Regulated Use of Explosives May be Allowed in Small Scale Mining Ops
A top official of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has said that regulated use of explosives in small-scale mining areas may now be allowed in the amended version of the Republic Act (RA) 7076 or the People’s Sm3all-Scale Mining Act.
According to MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano, his agency is now drafting proposed amendments to RA 7076, containing two definitions of small-scale mining - regulated use of explosives and traditional methods that depend on manual labour. Under RA 7076, small-scale mining describes mining activities which depend on manual labour using simple methods. The law says small-scale mining “does not use explosives or heavy mining equipment”.
“The concept of small-scale mining before is really ‘mano-mano’ or manual labor. It was supposed to be artisanal. But in reality, and right now, there is no mano-mano anymore. For some reasons, small-scale miners already use explosives in the development of their mine sites,” Moncano said.
He added that MGB wants to “regulate the use of explosives by amending that provision of the 1991 SSM law that prohibits the use of explosives because in reality, they have been using it to develop the tunnels”.
“Despite several arrests and CDOs [cease and desist orders] in operations of the TF [task force] in these SSM hot spots, for some reason, they can still procure the explosives even if it is prohibited in SSM mining operations. The government needs to update the antiquated provisions of the law to be attuned to the current situation,” Moncano said.
Moncano also said that the government can now look at the work programs of SSM and check to see the quality of explosives that miners could use. In fact, he said that Senator Bong Go has already worked on some initiatives to push for this SSM Act.
Furthermore, newly appointed Environment Undersecretary for Enforcement, Mining, and Muslim Affairs Jim Sampulna said that the government also needs improvement in regulating the SSMs.
“The problem about small scale miners, while we tax large miners, they seem to operate tax-free. Some big mining companies that are no longer operational, they allow small-scale miners to operate [on their mine sites] to do away with taxes. We don’t sleep, we know all these things. I’m planning to call the attention of this company,” Sampulna said.
This, of course, didn’t sit well with some environmental groups. Jaybee Garganera, Green Thumb Coalition (GTC) Convenor and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) National Coordinator said that allowing explosives to be used in SSM shall negate the limited nature of SSM, and introduce more risks to miners who are not equipped.
In the Philippines, places, where SSM can legally operate, are called Minahang Bayan, regulated and approved by the government.
Last year, MGB issued the Department Administrative Order 2019-19 (DAO 2019-19), to fast track the environmental restoration both after and during mining operations by the Minahang Bayan. Under this new DAO, SSM operations now have stricter conditions in the disposal of ores or residual stockpiles extracted before but not yet disposed of during the mining contract.
The disposal is also implemented under a required Environmental Management Plan (EMP) where miners must submit their environmental management objectives and their commitment to rehabilitate and protect the environment.