Mining’s best practices showcased

SURIGAO CITY—Faced with possible hostile regulations under the Duterte administration, the mining sector in the Caraga region is embarking on a campaign to highlight the industry’s best practices of responsible mining in the country.

Dulmar Raagas, president of Chamber of Mines Caraga Region Inc., said the industry was reeling from negative perceptions brought about partly by images of environmental destruction spreading in social media, such as the heavily silted shorelines of Claver town in Surigao del Norte province.

“It’s not the complete picture,” Raagas said. “We also have pristine beaches and marine protected areas in places around the region where mining operations exist,” he added.

Majority of the region’s lateritic nickel mines are found in Claver, a first-class coastal municipality. More than half of 44 large-scale mines operating in the country are in Caraga.

Raagas cited as examples three nickel firms in the region that had adopted “nature-friendly” operations near coastal areas, which earned praises from regulators and industry leaders. These are Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. in Carrascal town in Surigao del Sur province; Cagdianao Mining Corp. (CMC) in Dinagat; and Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC) in Surigao del Norte.

ISO certification

The companies’ environmental management systems have been audited and certified to be compliant with the International Standard Organization (ISO) 14001:2004 by TUV Rheinland. The ISO label is for a “systematic approach” for the improvement of performance in environmental protection and safety management.

“You can’t see any siltation or discoloration in waters around these mines because they observe high environmental standards in their operations,” Raagas said.

“If they can do it, that means it can be done, and it should be done in other mines as well,” he said.

The chamber official had voiced support for President Duterte’s call on mining companies to adopt Australian standards.

Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, on her first day of office, said she would audit all mining firms for compliance with safety and environ- mental standards.

According to Daniel Bilderol, chief of the mine management division of the Mines and Geoscience Bureau-Caraga, responsible miners could be distinguished immediately “by just looking at their footprint and practices.”

Gaas Bay

“Officials of CMC mine, for instance, were able to preserve the surrounding coastal area and they even maintain a marine protected zone,” Bilderol said. He was referring to the 80-hectare conservation area in Gaas Bay, which is home to different species of fish, corals, mangroves and other marine life.

For years, CMC has maintained the area with the local government of Cagdianao, a coastal town in Dinagat province, where the company operates.

The partnership had transformed the bay into a sanctuary teeming with diverse marine life, such as stingrays,baby blacktip sharks, migratory turtles, dolphins and 21 fish species, said the company’s marine biologist, Ezeqio Hataas Jr.

Under the deal, the company pays monthly incentives to some 50 “bantay dagat” volunteers who work in shifts to ward off poachers and fishermen using illegal fishing methods.

As a result, compressor fishing, locally known as “boso,” had been practically eliminated, as well as other destructive fishing methods, Hataas said.

The municipality conducts coastal clean-up activities regularly and helps raise public awareness on the importance of marine protection and conservation.

‘Participatory approach’

In Taganaan town in Surigao del Norte province, HMC implements its own coastal resource management program, in which residents are trained to identify endangered marine species and nesting sites, and improve conservation practices.

Its marine biologist, Phoebe Jean Alac, said the people were also involved in the company’s wildlife protection and conservation efforts.

Share this article