LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board is taking steps for the designation of open areas for Minahang Bayan in the province.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera chief Salvador Genetiano said currently the more than 14 applications for Minahang Bayan or so-called small scale mining areas are undergoing area status and clearance to determine whether the areas applied for are still open.

The areas applied for should not be covered by existing forest rights or reservations and have not been declared as tourist or marine reserves, parks, or wildlife reservations.

After verifying the areas applied for, those that qualify will be issued area clearance. All these will be consolidated for presentation to the PMRB for further study and recommendations. Those with overlapping areas and do not qualify will be given notices.

The PMRB chaired by the DENR and co-chaired by the provincial governor, is authorized to declare and set aside Minahang Bayan suitable for small-scale mining subject to review by DENR Secretary as spelled out in Section 5 of Republic Act 7076 giving priority to areas already occupied and actively mined by small scale miners before August 1, 1987, according to MBG-DENR Dir Faye Apil.

Apil bared the existing 11 small scale mining permits previously issued under PD 1899 will be granted temporary small scale mining contract by Governor Nestor Fongwan upon recommendation by the PMRB for a period of six months until their area is declared as Minahang Bayan based on Executive Order 79 for them to continue small scale mining operations.

In other areas of the Cordillera region, endorsed as Minahang Bayan is found in Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province, applied for by Upland Mineral Resources. (Susan Aro)