Philippines mining reforms to manage 'small-scale mining' safety and environment chaos

The Philippine government wants to close thousands of small-scale mines blamed for environmental devastation. President Benigno Aquino announced mining reforms last month that his government said would better regulate a chaotic industry, improve environmental standards and deliver a bigger share of revenues to state coffers.

The changes will amend the government’s small-scale mining provisions which were originally intended to give poor, mainly rural people a chance to earn a little money, according to the head of the government’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Leo Jasareno. But it has been widely exploited and most of the small-scale miners today violate the conditions for small-scale mining by using explosives and poisonous chemicals such as mercury, Jasareno said.

He estimated that there may be as many as 300,000 such small-scale miners across the country, creating a major environmental problem. With few safety regulations, workplace deaths also occur frequently.

“The executive order [Aquino’s mining reforms] will address all the problems in small-scale mining. Environmental problems will be addressed as well as safety,” Jasareno told AFP in Manila.

Some of the key reforms will be to restrict small-scale operations to “community mines”, so that they can be more closely supervised, while others deemed to be dangerous or bad for the environment will be closed.