MGB 12 proposes mineral reservation project in Sarangani towns

Date of publication: 
9 December, 2014

KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato, Dec. 9 (PIA) — The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 12 is pushing a mineral reservation project in the municipalities of Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani.

Just recently, Engr. Hernani G. Abdon, OIC chief of the Mine Management Division (MMD) of MGB 12, presented the project proposal to members of the Sangguniang Bayan of both municipalities in separate occasions.

In these meetings, Engr. Abdon, emphasized that MGB 12 has identified a total area of 11,163.6340 hectares in the area to have a known strategic mineral reserve that can be available for mineral resources development.

A mineral resources development project in these municipalities could be beneficial to the local governments since this could result in additional revenues generation, citing further increase in the payment of occupation fees and the five percent royalty share for the LGU.

Abdon explained further that this proposal could address the problem of illegal small scale mining in Kiamba and Maitum areas with as much as 25 percent of the area that can be allotted as “Minahang Bayan.”

Illegal small scale miners can apply for a contract and license to the province to legitimize their operations, he elaborated.

In this way, he added, small scale mining will be contained and the local government can collect the appropriate revenue on small scale mining operation.

MGB 12 expects both Sangguniang Bayan to hold public hearings on the proposal after the presentation, especially involving indigenous peoples living in the area, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations.

Public consultations are done at least 30 days after the notice of the proposed project is published in the local newspaper. (DEDoguiles-PIA 12 with report from MGB 12)


IN THE KNOW: Small-scale mining

Philippine Daily Inquirer –

8 December 2014

Republic Act No. 7076 defines “small-scale mining” as mineral exploration that employs manual labor with simple implements and methods and not explosives or heavy equipment.

Small-scale miners must form cooperatives to be duly licensed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) estimates the number of small-scale miners in the country at 3,000.

RA 7076, or the Act Creating People’s Small-Scale Mining Program, allows the creation of People’s Small-Scale Mining Areas.

Under the law, small-scale mining operations are overseen by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board composed of the MGB director as chair and the provincial governor as vice chair.

Its members should come from small-scale and large-scale mining interests and a nongovernment environmental organization.

In 2012, President Aquino signed Executive Order No. 79 to institutionalize and implement reforms in the mining sector. Section 11 of the law restricts small-scale miners to “Minahang Bayan” zones and prohibits large-scale mining in these areas.

There are currently three Minahang Bayan sites—one in the province of Quezon, another in Dinagat Island and another in Agusan del Norte province.

EO 79 also restricts small-scale mining to the extraction of gold, silver and chromite, but not any other metallic minerals. It prohibits the use of mercury.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, small-scale gold mining contributed P300 million in gross production value in mining in 2013. Inquirer Research

Sources: MGB, Inquirer Archives


A template for small-scale mines

Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao –

7 December 2014

T’BOLI, South Cotabato–Except for a few mine workers carrying bags of ore out of the dark, muddy tunnel, the mouth of the Minahang Bayan in Barangay Kematu looks deserted and empty late morning of a weekday. But village chair Mansueto de la Peña says it is only because close to 200 workers are already beneath the portal in a nebulous network of tunnels.

“Toward sunset, this whole place teems with people,” De la Peña says of the 21-hectare Minahang Bayan in T’boli, one of the gold-rich towns in South Cotabato province. “That’s the time when the mine workers go out.”

Now, the Minahang Bayan, which curiously sits inside the 84-tenement claim of Canadian-owned Tribal Mining Corp., is the only small-scale mining site in the country fully monitored and regulated by the local government.

“While other provinces in the country are clearing their area of small-scale miners to allow large-scale miners to come in, we are helping small-scale miners develop because we recognize them as the main drivers of the economy,” says Seigfred Flaviano, designated head of the provincial environment and management office.

First-class town

“Small-scale mining has turned T’boli into a first-class municipality,” Flaviano says. The status means an annual income of at least P55 million. Based on the 2010 census, the town has a population of 79,175.

In the Philippines, small-scale mining is not recognized formally and is still considered an informal sector. “But in South Cotabato, we are trying to formalize it, to develop the capacity of small-scale mining operators because we believe in their contribution to the economy,” Flaviano says.

Discovered in the late 1980s, Kematu’s mining area forms a large part of T’boli’s gold rush site that had once attracted droves of eager prospectors. Exploration estimates of South Cotabato’s gold and copper ore reserves reach 2.5 million tons in one municipality alone.

