The majority of about 300,000 small-scale miners who operate outside the Minahan Bayan in their locality may be declared illegal under the revised implementing rules and regulations of the Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said miners should first seek approval from the local mining regulatory board before they operate outside the Minahan Bayan. The regulatory board at the local level has been given the authority that governors and city mayors previously exercised.
“This regulation will help the government curb illegal mining and mitigate the adverse environmental impact of indiscriminate mining operations in the country,” Paje said.
“With this the DENR looks forward to the small-scale mining operations transform into a formal and responsible sector of the mining industry, which is able to significantly contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in the countryside,” he said.
DENR issued Administrative Order No. 03-2015 to implement the new rules and regulations on small-scale mining. There are only three existing Minahang Bayan nationwide with 10 new applications pending approval at the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB).
Under the new rules, small-scale mining are limited to gold, silver and chromite. Small-scale miners will not be allowed to mine nickel, iron and other metals, which require huge investment and elaborate operations.
MGB Director Leo Jasareno said small-scale mining would be confined in the Minahang Bayan, which will have tailings disposal systems and a program of Environment Impact Assessment.
“Once fully enforced, small-scale mining activities outside these concession areas will be declared illegal,” Jasareno said.
He said the new rules ban the use of Mercury and provides for use of centralized custom mills inside the Minahang Bayan and small-scale mining contracts would be limited to six years, including renewals.
The new rules allow the establishment of Minahang Bayan in areas covered by large-scale mining applications that have been denied but under appeal but royalties shall be paid in escrow account while awaiting final resolution of the appeal, Jasareno said.
He said mining contracts will only be awarded to cooperatives or groups and the government will get a share of their revenues on top of the usual fees and taxes.