The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) supports the addition of more Minahang Bayan as the bureau believes dedicating more areas nationwide for small-scale mining will increase the opportunity for the government to keep track of the practice.
Out of 141 applications the MGB has received, a total of 26 areas were recognized and declared as new Minahang Bayan as per MGB Acting Director Wilfredo Moncano.
Moncano said during the launch of the mercury-free gold mining initiative for the Philippines and Mongolia in Quezon City that MGB is “working to fast-track the approval of applications for Minahang Bayan areas nationwide.”
With small-scale miners operating legally in designated Minahang Bayan sites, the government will be able to better monitor and regulate extractive activities while helping promote the safety of these workers, protect the environment, and generate revenues for government.
Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, Minahang Bayan “refers to the entire area declared as people’s small-scale mining area pursuant to RA 7076,” reads the law’s Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).
The IRR also points out that having a small-scale mining operation outside a Minahang Bayan is prohibited just as no entity shall engage in small-scale mining without a small-scale mining contract.
“It’s difficult to monitor small-scale miners if they’re operating outside Minahang Bayan areas,” MGB Small-Scale Mining Development Section chief Joel Natividad said in report by the Philippine News Agency.
He also noted that small-scale miners having activities inside a Minahang Bayan will make it easier for MGB to provide them some technical assistance including teaching them mining without using mercury.
According to the law, small-scale mining is defined as “mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implement(s) and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment.”
Small-scale mining is only applicable to gold, silver, and chromite with restriction on extracting metallic minerals. It is also indicated in the Executive Order 79 series of 2012 that the usage of mercury in small-scale mining is deemed illegal.