Yes, responsible mining and environmental protection can co-exist. Modern and responsible mining does not destroy the environment; it just alters it to another land use. The future use of the land after mining is designed and planned even before mining starts. The government also requires that mining contractors institute an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program before the mining operation starts in order to protect the environment.
The Mining Act and its Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations, DENR AO 96-40, as amended, requires that an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program covering the period of the mineral agreement or permit be prepared and approved prior to commencement of mining or exploration. The environmental program shall be incorporated in the work program which the contractor or permittee shall submit as an accompanying document to the application for a mining permit or exploration permit. The work program shall include not only plans relative to mining operations but also to rehabilitation, regeneration, revegetation and reforestation of mineralized areas, slope stabilization of mined-out and tailings covered areas, aquaculture, watershed development and water conservation; and socioeconomic development.
The Mining Act requires that the Contractor shall assist in the development of its mining community, the promotion of general welfare of its inhabitants and the development of science and mining technology. In line with these, a five-year Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) is prepared in partnership with the host and neighboring communities. The SDMP should be able to provide alternative livelihood opportunities for employees, their dependents, and the neighboring communities during the life-of-the-mine. The mining company is mandated to spend at least 1% of the annual direct mining and milling costs for social program.
Section 62 of the Mining Act also prescribes that the contractor shall give preference to Filipino citizens in all types of mining employment within the country insofar as such citizens are qualified to perform the corresponding work with reasonable efficiency and without hazard to the safety of the operations. Priority is also given to the local residents in hiring workers for the mining project.
To ensure compliance of approved environmental programs, Multipartite Monitoring Teams (MMT) are created to monitor their implementation. The expenses for such monitoring activities are charged to the Monitoring Trust Fund that the Contractor is required to setup. The MMT is composed of representatives from the environmental NGO; the affected communities; the affected Indigenous Cultural Community(ies), if any; the Contractor; from the DENR-Regional Office concerned and the representative of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Regional Office as Head.
Under Section 16 of the Mining Act, “No ancestral land shall be opened for mining operations without the prior and informed consent of the indigenous cultural community concerned.”
In the event of an agreement with an indigenous cultural community, royalty payments are also agreed upon by the parties. The said royalty shall form part of a trust fund for the socioeconomic well being of the indigenous cultural community.