OVER the past few days, some illegal small scale miners operating in the City were ordered to cease and desist from undertaking their activities.
The action of the national government, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on these illegal and irresponsible mining practices was in compliance to instructions in the implementation of action items by the National Task Force on the Mining Challenge.
This task force was created primarily to put a stop to illegal mining activities that have considerably damaged the environment.
Small scale mining refers to mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implement and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment. This means that the activity is geared more towards subsistence (or hand-to-mouth) mining.
The definition clearly states that the activity should be heavily reliant on manual labor using simple tools. The definition also is clear that explosives should not be used. In the Cordilleras, the traditional mining method of gravity concentration, panning or sluicing falls under the category of small-scale mining. So what happened?
The issue on unregulated and uncontrolled small scale mining activities stemmed from the liberal use of explosives. It has always been a question why explosives are commonly used by small scale miners. Who is the proper regulator of explosives use? Why does it seem so easy for small scale miners to have access to explosives?
The only way to properly regulate small scale mining, with or without the declaration of Minahang Bayan areas, is to properly regulate explosives utilization. First, the use of explosives in small scale mining is illegal. Second, without explosives, the small scale miner cannot produce a lot of ore.
The lack of volume results in the greater possibility that the recovery of the precious metal is considerably reduced as well. It being a business, the economics will not warrant the continued operation of the small scale mining activity.
As such, only the subsistence or hand-to-mouth miner will continue to operate, thus making it easier to manage them. At the same time, the negative environmental damages will be greatly reduced as well. Third, without production volume, the use of chemicals such as cyanide will also be greatly reduced because again, it would not be logical to use chemicals for a very small volume of ore.
The liberal use of cyanide and its proliferation in small scale mining areas is because of its high demand to process a large volume of ore. Thus, smaller ore volumes will not economically justify the use of cyanide and other chemicals.
If there is Oplan Tokhang for the drug menace, perhaps the government should also strictly enforce an Oplan Explosives. After all, explosives and explosives ingredients are regulated materials in which government should be strictly monitoring and regulating where these are used and how access to these are obtained. Once this is done, the cycle will be cut and the problem will be easier to handle.
Stop the apparent liberal distribution and utilization of explosives. Once seriously done, it will lead to the cessation of the apparent liberal distribution and use of cyanide. Then, you help the genuine small scale miner and you help eliminate massive environmental destruction. These need serious consideration and a joint commitment and action from all concerned stakeholders.
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"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success" ~ Henry Ford
Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on February 14, 2018.
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