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Regulated use of explosives may be allowed in small-scale mining

Regulated use of explosives in small-scale mining areas may be allowed in the amended version of the Republic Act (RA) 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act, a top official at Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said.

This alarmed an environmental group, which said the MGB does not even have the capacity to monitor and regulate small-scale mining (SSM) in general.

During a virtual roundtable at Lido, MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano said on Wednesday that his agency is now drafting proposed amendments to RA 7076, which should now contain two definitions of small-scale mining, one of which points to the regulated use of explosives while the other to the traditional method that rely heavily on manual labor.

Under RA 7076, small-scale mining refers to mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implementations and methods.

The law also defines small-scale mining as an activity that “does not use explosives or heavy mining equipment”.  

“The concept of small-scale mining before is really ‘mano-mano’ or manual labor. It was supposed to be artisanal. But in reality, and right now, there is no mano-mano anymore. For some reasons, small-scale miners already use explosives in the development of their mine sites,” Moncano said.  

He later on further said in a text message that MGB wants to “regulate the use of explosives by amending that provision of the 1991 SSM law that prohibits the use of explosives because in reality they have been using it to develop the tunnels”.

“Despite several arrests and CDOs [cease and desist orders] in operations of the TF [taskforce] in these SSM hot spots, for some reason they can still procure the explosives even if it is prohibited in SSM mining operations. The government needs to update the antiquated provisions of the law to be attuned to the current situation,” Moncano said.

He also said the regulated use of explosives means the government can now look at SSM’s work programs and decide on the quantity of explosives miners could use, which will also be based on the size of their tunnels, among others.

For his part, Green Thumb Coalition (GTC) Convenor and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said allowing use of explosives in SSM will negate the limited nature of SSM, and introduce more risks to the miners who may not have the proper training or inadequate safety measures inside the mines.

“This will also increase the chances of illegal trading and illegal possession of explosives that can go to wrong hands (bandits, rebels) and tempt the custodians of explosives to sell explosives. This may result in more chaos in artisanal and SSM areas,” Garganera said.

He likewise noted that MGB has very limited capacity to monitor and regulate SSM. 

“It doesn’t even have a reliable database of SSM,” Garganera further said.

In the same briefing, which was attended by Moncano, newly appointed Environment Undesecretary for Enforcement, Mining, and Muslim Affairs Jim Sampulna admitted that there’s still a need to improve in the way the government is regulating SSMs. 

“The problem about small scale miners, while we tax large miners, they seem to operate tax-free. Some big mining companies that are no longer operational, they allow small-scale miners to operate [on their mine sites] to do away with taxes. We don’t sleep, we know all these things. I’m planning to call the attention of this company,” Sampulna said.

Moncano said that Senator Bong Go already “initiated some efforts” in pushing for the amendments of RA 7076 or the SSM Act since the law’s current provisions are “very limited”.

For instance, he said there is no provision in RA 7076 that “mandates them [SSM] to provide environmental protection and safety” in their operations.

In the Philippines, areas where SSM can legally operate are called Minahang Bayan, which is approved and regulated by the government.

Last year, MGB issued the Department Administrative Order 2019-19 (DAO 2019-19), which aims to speed up the environmental restoration both during and after mining operations by the Minahang Bayan.

Under the new DAO, SSM operations will now have to meet stricter conditions in the disposal of residual stockpiles or ores previously extracted but not yet disposed during the mining contract.

The disposal will also be implemented under a required Environmental Management Plan (EMP) which miners must submit to report their environmental management objectives and their commitment to protect and rehabilitate the disturbed environment during disposition of residual stockpiles.

The latest move of MGB follows a multi-step campaign to increase the regulation of SSM in addition to stricter policing of the entire industry.

“We understand the negative view of mining, but we want the public to know that mining is not the same as it was before the Mining Act of 1995,” Moncano said then.

“The MGB is always working to improve the regulations on mining, to safeguard environmental protection, and protect the community,” he added.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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