The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has approved 26 out of 36 applications for new non-metallic mining operations three months after the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 130, which lifted the nationwide ban on new mining projects.
This developed as the agency also observed an increase in mining applications over the last three months, mostly coming from those who already have exploration permits (EPs).
“Of the 36 mostly non-metallic mining projects under Phase 1 [of the processing of mining applications], 26 have completed requirements and starting development and commercial extraction,” MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano said in a text exchange.
For Phase 2, Moncano said there are 65 more that are still processing their requirements. “The Forest Management Bureau [FMB] of DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] has supported our identified priority projects under our Phase 1 and Phase 2 by downloading to the regional offices of DENR the issuance of Special Tree Cutting Permits instead of getting it from the FMB Central Office,” he added.
Examples of non-metallic minerals are sand, gravel, limestone, clay, and marble. The nonmetallic minerals industry is best known for the production of cement, ceramics, glass, and lime products.
In April this year, Moncano that based on his agency’s current list, there are 36 new metallic and non-metallic mines that have been identified as priority in terms of the processing of applications. The applications have already piled up as this is the first time in nine years that FMB is able to process the applications for these mineral projects.
Another priority would be the 65 applications that are likely to be granted with Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) either this year or next year.
Moncano said the categorization for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of application processing was based on the assessment and consultation conducted by the regional offices of MGB.
The regional offices of MGB were tasked to assess and consult the mining companies if they have ready funds to use anytime as soon as approvals are secured, or if they already finished their exploration program.
The regional offices also made sure that applicants have already filed or are in the process of filing a Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility.
A mining application is also categorized as a priority once they already have certain permits, including an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), Tree Cutting Permit, Foreshore Lease Agreement or Special Land Use Agreement, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) permit for loading port, and an approved or on-going deliberation of Social Development and Management Program (SDMP).
Applicants must also have Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP), Safety and Health Programs (SHP), final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning plan (FMRDP), Care and Maintenance Program (CMP), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) permit.
Meanwhile, Moncano said that over the last three months, or since EO 130 was signed, there has been an increase in the number of mining applications filed with the agency.
“We have noted an increase in mining applications, especially those inactive mining companies or Exploration Permittees that have slowed down activities in the last few years. We accepted it and started processing,” Moncano said.
However, he said these mining applications could not yet be endorsed to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for the issuance of MPSA. This is because the DENR chief is yet to sign the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for EO 130.
“There is no news yet if it [IRR of EO 130] was signed already. I understand it was routed to all the Undersecretaries for whatever comments they may have. I am not sure if the copy of the IRR has got back to the Office of the Secretary for his signature,” Moncano said.
As of December 2020, there are 309 approved MPSAs in the country covering 590,368 hectares of mining areas, while there are 13 EPs covering 36,131 hectares of potential mine sites, data from the MGB showed.
Based on estimates, there are about 9 million hectares of land across the Philippines with high mineral potential.