THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Monday that it is studying requiring mining companies to include small-scale miners (SSMs) into their community development projects.
“There must be a way to negotiate the resilience of communities where mining is happening, the social development needs to happen,” Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said in a statement.
Mining companies are required to dedicate a percentage of their spending to their host communities according to an approved Social Development and Management Program (SDMP).
“This way inclusivity in terms of the progress of the community as a whole can really be institutionalized,” she added.
Describing the proposal as a “big brother-small brother” strategy, the DENR said such an approach could help large miners better achieve their social development targets.
DENR Administrative Order No. 2010-21 or the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 requires mining contractors and permit holders to allocate 1.5% of operating expenses to the SDMP.
Of this allocation, 75% must be dedicated to community development.
Michael T. Toledo, chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP), said the association will await the results of the DENR study but called for the program to undergo a thorough consultation process.
“We believe though that this should be done in consultation with industry associations and, equally important, host communities — the primary SDMP beneficiaries — as such a scheme will affect their share,” he told BusinessWorld via chat.
He said the allocation should cover only accredited SSMs monitored by the DENR, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and a multi-party monitoring team that would include representatives from large-scale mining firms.
“The large-scale mining industry’s negative image is in large part brought about by illegal mining operations, mostly small-scale,” he said.
“This is why CoMP has in the last dozen years urged the government to take tougher stance against illegal mining activities, particularly unregulated SSM,” he added.
The DENR regulates small-scale miners as authorized by Republic Act No. 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991.
“Illegal SSM does not employ the same stringent safety practices required of legitimate large-scale mining operators,” Mr. Toledo said.
He said that illegally operated SSMs employ child labor, evade taxes, and endanger mine workers as well as the environment.
Global Ferronickel Holdings President Dante R. Bravo said the company is open to the DENR proposal.
“Our SDMP should be inclusive and consistent with the sustainability objective of the mining law and the UNSDG (United Nations Sustainable Development Group). I think it’s a desirable initiative from the DENR,” he said in a text message. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera