sent by Valeña who was acting on behalf of the non-government organization Action for Consumerism and Transparency in Nation-Building.
Valeña said in his letter that “the entire area of FCF Minerals Corp.'s FTAA or the Runruno Gold Project is within the Magat Watershed Area—a declared protected area under Proclamation 573 series of 1969.
Valeña said that “the mine tailings and other toxic materials of the Runruno Gold Project may be spilling into the Magat River and other connecting waterways”. He also demanded the issuance of cease-and-desist order against FCF Minerals Corp., a wholly-owned British company.
Moncano said that contrary to Valeña's claim, the contract area under FTAA No. 004 granted to FCF Minerals is outside the area covered by Proclamation No. 573 issued on June 26, 1969.
“The FTAA contract area is located about 64 kilometers south of Parcel No. 1 [Magat River Forest Reserve] of the area under Proclamation No. 573,” MGB said.
“With regard to your concern on the mine tailings and other toxic materials, please be informed that FCF has been granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the environmental compliance certificate [ECC-CO-1001-0001] for its mining operation. Likewise, the contingent liability and rehabilitation fund steering committee has approved the environmental protection and enhancement program [EPEP] of FCF through certificate of approval no. 100-2011-03,” the agency said.
It said the ECC and the EPEP bear the commitment and plan of FCF for the comprehensive and strategic environmental management, including the tailings storage facility.
“Please note that the mining operation of FCF is being regularly monitored by the MGB through our Regional Office No. 2. It is also subject to the monitoring of a multipartite monitoring team pursuant to the provisions of Section 185 of DENR Administrative Order No. 2010-21, the consolidated implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act. No. 7942, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995,” Moncano said.
Valeña earlier submitted a map indicating that FCF’s Runruno Gold Project was “clearly within the Magat Watershed where mining activities are expressly prohibited under the Mining Act of 1995 and the NIPAS [National Integrated Protected Areas System] Act of 1992.”
“Moreover, it is also a matter of grave concern that the mine tailings and other toxic materials of the Runruno Gold Project may be spilling into the Magat River and other connecting waterways,” Valeña said in the letter.
Valeña said the Magat River “feeds into the Magat Dam which is the source of irrigation for agricultural lands in the Cagayan Valley, thereby threatening the agriculture and ecosystem of the basin of the Cagayan Valley.”
Magat watershed irrigates 84,984 hectares of agricultural lands in Region 2, serving 61,812 farmers and 360 irrigation associations.
ACTION earlier called on President Duterte to exercise his executive powers and cancel FCF’s mining franchise, underscoring that protected areas including watersheds are “strictly and absolutely beyond the commerce of man.”
ACTION in a statement cited NIPAS law which explicitly categorized watersheds as protected areas where mining operations are prohibited under Section 19 of the mining law.
“We respectfully ask President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel the FTAA of FCF Minerals Corp., which is located within the Magat River watershed forest reserve. Not only is the company mining in a protected area which is clearly prohibited under the Mining Act of 1995, but the Magat River also feeds into the Magat Dam which is the source of irrigation for agricultural land in the Cagayan Valley,” ACTION said in the statement.