In 2010, the provincial government passed the Environment Code, banning open-pit mining and effectively barring big companies, such as Sagittarius Mines Inc., from developing their projects.

Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes issued Executive Order No. 37 in 2013, intensifying small-scale mining permitting and safety regulations. Under that directive, people who want to work in the mines must secure identification cards in a system that helps eliminate the entry of minors. But they can only secure their IDs after going through a series of training on mine safety, environment protection and disaster preparedness.

‘Bayanihan’ spirit

Tapping the Filipino spirit of “bayanihan,” the provincial government pooled resources from government and nongovernment organizations together to help improve the capacity of small-scale miners, giving them access to training, technology and, hopefully, credit in the future.

The switch to regulated mining activities did not come easy, Flaviano says. In 2010, the provincial government closed down all extracting operations within the Minahang Bayan site following mining accidents and other problems.

But people desperate for a source of income petitioned the local government to be allowed to operate again. “It was their main source of livelihood, so the provincial government called for a series of dialogues,” Flaviano says.

The following year, the government relented but set terms that operators pay their taxes, take steps to protect the environment and to assume other social responsibilities to the host communities, and stop the illegal practice of “banlas” (hydraulic mining), which is deemed destructive.

Flaviano says regulated small-scale mining has worked two ways for the province and the miners: While they contribute to the local government coffers through taxes, the government helps ensure safety in the mining area and promote scientific technology to sustain industry income.

Job opportunities

The government earns only a measly amount from large-scale mining operations, Flaviano says. Small-scale mining, however, has opened chances for some indigenous peoples to earn a living.

“We are not getting that much from large-scale mining, which will only turn our people into mine workers,” he says.

Small-scale miners pay as much as P1,000 in taxes per ton of gold ores. As a result, the mining revenue of the province doubled from only P4.8 million in 2010 to P9.75 million in 2011, doubling again to P15.79 million in 2012.

South Cotabato has individualized the issuance of small-mining contracts, increasing compliance to environment laws to as much as 90 percent among operators.

The new system has allowed each contract holder to take responsibility of his actions, De la Peña says. “Unlike before when a violation by one of the members of the cooperative would cause the whole cooperative to suffer.”

From only six mining contracts and five processing permits registered by the province in 2010, there are now 159 mining contractors and 105 gold processors.


(part 2) In South Cotabato, a template for small-scale mining

Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao –

8 December 2014

T’BOLi, South Cotabato—Regulated small-scale mining has worked two ways for South Cotabato province and the miners: While they contribute to the local government coffers through taxes, the government helps ensure safety in the mining area and promote scientific technology to sustain industry income, says Seigfred Flaviano, designated head of the provincial environment and management office.

Implementing the ID system helped lower the number of child laborers and mining accidents, Flaviano says.

The Department of Labor and Employment in the region has promoted Barangay Kematu’s ranking to Level 3 in the way it deals with child labor issues.

This means that the village has already been addressing the problem by forging partnerships with local institutions for child rights advocacy and protection.

To ensure safety in the mines, the provincial government has made good use of the geohazard map produced by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in identifying areas prone to landslides and heavy flooding in the site.

“At first, they did not understand why they had to be kept away from danger zones, but with continuous dialogue, they eventually relented,” Flaviano says.

Tunnel operators are required to submit a map of their mining area when applying for a permit, he says. “We then plot their coordinates on the geohazard map, so, they can see whether their tunnel falls within the safe areas.”

De la Peña says at least 10 operators, whose tunnels are within the landslide-prone areas, have moved on to another site or have stopped operating outright.

“What makes South Cotabato unique, aside from the ban on destructive open-pit mining, is we regulate our small-scale mining and that we see to the welfare of our miners,” Flaviano says, “We want them to professionalize their operations by allowing them access to technology and credit in the future. At present, we are seeing to it that they’re safe.”

Soon, a Minahang Bayan Center will be set up to serve as a one-stop shop for permit processing, training and other assistance to miners. “That way, all processing of permits and all training for miners will already be done right at the mining site,” Flaviano says.

The P1-million building is scheduled to be finished in the first quarter next year.

Even if South Cotabato’s gold and copper reserves run out, Governor Fuentes says, she wants the local community to have something to fall back on by developing jewelry-making skills among its artisans.

Through the system it is putting in place, Flaviano says, the provincial government wants to ensure that it works hand in hand to develop the capacity of small-scale miners.