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Formalize small-scale mining, NGO urges gov’t

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  An environmental group is urging the government to formalize the local small-scale mining sector, which accounts for 60 percent of the country’s total gold production.

Non-government organization Ban Toxics said the government should consider small-scale mining as an economic activity that can benefit communities and reduce poverty.

“Formalization of the sector is a first step that leads to better regulatory and monitoring mechanisms and improved labor and environmental practices,” Ban Toxics program manager Evelyn Cubelo said.

Upon assumption of her post, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez emphasized that all small-scale mining activities operating outside the Minahang Bayan were illegal in nature and should be stopped immediately.

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.

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 500,000 small-scale miners operating in 40 mineral-rich provinces nationwide, majority of which operates outside the Minahang Bayan.

Furthermore, the group is calling on the government to address the challenges in the sector by strengthening the ability of small-scale communities to understand and improve their situation.

“The sector can be transformed into a responsible venture and the miners themselves are clamouring for it,” Cubelo said.

Small-scale miners are also asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to initiate a roadmap and provide alternative livelihood to mining communities which operate outside of Minahang Bayan areas.

“Ordering the immediate shutdown of small-scale operations without a transition period clearly goes against the thrust of the DENR,” Cubelo said.

“The DENR needs to approach poverty-driven small-scale differently from large-scale. DENR should look at small-scale mining with a developmental approach. Communities must be given a transition period and must be guided to adopt less destructive mining methods in the short-term,” she added.

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