DENR pushes ‘green transition’ for sustainable mining

By: Philippine Resources June 24, 2024

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga called on the mining industry to rethink, invent, and innovate the ways it develops the country’s natural resources, and must evolve to align with the principles of sustainability, stewardship and resilience.

“Our nation is at a pivotal juncture where the need to balance economic growth with environmental protection has never been more pressing. And while climate change has increased the complexity of risk across different scales and sectors, it also now represents opportunities for reform in this particular sector and industry,” the DENR chief said during a mining forum held in Makati City on June 18, 2024.

With the theme “Pioneering the Green Transition: Advancing Sustainable Mining, ” the forum was organized by the Embassy of Sweden and Business Sweden, with the Chamber of Mines in the Philippines as co-organizer. Dignitaries who attended the forum included Ambassador of Sweden to the Philippines Annika Thunborg, Business Sweden Vice President Emil Akander, Swedish Government Ambassador for Sustainable Business Cecilia Ekholm, and Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) Public Affairs Director Michael Toledo.

Sweden acknowledged that the Philippines is endowed with rich mineral resources with a combined value of between $.4 to 1 trillion. Critical minerals that are vital to the manufacture of chip-driven gadgets and electric vehicle batteries such as gold, copper and nickel are among the Philippines’ leading mineral exports providing the country with a unique opportunity to become a global leader in sustainable mining.

Secretary Loyzaga said the Philippines must leverage its natural wealth responsibly and equitably while ensuring that the socio-economic benefits of mining extend to all Filipinos, especially to the communities that host mining operations and those beyond.

The DENR Secretary said the forum is an important platform for collaboration that is crucial to advancing Philippine Development Goals and international commitments made to the Paris Agreement, Convention on Biodiversity, Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, among others.

“This all involves investing in science and technology and in integrating social and ecological considerations into our mining operations, promoting biodiversity, as well, reducing carbon footprints, and implementing effective waste management practices. These must not just be part of our regulatory requirements but must now become essential elements of a progressive and responsible mining sector,” said Secretary Loyzaga.

The Secretary also highlighted that biodiversity protection, low carbon development, and the implementation of the Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (PENCAS) are critical areas for the green transition of the mining industry.

To protect biodiversity, DENR Administrative Order No. 2022-04 mandates comprehensive guidelines to protect and conserve biodiversity in mining operations by emphasizing the integration of biodiversity management plans into mining practices to ensure conservation.

The order reflects the DENR’s commitment to ensuring that this is not just a regulatory requirement but a fundamental component of mining operations.
To transition to a low carbon future, the DENR is directing its policies towards the adoption of low-carbon technologies and practices and nature-based solutions in mining operations. Beyond enhancing energy efficiency and investing in renewable energy, this will include a more strategic mining forest program to address climate risks in the country. As of May 2024, over 55 million seedlings have been planted by mining companies in over 50,000 mined-out areas with a survival rate of close to 90 percent. These trees can decrease the vulnerability of host and nearby communities.

Additionally, the PENCAS Law mandates measuring the true value of the country’s natural resources and ecosystems, including minerals, to socio-economic development, and includes addressing the impacts on ecosystems by adopting the mitigation hierarchy in mining operations which follows the steps of avoidance, minimization, restoration, and offsetting compensation for affected communities.

“In this regard, we have a very keen interest in learning today from Sweden’s long history and experience in promoting scientific advancement, transparency, accountability, and sustainability in the mining sector,” said Secretary Loyzaga, adding that the Philippines’ partnership with Sweden “will pave the way towards achieving the greatest net positive impact today and in the future, so that we may, in fact, win this race to resilience, this race to a low carbon, and possibly net zero environment and the race to have our earth still be enjoyed by many generations to come.”

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