The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has embarked on a comprehensive consultation and engagement with communities affected by the mining audit recently conducted by the agency.

The consultation kicks off in the Caraga region, where majority of mining operations ordered closed by the DENR are located.

In a special order she signed on February 20, DENR Secretary Gina Lopez authorized the conduct of simultaneous community consultation and engagement in the provinces of Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur on February 20-24.

Lopez said the exercise was meant to assist the communities and households affected by the mining audit, "particularly ensuring that they will be able to transition well from being mining workers or mining communities to an empowered social entrepreneur or a vibrant community enterprise, impelled by the principles of ecosystems integrity and social justice."

Lopez tasked Forest Management Bureau (FMB) Director Ricardo Calderon to head the DENR team that will conduct the consultation. Calderon will be assisted by DENR Caraga acting regional director Charlie Fabre and Director Nonito Tamayo.

Other members of the consultation team are personnel from the DENR central office, FMB, DENR-Caraga and consultants.

The team will be supervised by DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Philip Camara and Assistant Secretary for Field Operations-Mindanao Marcial Amaro Jr.

The output of the community consultation and engagement will be presented during the plenary session with Cabinet officials and representatives of affected communities on February 25-26 in Butuan City.

On February 2, Lopez ordered the closure of 23 mining operations and suspension of 5 others found to have committed serious environmental violations. Fifteen of these mine operations are in the Caraga region.

Just last week, Lopez announced her plan to cancel 75 mineral production sharing agreements or MPSAs for mine sites within or near watershed areas. ###