Quezon City, 12 July 2016 – The newly established Philippine National Coalition for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, together with environment NGO BAN Toxics, today called on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez to hear out the concerns of, and support, the often neglected artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector.
The Coalition formally represents the ASM sector and has appealed to the new administration to respond to the sector’s most pressing issues such as poverty, human rights, legalization, amendment of mining laws, occupational health and environmental impact. The aim of the Coalition is to achieve a progressive, healthy and sustainable ASM community. Led by 15 ASM core group leaders from 6 major ASM provinces in the Philippines, the Coalition is ready and willing to cooperate with the new administration in realizing these common goals.
“Kasama ng gobyerno, nais ng koalisyon na matalakay ang maganda, maayos at makabuluhang pagmimina sa bansa natin,” said Mr. Gil Indino, the Coalition’s Vice President for Mindanao. “Bilang maliit na minero na may magandang hangarin para sa susunod na henerasyon, marami kaming inihandang mga panukala sa tamang pagmimina na sana ay maisabatas.”
The environmental NGO, facilitated the formation of the Coalition, an important step for ASM communities to gain support from the government and to be recognized as a legitimate part of the economy. BAN Toxics has been working on the ground with small-scale gold miners throughout the country to eliminate the use of mercury alongside interventions that promote sustainability, community empowerment and responsible small-scale mining practices. Mercury, a toxic chemical commonly used in small-scale gold mining, is a pressing health and environment problem for ASM. Miners are often unaware of the danger of the mercury they use in gold extraction or know of no other alternative technology.
“This coalition hopes to change the game for small-scale mining communities in the country,” said Evelyn Cubelo, Development Program Manager of BAN Toxics, “With proper support, it can be the best vehicle for miners to look at more responsible mining practices, end poverty and call for mercury-free methods of mining. This is a step towards a more sustainable ASM community.”
The goal is to ensure the government’s support for projects that aim to uplift and transform the ASM sector. Through the Coalition, the discussion on ASM will hopefully be placed in the national policy agenda. The ASM sector and its miners have long been neglected and regarded as illegal despite the fact that the sector consists of roughly 350,000 people as per DENR estimates and benefits around 2 million people. About 28 tons of gold or 80% of the country’s annual gold production was produced by this sector in the past decade.
Because it is considered illegal, the ASM sector has largely been ignored and unrecognized by the government. ASM communities, particularly their Indigenous Peoples, women and children, frequently lack valuable support from the government.
“Ang kahirapan ng mga minero ay isang tahimik na suliranin,” said Sara Aviado of the Samahang Mangkakabod ng Mambulao, Camarines Norte. “Sa pamamagitan ng koalisyon, ang mga maliit na minero ay nabibigyan ng pagkakataon na maging legal. Napakalaking hakbang ng pagbuo ng koalisyon para maging legal, maging maayos at responsable ang pagmimina.”
The establishment of the Philippine National Coalition for Artisanal and Small-scale Mining is timely as it comes when the new government is reviewing its mining policies. Last June during his election thanksgiving party, the newly-elected President expressed that he will support small-scale miners. Although not anti-mining, President Duterte has given statements expressing his opposition to large-scale destructive mining. He has also appointed an anti-mining advocate, Gina Lopez, as his DENR secretary. The Coalition plans to set a meeting with Sec. Lopez and will submit to DENR a letter requesting for this meeting.
- The formation of the Coalition was initiated in April 2016 during the 4th National Artisinal and Small-scale Gold Mining Summit organized annually by BAN Toxics. The formation of the Coalition was made possible with the support of several partner organizations, namely United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Global Environment Facility, U.S. Department of State, Dialogos, and Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
- The Philippine National Coalition for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining have the following calls for the new administration:
- Establish a transition period for mercury use and immediately provide support training for safer and acceptable methodologies for small-scale mining practices
- Provide investment and support for the promotion and transfer of mercury free gold mining practices
- Create policy on tax reforms for gold produced by ASGM to prevent black market trading
- Immediately amend Republic Act 7076 and enact meaningful legislation that addresses the real needs of artisanal and small-scale miners
- Realize or legalize the existing small-scale mining operation across the country under the purview of “Minahang Bayan” as provided for in Section 2 of Republic Act 7160
- Promote awareness on mercury toxicity and its impacts on health and environment through partnerships with key agencies (DENR, DILG,DOH, and DepEd) to aid in the protection of our basic life support system (air, water, forests, mountains, etc.)
- Protect the vulnerable groups (Indigenous People, Women and Children) involved in ASGM and empower stakeholders of ASGM communities
- Engage real small-scale miners in the development of laws and regulations.