Small-scale mining tackled in Nov. 15-16 conference

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 Nov) – After the International Conference on Mining in Mindanao (ICMM) in January,  another mining conference will be held here on November 15-16, this time focusing on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Mindanao, a major issue that continues to be a source of conflict despite the passage 21 years ago of  RA 7076, the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991.

The conference on “Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in Mindanao: Issues, Opportunities and Future Options” will be held at the Finster Auditorium of the Ateneo de Davao University, the same university that organized the ICMM in January.

The website of the Ateneo Ecology Advocacy (Ecoteneo) quoted Romeo Cabarde, chair of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council, as saying the conference proceedings will be forwarded to both the executive and legislative branches of government for their consideration.

“It has been 21 years since June 27, 1991 when RA 7076, otherwise known as the ‘People’s Small-scale Mining Act of 1991’ was approved by Congress. I think it is high time to revisit its spirit and look for models of responsible artisanal and small-scale mining that will truly promote, develop, protect and rationalize viable small-scale mining activities and will generate more employment opportunities and provide an equitable sharing of the nation’s wealth and natural resources, giving due regard to existing rights enshrined in existing laws,” Cabarde said.

Small-scale mining accounts for 70% of gold production in the country, Artemio Disini Jr., president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) told a Forum on Responsible Mining in Davao City on July 4.

No figures were cited on the contribution of small-scale mining to the production of other minerals.

This is the third conference on mining, focusing on Mindanao, this year.  The first was the ICMM on January 26 and 27 and the second was the Forum on Responsible Mining last July which was organized by the JCI Senate Philippines, COMP, and the Coalition for Responsible Mining in Mindanao (Coremin).

This week’s conference hopes to bring together a wide array of stakeholders from small-scale mining groups, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, academics, researchers, students and grassroots leaders.

Platform for stakeholders

The Ecoteneo website also quoted ADDU President Joel Tabora as saying he hopes the conference “will serve as a platform for the stakeholders to identify how artisanal and small-scale mining in Mindanao can be managed as a legal, responsible, safe and efficient livelihood opportunity, with inputs from international experiences.”

Tabora said they want the conference to be an avenue to “analyze and articulate the economic needs of artisanal and small-scale miners, map market opportunities, and develop practical recommendations for alternative livelihoods, including small and medium enterprises and supply chain development.”

Artemio Disini Jr., president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines told a Forum on Responsible Mining in Davao City last July 4 that the  small scale mines “now constitute 70 percent of gold production in the country.”

Adrian Daniel, a mining engineer from British Columbia who has done extensive studies on the development of a full metallurgical gold-cyanide testing and training in Guyana and provided modern processing alternatives to Guyana’s artisanal mining sector will deliver the keynote address morning of November 15.

In the afternoon, the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (Afrim) and Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao will present national and regional case studies on ASM for Session 1 while Richard Gutierrez, chair of Ban Toxics and Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chair of Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya Para sa Sambayanan (AGHAM) will discuss “Environmental, Socio-Economic and Health Impacts of ASM” in Session 2.

The case studies that will be presented are those on the small-scale mining operations in Diwalwal, Monkayo and Nabunturan in Compostela Valley province, T’boli in South Cotabato and Benguet.

Session 3 in the morning of November 16 will focus on “Current Initiatives in ASM.” This will be tackled by Jose Lamanilao, Executive Director of Batas Paglilingkod Pangkapatiran Foundation; Windel Bolinget, President, Cordillera People’s Alliance; and Siegfred Flaviano, Provincial Environmental Management Officer of South Cotabato.

Session 4 in the afternoon will have Imelda Perez of Ban Toxics, Leoncio Na-oy of the Benguet Federation of Small-scale Miners and Engr. Randell Espina, Dean of  School of Engineering and Architecture and Daniel discussing “Future Options in ASM.”

Mindanao Declaration  

The two-day ICMM in January ended with calls to repeal the 1995 Mining Act, enact a pro-Filipino, pro-environment alternative mining law and declare a mining moratorium.

The two-page “Mindanao Declaration: Defending the Dignity of Life, Securing our Future” called for the “promotion of sustainable, responsible and equitable management and utilization of our natural resources, toward the conservation and protection of the environment and rehabilitation of mined areas.”

It also noted that harsh effects of mining on water systems, biodiversity, air, land and island ecosystems “lead to environmental destructions and disasters aggravating the impacts of hydro-meteorological hazards and threatening agriculture and food security;”  that mining firms in collaboration with some government agencies have been “grossly violating human rights of communities and advocates through threats, extra-judicial killings, Investment Defense Force, mining militias, fabricating ‘free, prior and informed consents,’ dividing and exploiting indigenous peoples communities and perpetuating other acts degrading human dignity.”

The Declaration said small-scale miners and workers “have been blamed for various environmental disasters by COMP (Chamber of Mines in the Philippines) in favor of large mining companies,” even as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and other agencies “failed to fulfill its mandate to provide technical and, when displaced, extend immediate sustainable economic assistance.” (MindaNews)