September 8, 2017
‘Responsible mining’ should be redefined
Published September 6, 2017
By Jed Macapagal
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said the industry wants a clearer definition of what constitutes responsible mining to enable the highly-challenged industry meet government expectations.
Ronald Recidoro, COMP executive director, said a legal definition of responsible mining will help both government and industry in setting the direction and in monitoring strict compliance of mining regulations.
By setting the parameters, “responsible mining” would not be subject to various interpretations that put the industry in constant dilemma.
At present, mining companies are deemed as “responsible” as long as they comply with regulations under the Philippine Mining Act. In the said legislation, among the things needed by companies are the acquisition of an environmental compliance certificate as well as to set up a mine rehabilitation fund intended to make the mined area productive after extracting its ore reserves.
“It will give the industry and the public a set of metrics by which to measure mining’s impacts and performance in relation to the national (and local) economy, the communities that host mining projects, and the environment,” Recidoro told reporters during the sidelines of the Mining Philippines 2017 International Conference and Exhibition in Pasay.
However, he noted that any definition should not be too rigid, considering that standards are always changing. He said what may be considered responsible mining today may be outdated in 10 to 15 years.
The recently reorganized COMP earlier said that it would focus on initiatives which it believes would impact on the overall performance of its members while policing its ranks following public clamor. Among them are the setting up of an oversight committee which will verify allegations of wrongdoings against its members as well as the adoption of the Canadian model requiring members to follow a set of protocols called Towards Sustainable Mining.
Arnel Ty, House committee on natural resources chairman, who served as the keynote speaker in the event, said the call of the government to put up more mineral processing plants in the country should be backed by incentives and other valuable assistance.
“In Congress, there is a measure to ban the export of raw ores, coupled with the necessity of putting up processing plants… There should be proper assistance and
incentives to make investments in mineral processing attractive and competitive with other countries in the region,” Ty said.
Ty also said there must be a balance in determining a new revenue sharing scheme between the mining sector and the government especially since the Philippines is still the world’s top supplier of nickel ore, and a major producer of copper and gold.
He highlighted the need for the government to step up its implementation of the mining law. “Legislative reforms will be useless if we cannot implement them. Mining needs heavy regulation because of the high risks involved in its operations. The ability of government to strictly regulate mining operations will be critical,” Ty said. He said regulators such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau must be fully equipped with the best technologies and professionals to be capable of strictly monitoring and enforcing regulations to all mineral extraction operations, be it from big mining companies to the smallest.
“This gravity of the DENR’s mission cannot be over-emphasized as the consequences of failure threatens not just economic damage but can lead to tragic loss of lives. As legislators, this is beyond our sphere of influence. We can only benefit from mining if government can enforce mining laws,” Ty said.