Sep 202014

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is expected to sign and implement next month the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Small Scale Mining Act of 1991 which would enable the department to formalize the operations of small scale miners.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau Leo Jasareno said the DENR, with the help of the bureau, is now putting the “finishing touches” on the revised IRR.

“We would only be able to implement reforms once the guidelines are in place, Jasareno told reporters on the sidelines of the recently-concluded Mining Philippines 2014 Conference and Exhibition.

The revised IRR aims to level the playing field in the local extractive industry by giving small- scale miners access to sites that were only previously opened to large-scale mining operations if they can conform to stricter regulations imposed by the government.

This is because indiscriminate small-scale mining activities cause damage to the environment and deprive the government of revenues from operations.

Among the salient features of the revised IRR is the provision for the declaration of more areas as Minahang Bayan, or concession areas where small-scale mining activities would be restricted.

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Small miners can thus organize themselves into cooperatives and apply for the establishment of new Minahang Bayan sites. The applications would be reviewed by the existing provincial mining regulatory board and would be submitted to the office of the DENR Secretary for approval.

In the past, permits for small- scale mining operations were given by local government units that often lack the technical expertise to understand their operations.  This times, the permitting process would be centralized.

These Minahang Bayan sites would be subjected to the environmental impact assessment (EIS) system imposed on large- scale miners that entails an assessment of the economic viability of resources and environmental safety of operations.

They would also be compelled to produce a community development and management program for the locales hosting their operations.

All mineral processing activities shall also be confined within the designated mineral processing zones.

Small- scale mining operations shall be limited to the extraction of gold, silver and chromite. The use of hydraulicking and compressor mining methods shall be prohibited as well as the use of mercury in any phase of mineral processing.

There are no limitations, however, on the extraction of non-metallic minerals.

Miners’ cooperatives applying for operation under a Minahang Bayan may be granted small scale mining contracts valid for two years which can be renewed for another term.

Upon approval of the revised regulations, all small-scale mining operations not operating under the Minahanag Bayan scheme shall be considered illegal.

The revised IRR also provides for the use of joint teams composed by the DENR, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to dismantle the operations of illegal small-scale mining activities.

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