ENVIRONMENT and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez has told small-scale miners and local officials of Camarines Norte that small-scale mining needs to stop for now and encouraged them instead to plant bamboo and mangroves as alternative source of livelihood.

“Small-scale mining is illegal, and you don’t want to be caught or have the Ombudsman bar you from public service forever. I cannot help you if it is illegal,” Lopez told Camarines Norte officials led by Gov. Jonah Pimentel, who accompanied a delegation of small-scale miners from Paracale town during a dialogue at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central office recently.

The miners went to the DENR office to ask for help after they lost their jobs as a result of the government audit of all metallic mining operations in the country.

While Paracale is not included in the 29 priority areas the DENR has identified for area development, Lopez assured the miners that the department will provide them with livelihood assistance.

She pointed out to them the need for the earth to recover after decades of malpractices of small-scale and illegal mining.

The secretary’s solution supports the findings of a 2002 case study on children in small-scale mining in the town conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Center of the Department of Labor and Employment that recommended the provision of alternative livelihood and access to basic education and health services for small-scale miners in the municipality.

“Plant bamboo. Plant mangroves. Identify marine sanctuaries. I want you to be the first to benefit from the resources that you can find in your area before others do. We will fund it, but your earnings will be your own,”she told the miners.

Lopez also asked Pimentel to help prepare the work and financial plan for the program.