Responsible mining contributes to economic development. Mining-related activities create jobs and generate revenues, both to the national and local government units. Recognizing the importance of mining, the Congress enacted Republic Act 7942 otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 instituting a new system of mineral resources exploration, development, utilization, and conservation. Further, in 2003, the national government made a policy shift from tolerance to promotion of mining. This policy shift emphasized that mining should be pro-people and pro-environment.
Quarrying is the process of extracting, removing and disposing quarry resources found on or underneath the surface of private or public land. It is a source of livelihood to the sand and gravel industry and to hollow block making.
Mining affects the environment and the society. Its related disruptions can significantly affect the physical environment in the form of contaminated surface and ground waters, changes in river regimes and water tables and the destruction or loss of habitat for certain species. Mining also impacts on the local communities through the disruption of their livelihood activities. In order to mitigate these impacts, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) spearheaded several initiatives to cushion the effects of mining to the environment. These includes the formulation of the industry cyanide code for use in gold mining, development of a mining handbook to reduce the risk of accidents and the preparation of case studies for best mining practices.
In 2000, the Global Mining Initiative (GMI) was launched by the world’s largest mining companies. GMI initiated the Mining Minerals Sustainable Development (MMSD) project as an independent process of multi-stakeholder engagement and analysis, with the objective of identifying how mining and minerals can best contribute to the global transition to sustainable development. While there are many challenges that confront the industry, these initiatives are geared towards sustainable mineral industry development.
The development of the mining industry proved its potential for propelling economic growth and generating employment in the Bicol region. The entry of foreign investors contributed to the revitalized mining industry in Bicol. At present, there are two large scale mining firms operating in the region. These are the Ibalong Resources and Development Corporation that produces Mayon cement and the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project that produces gold, silver, copper and zinc. As of 2005, mining and quarrying contributed 9.2 percent to the gross regional domestic product (GRDP).
Four small scale mining projects are operational. These are: (1) the Aroroy Gold Rush Areas in Aroroy, Masbate; (2) the Siruma Clay Project in Siruma, Camarines Sur; (3) the Paracale People’s Small Scale Mining Area in Paracale, Camarines Norte; and (4) the UBS
Marketing Corporation in Legazpi City. These small scale mining projects generated 309 jobs (Table 1).
The Rapu-Rapu mining project was temporarily closed due to two mine spills in October 2005. For sixteen months, the milling operation was suspended. Investigation and site inspections were conducted to review and evaluate the firm’s facilities. Sanctions were made, an affirmation of the polluter pay principle set by the government. After complying with all the requirements and conditions set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), operations resumed in February 2007. The Rapu-Rapu project generated 973 jobs during its construction stage. At present, there are more than 800 permanent employees in the project.
The Filminera Resources Corporation is currently preparing the feasibility study for a large scale gold mining project in Aroroy, Masbate. Operation of this project is targeted in late 2007.
Quarrying provides employment to the sand and gravel industry in Bicol. It also generates revenue for the local government units that issue permits to quarry. The sources of quarry are the river beds. Among the region’s provinces, Albay has the largest deposit of sand and gravel quarry around Mayon volcano. The stone, gravel and sand deposits are used in the construction business.
There are ten metallic and thirteen non-metallic mineral resources that are commercially available in the Bicol region. The metallic resources are gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, zinc, chromite, manganese, pyrite, and magnetite sand. Gold can be found in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, and Masbate. Gold, silver, and copper reserves are estimated at 34 million metric tons. More than half of these reserves can be found in Camarines Norte. Iron, zinc, and lead reserves are mostly found in Camarines Norte. Iron reserves in Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon and Catanduanes is estimated at 18 million metric tons. Chromite is present in Camarines Sur. Total chromite deposit is 117 thousand metric tons. Manganese is found in Camarines Sur, Sorsogon and Catanduanes. Total manganese reserve is estimated at 181 thousand metric tons. Pyrite is found in Albay and Camarines Sur. Total pyrite deposit is estimated at 5.3 million metric tons. Magnetite sand can only be found in Sorsogon with a total reserve estimated at 217 million metric tons.
