Government to promote accountability among small-scale miners

July 10, 2012 10:29 pm 

By Catherine J.Teves

MANILA, July 10 — Government will further push its bid for responsible mining by requiring environmental and social accountability among small-scale miners nationwide.

Such action is in line with Executive Order 79 which Malacanang released this week to help raise environmental standards and government's revenue haul from mining.

EO 79 created the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) and mandated this body to "properly regulate small-scale mining participants and ensure that they are accountable to the same environmental and social obligations as large-scale mining companies."

Authorities earlier estimated as many as 300,000 individuals across the country could be engaged in small-scale mining.

To help monitor accountability in small-scale mining nationwide, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Ramon Paje said EO 79 requires this activity to be undertaken solely in declared 'minahang bayan' or people's small-scale mining areas.

Republic Act 7076 (People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991) provides for establishing such areas where small-scale miners can operate, enabling authorities to better track their mineral extraction activities and output.

The order also requires small-scale mining stakeholders to meet Environmental Impact Statement System requirements under Presidential Decree 1586.

"EO 79 likewise prohibits use of mercury in small-scale mining," Paje said.

Government will provide technical assistance to small-scale mining cooperatives and associations to help build up these groups' capacity to undertake responsible mining.

MICC will create a task force against illegal mining upon Malacanang's orders to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations, EO 79 noted.

The council can also seek assistance of the country's law enforcement agencies, EO 79 continued.

Among such agencies are Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Both Cabinet clusters on climate change and the economy comprise MICC.

DENR's bid to rationalize small-scale mining nationwide gained headway last year when Department of Justice (DOJ) issued its Opinion No. 29 which said RA 7076 "completely repealed" Presidential Decree 1899 (Establishing Small-Scale Mining as a New Dimension in Mineral Development).

The DOJ Opinion also clarified PD 1899 "no longer has the force and effect of law."

Justice chief Leila de Lima signed the DOJ opinion document dated June 27, 2011.

DENR sought the opinion in its April 28, 2011 letter to DOJ, believing the chaotic state of Philippine small-scale mining is partly due to confusion over which of RA 7076 and PD 1899 truly governs this activity.

RA 7076 defines small-scale mining as "mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implement and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment."

Small-scale miners refer to "Filipino citizens who, individually or in the company of other Filipino citizens,voluntarily form a cooperative duly licensed by DENR to engage, under the terms and conditions of a contract, in the extraction or removal of minerals or ore-bearing materials from the ground," RA 7076 also reads. (PNA)

FPV/CJT/mec

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