Miners to spend P40 B for sustainable dev’t

Published September 9, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Mining companies have committed P40 billion only in combined expenditures to comply with certain provisions on sustainable development and environmental protection of their respective operations under the Philippine Mining Act.

The amount may appear huge but actually pales in comparison to the P54.57-billion total value of the country’s metallic mineral production in the first half of the year alone.

A latest data from Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) showed that mining companies have so far committed to spend P39.74 billion for their plans and programs related to sustainable development and environmental protection/rehabilitation, which are imbedded in the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act No. 7942.

Under the law, miners should allot funds to Social Development and Management Program (SDMP), Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programs (EPEP), and Final Mine Rehabilitation and/or Decommissioning Plans (FMR/DP).

As of June 2018, the estimated amount committed by mining companies for the development of their host and neighboring communities through their approved SDMP was about P16.81 billion.

Around 790 barangays stand to benefit from the implementation of approved community/social projects of various companies.

The SDMP is a tool for the development and implementation of community programs, projects and activities for the host and neighboring communities of a mining project/area.

It is a five-year plan geared towards the development of responsible, self-reliant and resource-based communities capable of developing, implementing and managing development programs, projects and activities.

This shall be funded through mining companies’ annual allotment of a 1.5 percent of their operating cost which shall be divided accordingly: 75 percent for the development of host and neighboring community; 10 percent for the development of mining technology and geosciences; 15 percent for the institutionalization of public awareness and education on mining and geosciences.

Also for the same period, the amount committed by mining companies for the implementation of approved plans/programs/projects/activities for EPEP and FMR/DP were at P20.39 billion and P2.55 billion, respectively.

EPEP provides the description of the expected impacts of the mine and sets out the life-of-mine environmental protection and enhancement strategies based on best practice in environmental management in mining.

FMR/DP, on the other hand, is the process of returning the mine sites and affected areas to viable and, whenever practicable, self-sustaining ecosystems that are compatible with a healthy environment and with human activities.

At present, the Philippines has remained one of the world’s biggest nickel exporters, with bulk of its production being shipped to China.

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

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 earlier said.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly said before that he doesn’t care whether the country earns huge revenues from the mining sector if this means preventing the further degradation of the environment.

MGB, an attached agency to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), recently issued a set of new mining policies such as creating a scorecard that will measure and monitor the operation of mining companies as well as limiting the area where miners can operate at any given time.

The DENR is also looking at increasing the rehabilitation funds that are required of miners.

Under the Philippine Mining Act, a Mine Rehabilitation Fund (MRF) shall be deposited as a trust fund in a government depository bank and shall be used for physical and social rehabilitation of areas and communities affected by mining activities and for research on the social, technical and preventive aspects of rehabilitation.

For his part, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) Executive Director Ronald Recidoro earlier said that they “understand the concern and the need to ensure that there are adequate funds for environmental protection and rehabilitation of mined out areas”.

“If there’s really a need to spend more for rehabilitation, we have no choice but to spend for it,” he said in an earlier report.