The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has underscored the mining sector’s potential to contribute to economic recovery through sustained support for responsible mining and establishment of mineral processing plants.

DENR Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna cited the contribution of the mining industry to the country’s economy in recent years, during the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Joint Consultative Meeting on Mining Concerns in Northern Mindanao and Zamboanga Peninsula on May 5.

“Even during the pandemic, the mining industry was able to boost our country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by P102.3 billion in 2020, and by P22.3 billion in the first quarter of 2021,” Sampulna said in his speech read by Undersecretary for Legal, Administration, Human Resources and Legislative Affairs Ernesto D. Adobo Jr.

Adobo, who is also the Supervising Undersecretary for Mining Affairs, pointed out that if responsible and sustainable utilization of resources continues, the mining industry’s contribution to GDP would be “100 percent of what the sector is contributing today, and maybe more.”

“There are even numbers saying it would be in trillions,” Adobo pointed out.

However, Adobo emphasized that mining activities should be done with due regard to the environment.

For his part, MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said the DENR aims to reach a globally competitive mineral sector with the establishment of mineral processing plants across the country.

“The economic contribution of having mineral processing plants in the country is 7 to 12 times more than the current setup, and that is, direct shipping of minerals produced. If we have these processing plants, we will have bigger shares of exports, revenues, taxes, and fees,” Moncano said.

He added: “We aim to reduce the direct shipping of our ores and instead have the processing here. Right now, we are only processing nickel, but if we have more mineral processing plants, we can recover other minerals like chromite, scandium and cobalt.”

Moncano said the DENR-MGB is now coordinating with the Senate and the House of Representatives to push for legislation pertaining to the establishment of mineral processing plants in the country.

The consultative meeting held in Cagayan de Oro City gathered mining companies in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao identified by the MGB with mining priority projects in Phases 1 and 2.

Phase 1 covers companies in the development and construction stage whose commercial operations are expected to become viable within six months, while Phase 2 includes companies in the process of filing for declaration of mining project feasibility and those in the advanced exploration stage.

The event served as an avenue that linked mining companies and national government agencies, such as the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, and Department of Public Works and Highways, to discuss issues and concerns during the filing of mining applications, securing of certifications, and approval of permits, and to clarify and expedite processes. ###