THE National Coalition of Small-Scale Miners in the Philippines is calling for the immediate formalization of the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector in a bid to improve the working conditions of small-scale miners in the Philippines.

At the 2nd National Assembly: National Coalition of Small-Scale Miners in the Philippines on Thursday, National Coalition President Gil Indino expressed hope for the development of small-scale mining areas into medium scale by improving their equipment for better operations.

"Hinahangad din po namin ang agarang pag-apruba ng maraming minahang bayan sa buong bansa para maging legal ang lahat ng small-scale miners (We hope for the quick approval and formalization of more people's small-scale mining areas nationwide so we can legalize all small-scale miners)," Indino said.

The Republic Act 7076, or the "People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991," states that small-scale mining operation should only be allowed within a declared Minahang Bayan.

Under the law for small-scale mining, only three metallic minerals are allowed. These are gold, silver and chromite.

With the theme "Responsable at Ligtas na Pagmimina sa Panahon ng Pandemya," this year's National Coalition of Small-Scale Miners in the Philippines assembly has gone virtual for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which broke out last year.

The event was held in collaboration with nongovernment organization BAN Toxics, through the support of Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

BAN Toxics is lead-collaborator environmental agency who has been working with the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector. The organization's activities focus on helping the formalization of the ASGM sector to improve working conditions, transition miners to mercury-free technology and eliminate child labor and gender inequity.

"We call for the formalization of the ASGM sector to improve the working conditions of small-scale miners, transition them out of mercury use to protect both their health and the environment, and eliminate child labor in mining areas," BAN Toxics Executive Director Reynaldo San Juan said.

Along with the small-scale mining groups, the event was also attended by representatives from government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Environmental Management Bureau, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Commission on Human Rights.

The assembly tackled issues plaguing the ASGM sector in the country, specifically the proposed amendments to Executive Order 79 and DENR Administrative Order 92-34, and the difficult acquisition process of obtaining a Minahang Bayan certification and mining contract.

Established in 2016, the National Coalition of Small-Scale Miners in the Philippines is a union of small-scale miners' associations nationwide promoting responsible mining through the formalization of the ASGM sector. The coalition's first national assembly took place in Davao del Sur last July 2019.