Despite the calamities being associated with the mining industry, the government continues to move toward the formalization and regulation of the small-scale mining industry to help in economic recovery.

In a recent virtual forum, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said it is now crafting amendments to  Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991.

Sen. Bong Go had initiated legislative support for the changes to the almost 30-year-old law.

“It needs to be revised to be attuned with the current times. In reality now, small-scale mining is not done manually unlike before,” MGB acting director Wilfredo Moncano said.

One of the key provisions of the proposed amendments is to regulate the use of explosives for small-scale mining, which is technically not allowed under the law.

Moncano said many small-scale miners have long been using explosives.

Another is the requirement for small-scale miners to provide funds for the environment. Right now, they remain to be tax-free.

“They need to contribute for environmental protection, when you aggregate that, it would be huge. We will require small-scale mining operators to contribute funds for environment protection and safety,” Moncano said.

The government has long been trying to regulate small-scale miners, but not much has really been done.

Last year, the government issued an order requiring small-scale mining operations to meet stricter conditions in the disposal of residual stockpiles, or ores previously extracted but not yet disposed during the mining contract.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Jim Sampulna said small-scale miners remain to be among the agency’s dilemmas.

“While we tax large miners, these small miners are tax-free. And they are earning as much as the same as the big companies,” Sampulna said.

“We need to focus on them because it appears that they are becoming syndicates,” he said.

The DENR has been touting the mining industry as a major contributor in economic recovery amid the pandemic.

“The mining industry is our last card as far as the economy is concerned,” Sampulna said.

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