Wiping out negative public perception on mining

Published April 22, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Even after all the pronouncements of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte against the mining sector, the government still wants to do its fair share to wipe out the public’s negative perception towards the sector, which is valued in the billions of pesos.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)  Chief for Mines Safety, Environment, and Social Development Rodolfo Velasco said in an interview  that his agency was making sure it is able to implement its mandate of taking direct charge in the administration and disposition of the country’s mineral lands and mineral resources.

He also said that MGB was making sure that all miners adhere to the safety and health, environmental management and social development aspects of their operations.

To compel all miners to be responsible miners, Velasco said MGB will soon launch a ‘Standard Monitoring System’ nationwide for all its regional offices, as well as a scorecard system to be followed by mining companies.

Just a couple of months ago, MGB, through its Mineral Economics, Information and Publications Division (MEIPD), conducted its first-ever stakeholders’ forum to promote responsible mining. The event was attended by some of the country’s biggest mining companies.

MGB said the assembly served as a timely venue for the exchange of ideas and information on mining.

Aside from this, the forum highlighted past and current successful projects of mining companies in terms of social development and best practices, as well as MGB’s ongoing activities in the implementation of responsible mining.

A comprehensive discussion of proposed new policies in mining also took place.

During the meeting, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Analiza R. Teh said that the mining industry should be people-oriented and that it should directly benefit the host communities by providing jobs and livelihood, while protecting the rights of the indigenous communities.

She added that mining should protect and enhance the environment and that concern for its people and the environment should take precedence at all times. Strong enforcement and proper regulation of the industry would also be practiced.

“As mentioned, responsible mining should not just be for profit and financial gains of individual investors, but for the benefit of the people and the country,” Teh said.

She added that the Philippine mining industry should be at-par with international standards.

DENR Assistant Secretary for Mining Concerns Nonita Caguioa said the forum was a “great contribution” to the industry and that this would be a good start in the new policy formulation towards a sustainable mineral development.

“The knowledge and ideas that we shared are valuable contributions in our need to show significant and concrete actions to address the environmental issues being hurled against the mining sector that would in effect reverse the public perception on mining. And that would be a good start so we can have a policy requirement that is conducive to sustainable mineral resources development,” Caguioa said.

As early as last year, MGB had been suggesting that the Philippines make good use of its untapped metallic reserves since it could translate to higher revenues for the government.

“Undoubtedly, the Philippines is a well-endowed country in terms of mineral resources. With its long history and experience in mining, it has demonstrated its very rich potential for copper, gold, nickel, chromite and other metallic minerals through the commercial operation of numerous mines,” MGB said.

Based on MGB’s estimates, the country’s total estimated gold reserves in 2016 stood at 1.9 billion metric tons (MT) with an average grade of 0.16 grams per ton, while silver has 1.7 billion MT with an average grade of 1.27 grams per ton.

Copper reserves, on the other hand, were estimated to be around 1.8 billion MT, while iron and nickel has reserves of 116 million MT and 116.14 million MT, respectively. Chromite’s reserves stood around 47.3 million MT.

“To make them useful to the economy, the rich mineral resources of the Philippines have to be explored and then developed into commercial mines. Mining is both a capital-intensive and highly technical business venture,” MGB said.

Right now, the  country’s untapped mineral resources are projected to have a combined value of over US$1 trillion.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) Executive Director Ronald Recidoro said the industry is now working towards the adoption of Towards Sustainable Mining® (TSM®) initiative, a mining sustainability standard developed by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC).

This will be the first time that TSM will be adopted by a mining association in Southeast Asia.

Acoording to him, COMP is set to appoint a lead coordinator for the said move, which will be followed by a set of trainings for COMP member companies.

Recidoro said COMP was already reviewing the default protocols set by MAC so it could be amended to fit local priorities.

“A water protocol seems the most likely inclusion for the Philippines’ [adoption of TSM],” he further said.