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Manila Mining Corporation (MMC) is a publicly-listed corporation engaged in large-scale mining for gold and copper ore. MMC is required by law to maintain a tailings containment facility to store the waste material generated by its mining operations. Consequently, MMC constructed several tailings dams to treat and store its waste materials. One of these dams was Tailings Pond No. 7 (TP No. 7). An essential component of an ECC is social acceptability or the consent of the residents in the community to allow TP No. 7 to operate, which MMC failed to obtain. Hence, it was compelled to temporarily shut down its mining operations, resulting in the temporary lay-off of more than 400 employees in the mine site. Petitioner Union challenged the validity of their lay-off on the averment that MMC was not suffering from business losses. Petitioners likewise claimed that they were denied due process because they were not given a 30-day notice informing them of the lay-off. Neither was the DOLE informed of this lay-off, as mandated by law.
Whether the temporary suspension of business operations resulting in the temporary lay-off is proper.
Yes. The lay-off is neither illegal nor can it be considered as unfair labor practice. The evidence on record indeed clearly shows that MMC's suspension of its mining operations was bonafide and the reason for such suspension was supported by substantial evidence. MMC cannot conduct mining operations without a tailings disposal system. For this purpose, MMC operates TP No. 7 under a valid permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
The NLRC did not dispute MMC's claim that it had timely filed an application for renewal of its permit to operate TP No. 7 but that the renewal permit was not immediately released by the DENR-EMB, hence, MMC was compelled to temporarily shutdown its milling and mining operations. Such suspension was brought about by the non-issuance of a permit for the continued operation of TP No. 7 without which MMC cannot resume its milling and mining operations. Further, even as we declare the validity of the lay-off, we cannot say that MMC has no obligation at all to the laid-off employees. The validity of its act of suspending its operations does not excuse it from paying separation pay.