Nickel Asia appeals, seeks Samar ore stockpile shipped to China

GUIUAN, Eastern Samar— Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC), the country’s largest nickel miner, has asked the government to go back to its Manicani Mine site and immediately conduct another assessment on its ore stockpile transport activity in a bid to resume operations and spare at least 450 locals from losing their jobs.

Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC), an affiliate of NAC, was recently ordered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to stop transporting nickel ore stockpiles from Manicani Island in Eastern Samar to China.

“We are now waiting for the DENR to schedule the audit of the HMC stockpile removal operations on Manicani asap [as soon as possible] so that the loading can resume leading to the removal of an environmental hazard and the generation of much needed income for the residents,” Jose Bayani Baylon, NAC vice president for corporate communication, said.

HMC Manicani Project Manager Manolito Javar said in an interview with reporters here that the company’s parent company, NAC, already sought formal clarification to DENR and its attached agency Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for the exact basis for the suspension as well as a request to resume operations.

Francis Malones, communication relations manager for HMC Manicani, said the audit, which resulted to the suspension of ore transport activity, is “unfair and didn’t go through a procedure of an audit”.

“They [DENR] didn’t give us an audit plan and exit plan, which we are meant to sign upon stopping the operation. They should have also presented us recommendations that we must sign,” Malones told reporters.

Javar said that it was in 2014 when MGB itself recommended to HMC to conduct the nickel ore transport because keeping it would be dangerous to community.

But this has changed when the new DENR chief Gina Lopez ordered to stop the operation and asked the company to just use the nickel ore for mine restoration.

“Those stockpiles are meant to be disposed. We can’t put it back. At the first place, it was them who recommended us to do such activity,” Malones said. “And they have not given us any opportunity to talk to them.

As of now, Manicani Island has a population of 2,500. Of this, HMC employs around 495 for its ore transport operation.

Javar said that now that the ore transport has been stopped, the company would have to go back to its usual ‘care and maintenance operation’, which would only require them to retain at least 60 people.

Malones said more than 400 of its people will lose their job by the end of the month.

Since the start of its soil extraction activity in May, HMC already shipped more than 265,000 metric tons (MT) of ore stockpile to China, leaving more than a million MT of stockpiled ore in the island now.

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