The Pujada Bay in Mati City, Davao Oriental. (PNA file photo)

DAVAO CITY – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-11) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-11) clarified Tuesday that not a single open-pit mining exists within Davao Oriental's protected areas.

The agencies issued the clarification after an environmental advocacy group called on local authorities to move toward the full closure of an open-pit mining project in Davao Oriental located near the protected areas of Mt. Hamiguitan and Pujada Bay.

Davao City-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) said it was alarmed over reports that the Pujada Nickel Open-Pit Mining Project straddles the Mount Hamiguitan Wildlife Range, a UNESCO Heritage Site and protected by the Republic Act 9303, and the Pujada Bay Protected Seascape and Landscape.

However, DENR and MGB said the Austral-Asia Link Mining Corporation and Hallmark Mining Corporation (ALMC/HMC), both in Barangays Cabuaya and Macambol in Mati City, are nickel mines with valid and existing Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA).

They also don't employ the open-pit mining method, according to DENR and MGB, as they use “strip or contour mining method only.”

DENR and MGB's joint statement also clarified that an environmental compliance certificate was issued to ALMC/HMC, based on the study of the environmental climate of the area.

In addition, they said both ALMC/HMC are under care and maintenance status and have not operated since 2016 and that their locations fall outside the Mount Hamiguitan wildlife sanctuary.

“This office acknowledges the concerns raised by various environmental groups and advocates. Rest assured that you are heard and that the DENR is likewise putting its best foot forward to keep our environment and natural resources sustainably managed,” the statement said.

The DENR and MGB also underscored the importance of “responsible mining.”

“Metallic minerals, such as Nickel is an essential metal used as an alloy in the production of our mobile phones, buildings, transportations, power generation, electric battery for a new generation of electric cars to name a few,” the agencies said.

Last week, the city of Mati assured the public that the mining site of ALMC/HMC comprising a total area of 17,215.49 hectares is outside the protected areas.

When the Duterte administration imposed a nationwide ban on open-pit mining in 2017, both companies halted their operation. (PNA)