President Aquino exempts mines from total log ban
President Benigno Aquino III has exempted the mining industry from the total log ban in exchange for obligating the industry to take part in the National Greening Program launched early this year.
Leo Jasareno, Mines and Geociences Bureau (MGB) national director, said on Thursday that making decisions like this was the Aquino administration’s way of making industry regulations more efficient and mining more acceptable to the public.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines requested the government to ease legal obstructions to its members’ operations.
Mr. Aquino imposed the total log ban through Executive Order No. 23 in February to address forest depletion. He also issued Executive Order No. 26 which created the National Greening Program.
The program requires the government to plant 1.5 billion trees on 1.5 million hectares of land from 2011 to 2016.
Problems such as effective antimining campaigns that capitalize on fears over environmental degradation, low state revenue from mining and conflicting regulatory laws continue to plague the industry.
Jasareno said the government had failed to resolve these problems. But a study group will present to Mr. Aquino on Nov. 15 fresh options regarding mine policy reforms that could finally address the problems.
These options deal with the lack of baseline data on mining and mineral potentials, absence of economic valuation of mineral areas, inconsistencies in national and local rules, issues on law enforcement and governance, and low government revenue.
But the most significant concern for the industry is the impact of climate change on mine areas, Jasareno said.
A paper read at the 58th annual National Safety and Environment Conference at Camp John Hay here on Thursday noted that mining companies had invested heavily in environmental protection projects.
It cited MGB records showing “that 98 mining proponents or companies spend around P2 billion a year for the implementation of their environmental protection and enhancement programs (Epeps).”
The paper was written by retired Environment Undersecretary Jeremias Dolino and Dr. Antonia Corinthia Naz.
Big bucks for environment
Among the mining firms that have allocated the biggest funds for these programs are the Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc., Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp.-Carmen Copper Corp. combined, Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp., TVI Resources Development Philippines and Philex Mining Corp.
The paper said: “An interesting case is that of Cebu province, host to only one copper-gold mine, Atlas Mines in Toledo City. For its Epep alone, Atlas committed P3.9 billion for a mine life of 12 years. This translates to around P329 million per year for environmental programs, which benefit the natural and social communities in the area.
“Sagittarius Mine Inc., which operates the Tampakan project, spent around P17 million for environmental projects in 2008, although it was still in its exploration stage. Philex Mining’s Padcal operations in Benguet have an annual budget of P102.3 million per year for its Epep.”
P29-B contribution to economy
The paper said these case studies suggested that top mines were able to “reserve half of their Epep funds for reforestation, forest protection, … and revegetation and siltation control.”
The paper also said that mining’s contribution to the economy grew from P4 billion in 1970 to P29 billion in 2009.
But Jasareno said “the industry has not yet shown its true potential.” For example, the government has not yet addressed small-scale mining, he said.
At a recent Cordillera summit on small-scale mining, Elmer Billedo, MGB assistant national director, said government would have to regulate the P43-billion pocket mining trade by 2012, to cash in on the profits that the underground business has generated due to high gold prices in the world market.
In 2009, small-scale mine production was worth P36.8 billion. In 2010, pocket mining produced P42.9 billion. From January to June this year, small-scale mine production was P26.6 billion.