Mining group seeks closure of Minahang Bayan

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The government should consider shutting down all existing Minahang Bayan in the country as this has been ineffective in implementation and may only worsen the current state of the industry, a mining group said.

The Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) emphasized that while the intention of a Minahang Bayan is good, the solution is worsened because small-scale miners cannot actually comply and operate under the government’s regulations.

“They should close all existing Minahang Bayan and institute a program which we propose, what we call the big brother approach, where we get the established big mining company that’s working in the area that would work in coordination with the government and with the small-scale miners,” PMSEA president Walter Brown told reporters here.

“There’s no Minahang Bayan that is actually within regulation. It has been ineffective. I want to sit down with them and work something out. I hope when we present to the Secretary (Roy Cimatu), he will agree,” added Brown, who is also president of Apex Mining Co.

However, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it is not in favor of PMSEA’s suggestion as Minahang Bayan is provided under the People’s Small Scale Mining Act.

“The issue should be seen in the context of poverty alleviation. Illegal small-scale mining should definitely be stopped. But we need to support the small-scale miners to comply with environmental standards such as non-use of mercury and other safety standards,” DENR Undersecretary Analiza Teh told The STAR in a text message.

“Minahang Bayan is a program to uplift lives of small-scale communities and large-scale mining should assist the government. What we can discuss is small scale within large-scale mining area,” she said.

Brown argued that the best solution with small-scale miners is to take a unified approach where some can be integrated into large-scale mines as Minahang Bayan will likely worsen environmental degradation.

“It will (worsen). It is not set up properly because anybody that joins will openly violate the regulations,” Brown said.

“We have to change the attitude of the government. We have to change everybody’s attitude, that everybody is at fault. We share the blame so we should not waste time in blaming each other,” he added.

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.

Currently, only about 20 Minahang Bayan, both nationally and locally declared, operate in the country, but more than 100 applications are pending with the DENR. Majority of these are in Cordillera, Bicol, Compostela Valley and Zamboanga.

Being largely fragmented, small-scale produces more than the large-scale industry, but the Philippines does not benefit from them in terms of taxation as they are not regulated.

The DENR is crafting a six-year roadmap for the small-scale mining industry to improve mechanisms, allow them to be viable, improve the system and enhance the existing guidelines.



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