MGB-11 to purge inactive mining applications

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 February) – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Region 11 is optimistic of meeting the deadline set by the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) to cleanse its list of all pending and inactive mining applications this year.

“We are catching up but we can respond to the directive. We can make it,” Lawyer Wilfredo Moncano, officer-in-charge of the MGB’S Mines Management Division, told MindaNews.

In his directive to all regional directors nationwide, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the cleansing of ageing mining applications aims to institute reforms in the mining sector and to erase public perception of the agency as corrupt.

“We have to decide once and for all on what to do with all of these mining applications long pending in our regional offices, otherwise the public will continue to perceive us as inefficient and corrupt,” Paje said.

The DENR has set two deadlines for the regional offices to cleanse the list of pending applications — February 20, 2011 for the first 50 percent and December 2011 for the remaining 50 percent.

There are 160 pending applications at the MGB regional office, mostly for mineral production sharing agreements and exploration permits for gold and copper, according to Moncano.

“On or before the first deadline, we can deny or endorse to the central office around 75 applications,” he assured.

Of the 160 pending applications, 24 of them are considered “matured” by the MGB which means the applicants have already conducted exploration activities.

“Within two to three years, they (applicants) must declare mining project feasibility in the area or else it (application) would be discarded,” said Moncano who also disclosed that they have approved nine new exploration permits.

The permits covered mineral-rich areas in the provinces of Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur.

Last year, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Region XI reportedly blamed the MGB for the discouraging performance of the mining industry in the region in 2009.

One of the reasons cited by the NEDA was the “slow processing of the exploration permits”.

For this year, the NEDA expects the mining industry to improve with the good business climate in the region, Plans and Policy Formation director Miguel Herrera said.

As part of the cleansing procedure, Paje explained that the agency is strictly carrying out the “three letter-notice policy” in exacting compliance with all the requirements by the applicants, with a maximum interval of 30 days between these letter-notices.

The requirements for mining applications include the free and prior informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned as certified by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the NCIP Certificate of Non-Overlap within one year, and the NCIP Certification Precondition (compliance certificate) within three years from the date of receipt by NCIP of the pertinent letter-requests from MGB.

The mining applicant must also submit proofs of consultation with the local government unit within two years from the date of acceptance of the mining application, and the completion of publication, posting and radio announcement within one year from the date of acceptance of the same.

Failure to comply with any of the requirements shall be a ground for the denial of the mining permit, the DENR said. (Rico Biliran/MindaNews)