Mindanao miners want a clearing house formed under the Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco) that will ensure that their documentation and other requirements are complete before they submit their formal applications for permits to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Manila.
This way, said Edgar D. Martinez, president of the Min-danao Association of Mining Industries which consists largely of small-and medium-scale miners, they can hope for faster official action on their applications for permits. “This will make it easier for us comply with whatever requirements the government will require from us,” Martinez said.
He lamented that several applications of local companies have not been acted on even if these had been filed years ago. Among others, officials who are authorised to act on these applications take their time, even if the only action required is to inform applicants that they lack certain documents or other requirements.
This, Martinez said, is one reason mining industry growth is not as fast as the government would have wanted, even if Manila expects this field to drive investments growth this year.
MGB Regional Dir. Edilberto L. Arreza had earlier admitted that mining industry growth has been sluggish, and that investments in this field in this region alone would have hit P1.7 billion this year, with minerals replacing even banana as its top exports.
He said only two big projects have been operating in the Davao Region: Holcim Philippines, which is into cement production, and Apex Mining Co., owned partly by Crew Gold Corp of Canada.
He said four other mining projects have yet to start, namely: the government-run mining in Diwalwal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, the Kingking copper pro-ject in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, the North Davao gold mining project also in Compo-stela Valley, and the Pujada nickel project in Davao Oriental.
Asiaticus Management Corp has also announced it will start drilling holes for exploration to confirm nickel prospects of the 11,799-hectare project in Mati after it decided to scrap its deal with Australia’s BHP Billiton over the alleged failure of the latter to start operations. The controversy has reached the courts.
Undersecretary Virgilio L. Leyretana, chair of Medco, said implementing guidelines of Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, must be reviewed to give local governments more authority over mining projects in their areas of jurisdiction.
Although he did not categorically agree with the proposal to entrust his office this new responsibility, Leyretana said the law should be “re-tailored” to the needs of the industry. “I look at it [the proposal] with an open mind,” he said.
Earlier, Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon N. Malanyaon complained that while local governments are obliged to ensure that miners observe environment laws, they are not authorised to review applications for mining permits that could weed out prospective problem projects from the start.
A two-day mining summit that opens on August 7 here will discuss why industry growth has not been as fast, and what could be done to revitalise it. “We need to push the industry now. It has so much potential that it can help develop Mindanao as an area of investments,” Leyretana said in an interview.
Arreza said the summit will also discuss how the government can stop mining speculation as some of the permit grantees in Mindanao have not moved to develop the areas awarded them.
Ricardo L. Calderon, Environment and Natural Resources regional director, said the summit will discuss enforcing a “use it or lose it” policy, which will rescind the permit of a mining company that fails to develop its project.
A recent Reuters report cited government data as showing that investments in Philippine mining hit just US$68 million in the first quarter, only 8% of an overall target of US$838 million for the year.