Mindanao small-scale mining faces challenges

Karlos Manlupig
Is small-scale mining lucrative, environmentally unfriendly, or facing regulatory challenges? In the Davao region in Mindanao, over 10,000 small scale miners, interest groups, and regulators give conflicting answers

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Is small-scale mining lucrative, environmentally unfriendly, or facing regulatory challenges?

In the Davao region in Mindanao, over 10,000 small-scale miners, interest groups, and regulators give conflicting answers.

Regulators stress the importance of mining permits, while an environmental group cite the lack of economic gains from the extaction of minerals from the land. 

The small-scale gold miners, particularly those who are part of the Minahang Bayan in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, point their fingers to large-scale miners for the environmental destruction in the mining areas.

Well-organized

Sanny Bangcayao, president of the Lower Gumayan Small-Scale Miners Cooperative in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, said that the small-scale mining industry is a major player in the local economy and must be supported instead of being restrained.

In the mining areas in the Davao region, the small-scale miners are well organized as cooperatives and are very eager to acquire mining permits for the Minahang Bayan, Bangcayao explained.

“We filed our mining application 5 years ago. But up to now there are no any progress in our application. It seems that the MGB (Minerals and Geosciences Bureau) is prioritizing the applications of foreign large-scale mining companies,” he commented.

The small-scale mining industry, Bangcayao said, is asking the government to provide sufficient technical and financial support to create more sustainable operations in the Minahang Bayan in the various parts of the archipelago.

“If you will compare the land area being touched and excavated by the small-scale miners and the large-scale mining companies, ours is just a handful compared to their thousands of hectares,” Bangcayao said.

Regulation

But for the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Senate Philippines, the small scale miners are not regulated enough, thus do not contribute to the economy as much.

The JCI Senate Philippines said mining operations without government-issued permits must be shut down, stressing that most of the illegal mining activities are being operated by the small-scale mining cooperatives.

Lawyer Menjie Redelosa, who is also the chair of the committee for responsible mining of JCI Senate Philippines, said that the operations of small-scale miners must be strictly regulated.

“We are not saying that it is bad but it must be governed,” Redelosa said. “If we witness illegal mining activities, we should immediately notify government agencies like the DENR and the concerned local government units.”

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 11 director Ed Arreza said that there are only at least 4 small-scale mining cooperatives that have either permits or are still applying for it.

“Unfortunately, there are hardly any small-scale mining cooperatives who show interest to apply for mining permits,” Arreza said, adding that the bureau itself is undermined to go after the miners.

Responsible mining

Any of these positions are not acceptable to the Kalikasan Partylist, which believes that having a mining permit is not equivalent to being a responsible mining company.

Many large-scale mining companies, which are operating with mining permits, have displayed total neglect to environmental conservation and preservation in the different mining areas in the country, the group said.

Kalikasan Partylist added that responsible mining means giving back to the community more than what was taken. It noted that mineral resources are being extracted by volume and are directly shipped to other countries, which later return to the country as expensive products.

“The mining industry must be environment friendly and must contribute to the national industrialization of the country. We deserve a pro-people and pro-environment mining policy,” said Dr. Jean Lindo of the Kalikasan Partylist.

Lindo commented that the Philippine Mining Act must be scrapped for allegedly facilitating the sell-out of the rich mineral resources of the country to foreign large-scale mining companies.

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