More areas eyed for small-scale mining
THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it was seeks to declare six additional “Minahang Bayan” for use by small-scale miners in order to have them legalized and regulated.
“We have moved forward and progressed. There are already 29 Minahang Bayan and we’re doing fast. We have endorsed six more to the Office of the Secretary for clearance,” said DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano at the sidelines of the recently-held Mining Philippines 2019 International Conference and Exhibition in Pasay City.
The Minahang Bayan Law was one of the provisions of Executive Order (EO) 79 issued by then-president Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2012, which aims to implement mining reforms in the country to ensure environmental protection and promote responsible utilization of mineral resources.
The “Republic Act 7076, known as the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991,” states that small-scale mining operation should only be allowed within a declared Minahang Bayan.
Under the law for small-scale mining, only three metallic minerals are allowed. These are gold, silver and chromite.
Moncano said the DENR-MGB has received more than a hundred of Minahang Bayan applications, however, “strict requirements”, slow down the declaration of such mining reservations.
Specifically, the MGB designates the Minahang Bayan upon the endorsement of the (provincial mining regulatory boards) PMRBs.
The Minahang Bayan Law gives the PMRB the authority to, among others, formulate and implement rules and regulations related to small-scale mining.
Despite such requirements, Moncano said there was no stopping DENR’s goal of additional Minahang Bayan to change public perception towards mining industry.
“The understanding of the [DENR] secretary [Roy Cimatu] is that the only way to integrate the small-scale mining to the mainstream is the legalization,” Moncano said.
Miners undertaking their operations in Minahang Bayan need to comply with regulations, including environmental rules, and the mandatory sale of gold to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) only. The government also closely looks at the miners’ safety, sanitation and payment of correct taxes.
Therefore, declaring more Minahang Bayan areas nationwide increases the opportunity for government to track small-scale mining.
Moncano said the DENR-MGB is in discussions with the BSP and several lawmakers in lobbying for the amendment of RA 7076.
“There are several provisions in the Small-Scale Mining Act that need to be amended. First, under the law, the small-scale mining law is only for six years, but when it gets amended it will be continuous as long as there are reserves. Second, we want to differentiate the artisan and small-scale mining. The interpretation is that small-scale mining is the actual manual labor without the use of any mining equipment. But the time has changed [as they have been using machines like conveyors]. So we will be proposing the limit of extrusives,” he explained.
To intensify regulation over small-scale miners in different quarrying sites across all provinces in the country, the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) last year recommended for the implementation of the “big brother approach” which focuses efforts on establishing “proper coordination” between the government and small-scale miners.
“[T]he established big mining company that’s working in the area [should] work in coordination with the government and with the small-scale miners,” PMSEA President Walter William Brown earlier said.
“Some of them (small mining companies) can integrate into mines but deal with the established mining companies because the small also have small capital to comply [with],” Brown added.