by Floro Mercene
Following the brouhaha that attended the cancellations of scores of mining operations by Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez, the director of the of National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), Carlo Arcilla, advised that a proper audit of all mining operations in the country should be undertaken.
He said the audit should be able to identify mines that obey mining laws and those who violate the law and destroy the environment. This would enable some mines to go on with their operations and allow 1.2 million workers to go on with their jobs.
He said we should allow engineers and scientists to participate in the probe.
Arcilla said the country’s earnings, if averaged, would be only one percent, but since mining is occurring in only 3 percent of the whole country, those 3 percent could lose a lot of money.
He said Palawan alone in the earned P23 billion from laterite mining in 2015, twice of the P10 billion earned from tourism.
Arcilla said the richest mining is in eastern Mindanao and the Caraga region because of chrome, copper, and chromite there. He said the country will not lose much if these mines are closed but we should pity the 1.2 million workers who would be affected, directly and indirectly.
The small-scale mining operations for gold in Davao represents 80 percent of the country’s total gold production, while the remaining 20 percent are those that come from the country’s biggest mines. He said these small miners are not taxed but if big mine operators are given the green light to extract the gold, the Philippines would earn taxes from them, to the disadvantage of 100,000 Filipino.
“This is a political decision and President Duterte could solve the problem provided that his advisers could solve the sharing scheme,” Arcilla said.
Mt. Diwalwal in the Southeastern region of the Philippines is estimated by the DENR as “the largest gold deposit in the world” with an estimated $1.8 billion worth of gold reserves that remain untapped in the 5,000-hectare mountain.