By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY --- Following the law, protecting the environment, caring for the people, and providing social and economic activity in the community are the essence of responsible mining, according to Engr. Guillermo ‘Danny’ Molina, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) in Bicol.
Molina, in an interview Monday, said environment protection, accountability, sustainability, and rehabilitation are the basic factors in responsible mining operations.
“Should a mining entity fail to follow these procedures, they have no business in engaging in this venture,” Molina said.
The MGB Bicol executive said responsible mining operation was the center of discussion during the recently held 4th Bicol Mining Summit here where members of the Philippine Society of Mining Engineers (PSEM)shared their respective best practices in the field of mining that would make the industry more resilient and strong amid the challenges and adversities.
At the summit, members of the PSEM expressed support to Pres. Duterte’s call for the industry to engage in responsible mining, Molina said.
Pres. Duterte in his State of the National Adress a few days ago, called on the mining companies to shape up or face possible closure once they continue to destroy the environment.
Serge Gacad, PSEM past president, said under the law, mining operations follow four stages, which include exploration, construction, actual mining operation, and rehabilitation.
Gacad said in the new mining law, “there would be no responsible mining process when there is no rehabilitation.”
“The sins of the past, we allow mining to operate in 25 to 50 years, then we wait for them to rehabilitate the area after 50 years leaving the mine site bare,” Gacad said.
He, however, said that under the new mining law, miners are required to undertake “progressive mining,” which calls on miners to start rehabilitation while undertaking extraction, construction, and actual mining operation.
He cited Rio Tuba Mining in Palawan where the mining firm was given a citation for responsible mining practice.
Progressive mining rehabilitation should be included in every mining plan and before a mining project is implemented a consultation process should be presented to various stakeholders, the local government units (LGU) and their host community.
As this developed, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda disclosed he plans to increase the excise tax on mining from 2 percent to 10 percent to generate more income for the government.
Salceda, one of the country’s top economists, in an emailed statement, said the proposed increase would raise higher tax returns for the government while the host LGU and community would receive substantial earnings from the mining entity operating in the area.
In Bicol, there are only three mining companies operating -- the Masbate Gold Project operated by Filminera in Aroroy town in Masbate; Mayon Cement Plant in Camalig, Albay; and, the Perlite Mining in Barangay Lamba, this city.
The Rapu-Rapu Gold Mine Project in Rapu-Rapu, an island town in Albay, has been decommissioned and is currently undergoing rehabilitation, Molina said.
MGB data indicated that the mining industry contributes only about 0.6 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product or GDP.
MGB reports indicated that the country is the fifth most mineral-rich country in the world for gold, nickel, copper, and chromite, with an estimated USD840 billion worth of untapped mineral resources.
About 30 million hectares of land area in the Philippines are possible areas for metallic minerals.
The metal deposit in the Philippines is estimated at 21.5 billion metric tons and non-metallic minerals are at 19.3 billion metric tons.