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DENR execs want to regulate small-scale mining

By: - Correspondent / @msarguellesINQ
/ 08:51 PM August 08, 2011

LEGAZPI CITY—Environment officials in Bicol are seeking to regain their authority to regulate small-scale mining in the provinces amid reports of environmental and safety abuses by the industry.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office submitted a proposal to its central office requesting a review of the department’s authority over small-scale mining companies.

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The issuance of permits for small-scale mining has been devolved to local government units (LGUs), but the DENR here is batting for regional environment offices to regain regulatory powers over these companies because of widespread violations of the Mining Act by small-scale miners, said Joselin Marcus Fragada, the department’s regional executive director.

The move came on the heels of reports that small-scale mining operators who got their permits from LGUs not only caused major environmental damages by engaging in unsafe practices that had led to death of miners, but were also responsible for several violent incidents in the mine sites.

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Fragada said the proposal was submitted to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje in late July.

Governors’ vigilance

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Bicol also urged local officials to be more vigilant in the regulation and enforcement of the law involving small-scale mining activities.

It asked governors to activate their respective Provincial Mining  Regulatory Boards (PMRBs). Under the Mining Act, the boards can issue policies and recommend measures to regulate the operations of small-scale mining in their areas.

The board is chaired by the director of the MGB, with the governor, a representative from the small-scale miners, town mayor and a nongovernment organization representative as members.

The DENR-Bicol was particularly concerned over the recent violence that had led to the  death of a security guard at an iron and copper mining site in Barangay Nakalaya in Jose Panganiban town in Camarines Norte, including violations of standard practices there.

Use of explosives

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Reports reaching the MGB disclosed that operators in Jose Panganiban were using dynamite and other explosives, and heavy equipment in violation of the standards set by law.

The use of explosives and heavy equipment are exclusively given to large-scale operators with Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) granted by the MGB, said Chris Oropesa, MGB-Bicol mining engineer in charge of small scale mining.

In the six provinces of Bicol, Oropesa said, small-scale mining involved 7,000 people, 2,000 of whom are in Camarines Norte’s mining towns of Paracale, Jose Panganiban, Labo, Capalonga and Basud—extracting gold, iron and copper.

Three large-scale mining companies also have MPSAs in Camarines Norte. These are Johnson Gold Mining Corp. in Jose Panganiban, United Paragon in Paracale, and El Dore Mining Corp., but only Johnson is currently active.

Jose Panganiban

Isabelo Fonacier Mining has an MPSA in Jose Panganiban, through its mining arm, Investwell Mining. But a falling-out among the heirs of Fonacier Mining and Investwell had turned mining activities in the town violent, according to a source, who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

The Fonaciers own the MPSA that covers 200 hectares in Barangay Nakalaya, Jose Panganiban, of which five ha are being mined by small-scale operators, according to the source.

Records showed that in 2010, the Fonaciers and Investwell signed a mine operating agreement (MOA) that allowed the latter to operate in the Fonacier Mining site.

The source said the Fonaciers wanted to terminate the MOA, but Investwell refused, saying that under the agreement, neither party can withdraw without the prior and written consent of both.

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TAGS: Bicol, environment, Mining, Mining Act, permits, Regions, Safety, Violence
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