Minahang Bayanihan (The South Cotabato Small Scale Mining Program)
South Cotabato is rich in minerals. An estimated 2.5 million tons of copper and gold reserves are present in one municipality alone. But mining has led to a host of socio-economic and environmental problems.
Through its “Minahang Bayanihan” or People’s Small Scale Mining Areas program, the provincial LGU addressed the issues with the help of the affected communities.
All the mining associations and cooperatives were organized into one federation, with a representative in the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board to ensure that issues are efficiently addressed by the mining regulatory and policy making body. The LGU also used new technologies like Global Positioning Systems for geo-hazard assessment and installed CCTV cameras in strategic areas to ensure 24-hour surveillance and monitoring. This resulted in the closure of 10 tunnels situated in high risk areas and about 300 tunnels and 200 ore processing plants without permits.
By overhauling the permit issuance system and conducting a series of dialogues with the identified illegal miners, the LGU gained better compliance to mining regulations. New safeguards and policies were also established to ensure that the permitting system remained transparent. The release of mining contracts and Small Scale Mining Identification Cards were contingent on mandatory orientations on environmental laws, disaster risk assessments, mine safety and rules and regulations on small scale mining. A Minahang Bayan Center was also put up for easy access to permits processing and as a center for small scale mining affairs and various trainings. The provincial government also strictly prohibited the registration of minors.
NGOs were tapped to conduct seminars on Environmental Management and Alternative Environment Friendly Technology in mining. These enhanced the knowledge of the participants on the management and preservation of the environment in small-scale mining areas. Through these efforts, miners were able to understand current mining issues, and started to initiate their own corporate social responsibility programs and environmental protection activities like tree planting and clean-up drives.
In the ladderized system of resolving conflicts, tribal leaders and other key figures in the mining community were tapped and involved in resolving issues before it was elevated to the barangay level. This strengthened the capacity of the community to resolve conflicts and issues among themselves.
From only six mining contracts and five processing permits in 2010, there are now 159 legal mining contractors and 105 legal mining processors with a measured compliance rate of 85%. Child labor and mining related accidents have also been reduced by 90%. Moreover, at least 15 hectares of forest land were developed and planted with 7,868 assorted forest and fruit trees by the small-scale miners.
As a result of the program, illegal mining activities have been drastically reduced. By involving the community and partnering with different key stakeholders, the provincial government has been able to put in place a program that addresses all the various small scale mining issues. The Minahang Bayanihan Program is now being recognized as one of the most innovative and one of the best practices in small scale mining regulation by various NGOs and LGUs all over the Philippines.