Mining group renews call for crackdown on small-scale operations

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The local mining industry is urging the government anew to crack down on small-scale mining in the country amid the latest landslide that killed miners in Agusan del Norte.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) asked the Duterte administration to intensify its campaign against illegal small-scale mining activities after five miners died while two others were missing following a landslide that buried a bunkhouse in a remote area in Mt. Manhupaw.

The landslide was caused by heavy rains brought by the recent tropical depression Amang. A similar incident in September 2018 also happened in Benguet which killed nearly 100 individuals.

“Incidents like this can be avoided if small-scale mining activities, including their safety practices and environmental performance, are closely monitored under the Minahang Bayan setup recognized by the government,” COMP said.

The largely illegal small scale operations with their safety and environmental problems are lumped together with the formal large-scale sector, which contribute to the poor image of the entire industry.

“Their operations do not follow the same stringent safety and environment standards required of legitimate large-scale mining operators,” COMP said.

It is estimated that more than 60 percent of the gold mined in the Philippines are from unregulated small-scale operations.

To address this, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is already bent on declaring more Minahang Bayan in the country, which centralizes the 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.

Only about 20 Minahang Bayan, both nationally and locally declared, operate in the country but more than 100 applications are pending with the DENR and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. 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 do not benefit from them, in terms of taxation, as they are not being regulated.

The DENR is already 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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