Government halts operations of small-scale miners
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - August 9, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered a stop to small-scale mining operations, halting about 60 percent of total gold production in the country.

In a briefing yesterday, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said all small-scale mining activities operating outside the Minahang Bayan were illegal in nature and that they should be stopped immediately.

“We don’t need gold. Gold is not an essential thing for survival. What we need is clean air and clean water,” Lopez said.

Lopez issued this statement in response to complaints by major mining firms she was focusing more on large-scale mining and neglecting illegal small-scale operations.

“We are not selective in auditing,” she said.

A Minahang Bayan centralizes processing of minerals within a zone where the government will be able to monitor gold production by small-scale miners better.

 It helps the government curb illegal mining and mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of indiscriminate mining operations in the country.

In April 2015, the DENR issued the revised implementing rules and regulations of the Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 in line with the mining policy of the previous administration.

Under Department Administrative Order 03-2015, the revised IRR institutionalized and implemented reforms in the Philippine mining sector, laying down policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources.

With the IRR, the DENR looks forward to the small-scale mining operations in the country transforming into a formal and responsible sector of the industry.

At present, there are only three existing Minahang Bayan in the country located in Masbate, Davao Oriental and Samar.

There are about 300,000 to 400,000 small-scale miners operating in 40 mineral-rich provinces nationwide, majority of which operates outside the Minahang Bayan.

The DENR, together with seven other agencies, have created a task force that would target environmental offenders and ensure strict implementation of laws and regulations on environmental protection.

Among the other agencies include the Department of Interior and Local Government, National Defense, Transportation, Justice, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The MOA included a Declaration of Cooperation where agencies agreed to respond to verified reports of large-scale environmental violations referred by the task force.

The agencies also agreed to enhance implementation of environmental laws “from deterrence, investigation, arrest, searches, prosecution and enforcement of judgments against illegal natural resources extraction and degradation, and for the protection of environmental quality.”

All parties shall ensure that communities facing environmental injustice, harassment or threats are protected from environmental law violators.

The task force shall also assess law enforcement needs and operations, form multi-sectoral law enforcement teams as needed and conduct monthly action planning to address major environmental issues or deal with intractable violators.

It shall also provide “quick response to urgent calls” from the DENR secretary, keep operations and investigations approved by authorized officers confidential, and “set up checkpoints, camps or stations to be manned by multi-sectoral teams in flash points and transit points of illegally harvested or hunted natural resources.”

 

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