There are 16 approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) and three exploration permits.
The next three years of the plan period has the following objectives under the mining and quarrying sub-sector
To contribute to the poverty reduction efforts of the government through the generation of mining related jobs; and
To promote and foster responsible mining.
Responsible mining and quarrying shall be strongly promoted in the region. The RDC 5 shall take the lead in this activity, while MGB 5 and EMB 5 shall take charge of the regulatory aspects of mining. Quarrying shall be the concern of the local government units. These activities shall be based on the successes gained by the mining and quarrying industry.
Corporate social responsibility shall be promoted in the mining industry and all mining firms shall be encouraged to adhere to this strategy. Social development and management program of mining projects shall be promoted to ensure compliance to the Philippine Mining Act. Information, education and communication campaign shall be pursued for all mining projects. Social development programs shall be formulated and developed for small scale mining communities. These shall be conducted by MGB Region 5 in collaboration with all mining and quarrying stakeholders.
In the interest of transparency, details of all exploration projects and their potential impacts shall be made available by mining firms to affected communities, area residents and the public in an appropriate language and format. To cover the lasting environmental impacts of the exploration phase, mining companies shall provide adequate financial guarantees to pay for prompt clean up, reclamation and long-term monitoring and maintenance.
In the planning and design of all mineral development projects, environmental considerations shall be integrated into the life of the mine. Stakeholders shall be allowed to participate in the process of environmental impact assessment (EIA) preparation process. Mining companies shall be required to collect
adequate baseline data during the EIA process. Environmental costs, including those associated with regulatory oversight, reclamation, closure, and post-closure monitoring and maintenance shall be included in the environmental impact assessment. Environmental assessment shall include worst-case scenarios and analyses of off-site impacts. Companies shall work with potentially affected communities to identify potential worst-case emergency scenarios and to develop appropriate response strategies. Biodiversity and small island ecosystem concerns shall be incorporated in the EIA process for mining projects in biodiversity rich areas and small islands.
Multipartite monitoring teams that shall include representatives from the academe, non-government organizations and other interested civil society stakeholders shall be created in the monitoring of mining operations. Mining companies shall be required to make publicly available discharge reports of contaminants to surface and ground waters. Tailings impoundments and waste rock dumps shall be constructed according to standards to minimize threats to public and worker safety and to decrease the costs of long-term maintenance. Tailings impoundments and waste rock dumps shall be constructed in a manner that minimizes the release of contaminants by installing liners if seepage would result in groundwater contamination. In addition, waste facilities shall have adequate monitoring and seepage collection systems to detect and collect any contaminants released in the immediate vicinity. Rivers shall not be used for the disposal of mine waste. Social development projects shall be implemented in host communities/barangays drawn from the taxes or proceeds from mining operation.
A post-decommissioning program shall be implemented to answer the post-mining rehabilitation in consultation with host mining communities. Mining companies shall be required to develop a reclamation plan before operations begin that includes detailed cost estimates. The Plan shall be periodically revised to update reclamation practices and costs. Companies shall be required to restore all disturbed areas so that they are consistent with future uses. This shall include the salvage, storage, and replacement of topsoil or other acceptable growth medium. The environmental performance of mines and the effectiveness of the regulatory agencies responsible for regulating mines shall be addressed through an independent environmental audit. These audits shall be conducted on a regular basis and the results shall be made publicly available.
Financial sureties shall be reviewed and upgraded on a regular basis by the permitting agency, and the results of the review shall be publicly disclosed. Communities shall have the right to independent monitoring and oversight of the environmental performance of a mine.
Major Programs and Projects
Mineral Industry Development Program. This is an ongoing project in Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Masbate that is implemented by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). It promotes the monitoring of mining projects and resolves complaints and cases related to mining. Multi-sectoral monitoring teams are also organized to assist the MGB 5 in monitoring large scale mining projects.
Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project. This is an ongoing project in Rapu-Rapu, Albay that is being operated by Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc. It produces semi processed gold, silver, copper, and zinc
Masbate Gold Project. This is a project proposal of Filminera Resources Corporation at the feasibility study stage It intends to mine gold in Aroroy, Masbate.