The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has padlocked on Friday (Nov. 25) six mineral processing plants operating with expired permits issued by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of Camarines Norte.

Served with cease and desist orders (CDOs) by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR in Region 5 include P&F Mineral Experts Corp., Green Gold, Triple A and Talla, all in Paracale town; and Escober and Romeo Diaz mineral processing plants located in the municipality of Jose Panganiban.

All six processing plants were subject of public complaint, particularly from fisherfolks allied with “Samahang Mangingisda ng Paracale” for polluting Paracale’s fishing grounds, including two major rivers, Malaguit and Bato-Balani in Jose Panganiban.

In a report to DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, MGB-5 Regional Director Luis B. Loyola said that the issuance of CDOs came following the conduct of a joint investigation team by MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) which found the mineral processing plants, except Green Gold, to be in active operation despite expired permits from the local mining regulatory board.

However for Green Gold, Loyola said the company was closed down due to defective wastewater treatment facility.

Paje said that based on the department’s rules and regulations, any company that generates wastewater should secure a wastewater discharge permit from the EMB. He, however, clarified that once a mining permit of a mining project expires, its wastewater discharge permit also expires with it.

“I would like reiterate our policy in DENR that any company that discharges wastewater with an expired EMB permit or no permit at all will be held liable for violating Republic Act No. 9275, otherwise known as the Clean Water Act,” Paje explained.

Under the People’s Mining Act of 1991, the PMRB is in charge of issuing licenses for the operation of custom mill and other processing plants subject to the pollution control and safety standards.

The board is chaired by the MGB regional director, vice-chaired by the provincial governor, with representatives from the small-scale and large-scale mining industries and local non-government organizations (NGO) as members.