THE mining regulator has identified six potential areas suitable for small-scale miners and expects final approval of the sites by the end of the year.
Wilfredo G. Moncano, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), told reporters the bureau has initially cleared applications for six sites under the so-called “Minahang Bayan” program.
“Ang nakita ko na-endorse nasa anim (Six sites have been endorsed), so kung lahat ‘yun ma-clear (if all are cleared)… additional five or six [will be operational within the year].”
About 60% of the gold mined in the Philippines is produced by unregulated small-scale miners. The designation of Minahang Bayan reservations is intended to centralize the processing of minerals to protect the environment and ensure miner safety.
There are 29 sites carrying the Minahang Bayan designation with 100 more sites applying for the status.
Mr. Moncano said the procedure for making such a declaration is slow.
“Ang dami lang (There are many) requirements… hindi lang ganun kabilis (the process is not that fast),” he said.
He said the MGB backs the amendment of Republic Act 7076, the Minahang Bayan Law, to streamline the approval process.
Under RA 7076, the declaration of a Minahang Bayan requires the filing of a petition or request, the examination of the area, and stakeholder consultations.
After the declaration, interested operators are expected to meet certain standards before being allowed to operate at the site.
The application process for operators includes a fee of P1,000, and proof of registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Trade and Industry, Cooperative Development Authority, or other such government agencies. The process is open only to 100% Filipino-owned firms.
All gold mined at the site must be sold to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), or its representatives, at competitive prices relative to those prevailing in the world market regardless of volume or weight.
Mr. Moncano also noted that RA 11256, or an Act to Strengthen the Country’s Gross International Reserves (GIR), will help encourage more small-scale miners to register in order to avail of the law’s excise tax exemption.
“That’s one incentive on the part of small scale miners to be legalized and be formalized para ma-avail nila ‘yan para hindi sila habul-habulin ng gobyerno (in order for them to claim the exemption which frees the government from having to run after them),” he said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang