Improved mining policies sought
The government and stakeholders of the mining industry collectively sought for better policies as uncertainties threaten to stop the country from maximizing the potential of its mineral resources amid rising global demand in the years to come.
At the three-day Mining Philippines 2019 International Conference and Exhibition in Manila, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary for Climate Change Service and Mining Concerns Analiza Rebuelta-Teh said the agency was committed to pursuing the ongoing initiatives to strengthen the regulation of mining practices in the country.
Among these include the review on mining regulatory process, enhancement of the design and performance standards for open-pit mines, and conduct of periodic review of the go and no-go zones for mining applications.
Specifically, Teh said the DENR has started discussions on amending the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 7942 or the “Philippine Mining Act of 1995,” which basically governs all mining operations in the country and includes various measures to protect the environment and defines areas in which mining can be allowed.
She said the DENR was looking at salient factors such as environmental protection enhancement programs and mine rehabilitation “which should be linked to the comprehensive land use plan of the local government”.
Citing that open-pit mining method is a globally-accepted method of mining, Teh pointed out that RA 7942 does not prohibit open-pit mining or surface mining method, where rocks and minerals are removed from an open pit or borrow.
While she admitted that open-pit mining could actually boost the industry in terms of employment as well as investments, Teh said there is a need to look at the enhanced standards to allow mining firms manage their mines with safeguards.
The Philippines have mined only less than 2 percent of the total 30 million hectares of areas that can be mined, she noted.
“That 2 percent can still be nourished but they (miners) should follow the environmental concerns and not just go for investments,” Teh added.
While the ban on open-pit mining is still in place, she said mining companies should look at other methods that are “less intrusive” or could be undertaken with immediate rehabilitation upon mineral extraction.
Another item on DENR’s priority is the amendment to the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 7076 or the “People’s Small Scale Mining Program.” The law states that small-scale mining operations must be done only within the declared area for such purpose or “Minahang Bayan”.
“[W]e are trying to streamline the process for declaring Minahang Bayan because what we want is to address the environmental concerns in small-scale mining as they are not really governed by environmental rules which makes their practices more destructive,” Teh said.
Furthermore, she said the DENR is now in discussion with the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) in pursuing value-adding initiatives, following Indonesia’s recent announcement of its plan to ban nickel ore export by 2020. Doing so, she said would make the Philippine mining industry “competitive and productive.”
“What we want is value-adding [by] developing our processing industry so that we are able to export not just raw materials but rather processed ones,” she added.
For many years, Teh noted the industry has been doomed by the negative public perception, expanding policy gaps that prevents the industry to capitalize on opportunities in the global scene.
“If we’re able to develop public confidence that the mining industry in the Philippines is capable to undertake responsible mining. With that confidence especially from the current administration then we would be able to tell them that whatever methodology we could actually exercise good practices and therefore there’s no need to ban certain type of method on mining operation,” Teh said.