Fongwan asks DENR: ‘Cancel idle mine claims’

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014


LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Governor Nestor Fongwan is asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel idle mining claims in a bid to put into place the plight of Small Scale Miners (SSM) here.

Fongwan said after the profiling of SSM associations here, an updating of the list is in order to determine the exact number of those engaged in the activity.

However, Fongwan said it will be difficult for any of the associations to comply with the DENR because of the requirements set by the agency.

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The governor said most of the areas in the province are covered by mining claims, national park and forest rules as well as restricted areas covered by tourism as well as Mineral Production Sharing Agreement by big companies like Benguet Corporation, Philex and Lepanto Mines.

An MPSA gives added requirements to SSM associations to get permission from the companies to mine in their MPSA covered areas.

At present at least 200,000 SSM operations here with 66 associations established, all trying to make a living out the mountains of the highlands.

Under the new Mining Law or Executive Order 79, signed by the President, a common area to mine must be established as a Minahang Bayan.

However, Fongwan said finding a common area for mining, which is one of the aims of the executive order, may not be applicable in the province, which is riddled with mining claims, ancestral domain, watershed and protected forests.

The requirements set by the government, establishing areas for a communal mining site maybe farfetched.

The prevalence of the unregistered small scale mining operations and said tolerance has been an ongoing practice for the agency when dealing with the issue.

Small-scale mining, although proven to be very hazardous, remains as one thriving industry in most gold-rush towns like Benguet.

This concept empowers the Provincial Government to grant small scale mining permits only to cooperatives. The government will have to declare first an area as a "minahang bayan" before allowing legal miners to operate.

Under the Minanahang Bayan each cooperative would be given an area of 80 hectares, or one block.

He disclosed most local government units issue permits basing on the requirements cited in Presidential decree 1899 and veered away from the requirements set by Republic Act (RA) 7076.

RA 7076 is observed to have strict requirements, thus, most permits were released based on the requirements of PD 1899.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 21, 2014.

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