Mining Stakeholders Forum Commits to Ensuring Responsible Mining in Mindanao

 

“Responsible Mining is a process and everybody must understand that in every process we are guided by the proverbial ‘no pain no gain’ maxim… ultimately we can see that responsible mining is possible to achieve if we care enough”— Dr. Rowena P. Varela, Program Leader of S&T Program for Responsible Mining in Mindanao.

 

The recently held Mindanao Mining Stakeholders Forum, which took place on July 14-15 at ButuanCity, was spearheaded by the Caraga State University (CSU) and the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCIEERD) in collaboration with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA-13). The event brought together representatives from mining sector, industry leaders and industry partners including the local government representatives, NGOs, academics, the media and other stakeholders for two days of thought-provoking keynotes, disclosure of results from responsible mining projects, and workshop on mining issues and possible recommendations to come up with a road map for mineral resources management in Caraga Region.

Anchored on the goal of mining forum which is to overcome the issues on environmental and social aspects of mining, the event successfully initiated dialogue and cooperation between the various stakeholders particularly the industry partners, local governments, government agencies and the academe. It also showcased a rich and diverse set of presentations and imperative discussion on key topics.

The morning session of the forum discussions was supported by experts who shared their knowledge and expertise related to mining management. The International Mining Development Centre (IM4DC) through Ms. Helen Langley, the program manager, discussed the mining development from the international perspective.   Engr. Francis Glenn Suante, representative from MGB-Caraga Region, underlined during his discussion the status of Mining in the Philippines and legal framework of mining in the country. He also unveiled the highlights of their Social and Development Management Program (SDMP) and Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) such as the Biodiversity Nursery of Taganito Mining Corporation and CNC’s Land Restoration Process. Dr. Carlos Primo David, Executive Director of DOST-PCIEERD, also graced the forum and presented the R&D roadmap for mining and minerals sector from 2012-2016; Dr. Anthony M. Penaso, the President of CSU also communicated the role of education and research as foundations for Responsible Mining; while NEDA-13 Regional Director Mylah Faye Aurora Carino also shared the Regional Development Framework of Caraga for 2013-2016 which is primarily focused on attaining inclusive growth which will subsequently result in reduction of poverty in the region.

The afternoon session was jam-packed with presentations of responsible mining project accomplishments. An interactive discussion between stakeholders and researchers was notably putting the forum into its main purpose. The presence of small scale mining groups was also recognized, especially during the presentation of small scale mining best practices led by MAVISSMA President, Mr. Randy Ocite. The Masabong Village Small Scale Association (MAVISSMA) is a group of small scale miners, vendors, store owners, processors, single motor drivers, farmers and Indigenous Peoples of Rosario, Agusan del Sur which organized themselves for a common cause. It is the only small scale miners association who passed the Minahang Bayan in November 2012. Large scale mining companies were also represented to share their best practices. Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC), Platinum Group Metals Corporation (PGMC), Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) and Philsaga Mining Corporation were in attendance.

With all the inputs from research information and the best practices of mining companies, NEDA-13 facilitated a workshop to identify key issues related to mining. Participants were divided into two groups, the large scale and small scale mining group. Moderated by the NEDA director herself, large scale mining group were able to come up with issues in relation to governance, environmental and social aspects. Some of the identified issues were policy harmonization (local code, RA etc.), weak enforcement of environmental laws, lack of capacities among local communities on biodiversity monitoring and conservation, pollution caused by mining especially in handling industrial wastes (solid waste material), and inflationary effects of mining to the purchasing power of locals not employed in the mining companies. On the other hand, small scale mining group raised several issues such as: depletion of natural grown trees, increased hunting of wild animals; destruction of habitats for biodiversity, water contamination (ex. heavy metals), increasing migration trend in the timberland areas, family conflicts and territorial disputes due to ownerships, weak monitoring of mining activities, lack of IEC on responsible mining and lack of safety measures on operations of mining sites such as directional signs, safety signs, among others.

These concerns identified by the participants will serve as input for the next steps of responsible mining program and will be included in road-mapping for Caraga Region. Director Carino stressed out that the formulated roadmap is important to harmonize the region’s development priorities and to strengthen the region’s resiliency against the impacts of natural disasters ensuring the integrity of the environment.

As emphasized by Dr. Anthony M. Penaso, CSU President, “Responsible mining is indeed possible if we CARE enough—that is if we Commit unwaveringly, Adopt proactively, Respond positively and Engage productively with stakeholders to promote and practice responsible mining for sustainable development”.

Indeed, the forum definitely provided a venue for discussion of ideas and sharing of information and best practices and disclosure of research results. It was an open dialogue that allows meeting of minds to set the tone for more improvements towards responsible mining not only in Mindanao but in the country as well.