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Mining industry takes its responsibilities seriously

Article - December 12, 2011
Thanks to the PMDC, the future of Philippine mining industry, and its workers, looks bright

Located in the southeast of Philippine’s Mindanao Island, Mt Diwata has provided gold for nearly three decades. A scramble followed news of the first find in September 1983, and in just three years the population of the area soared to 125,000. Frantic small-scale mining led to dangerous working conditions and numerous accidents, plus many adverse environmental effects including the pollution and siltation of the Naboc River.

Mining operations continued throughout the 1980s but the lack of proper permits, coupled with intense squabbles and the threat to public safety eventually forced the Government to halt mining and mineral processing operations in the region.

The government declared a state of emergency in Diwalwal – all areas surrounding Mt. Diwata – and appointed the Department of Environment of Natural Resources (DENR) to manage and develop its 8,100 ha. This paved the way for PMDC to proceed with the development of mining in the area.

The Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) was created in 2003, known then as the Natural Resources Mining Development Corporation (NRMDC), to address environmental protection issues, and the health, social and economic wellbeing of the population. One of its first acts was to scale down mining operations, in  order to produce greater efficiency.

As a government-owned and controlled corporation, PMDC also conducts the exploration, development, transportation, and trading of all kinds of mineral deposits and substances.

This positions the company as a catalyst for developing mining projects in areas difficult for private investors to access. The Philippines is considered to be fifth richest in the world in terms of mineral wealth, with total mineral reserves estimated to amount to US$1 trillion. Clearly, there are many opportunities in the country’s mining sector and PMDC is increasingly opening up to foreign investors.                 

The PMDC requires each company to submit quarterly reports and its development plan from the beginning, including its environmental program. This way, all progress is monitored from the start. If PMDC detects any violation of the environmental regulations, the contract is immediately terminated.

As Mr. Lito Mondragon, President and CEO of PMDC says:

“I think we need to promote the fact that these mining claims are available for development. Investors are looking for available mining claims, rather than us looking for investors to engage in mining in the Philippines. We will be engaged in responsible mining, and that is our role. If we enter into an agreement with our partners, we will ensure that the operating partner will conduct responsible mining plus corporate social responsibility with the surrounding communities. We are implementing this now in the areas in which we operate. We have been helping the community.”

Though PMDC is government-owned, it is not subject to bureaucratic measures, and as a result does not need licenses from the government to process concessions. In 2011, 18 new projects were scheduled for bidding, with China demonstrating special interest.

In the mining sector, the government administration is always pushing for sustainable development including protection for indigenous people. Following concessions, follow-ups are carried out.