Senator Richard J. Gordon on Monday moved to tighten the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 through provisions mandating stricter screening of mineral ores for export to ensure the country will not be shortchanged in the exploitation of its resources.
In filing Senate Bill (SB) 1634, Gordon sought to enact remedial legislation requiring “mandatory domestic processing of all mineral ores before exportation,” as well as a “certification showing presence or lack of rare earth elements.”
The senator pointed out that rare earth metals, including “other elements more expensive than gold,” are found in mineral raw materials that, he learned, were “being exported without our knowledge.”
Gordon’s bill proposed that before minerals, ores and other elements are shipped to other countries, “there must first be a required inspection by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to determine whether more valuable and more expensive elements are present, i.e., vanadium, cobalt, scandium and /or other rare earth elements.”
Asserting the need to “know what we are selling to avoid being shortchanged,” the senator said the “principle of Caveat Venditor [let the seller beware] must be emphasized, hence, this bill provides for the mandatory domestic processing of all mineral ore.”
SB 1634 was prompted by findings of the Gordon-chaired Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon), which rendered a report after conducting an inquiry into the reported destructive mining operations or illegal excavations in Zambales.
Gordon said the following sections of Republic Act (RA) 7942 need to be amended to read as follows:
■ “Section 3[y]. Mineral processing means the milling, beneficiation or upgrading of ores or minerals and rocks or by similar means to convert the same into marketable products, and/or the process of separating commercially valuable minerals from their mineral ores;
■ Section 53. Ore Transport Permit. A permit specifying the origin and destination and quantity of nonprocessed mineral ores or minerals shall be required for their transport. Transport permits shall be issued by the mines regional director who has jurisdiction over the area where the ores were extracted. In the case of mineral ores or minerals being transported from the small-scale mining areas to the custom mills or processing plants, the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board concerned shall formulate their own policies to govern such transport of ores produced by small-scale miners. The absence of a permit shall be considered as prima facie evidence of illegal mining and shall be sufficient cause for the Government to confiscate the ores or minerals being transported, the tools and equipment utilized, and the vehicle containing the same. Ore samples not exceeding 2 metric tons (MT) to be used exclusively for assay or pilot-test purposes shall be exempted from such requirement; and
■ Section 55. Minerals Processing and Minerals Processing Permit. Any mineral ores extracted under the provisions of this Act shall be processed within the country. No person granted with permit for purposes of mining operation shall be allowed to export the unprocessed mineral ores to other country for purposes of trading mineral products without a certification of compliance showing presence or lack of rare earth elements or other valuable minerals. any person exporting the unprocessed mineral ores without the aforementioned certificate of compliance shall, upon conviction, be imprisoned from six years and one day to 12 years and pay the fine amounting to twice the value of the seized mineral ores. In addition, the cargo containing the unprocessed mineral ores shall be confiscated in favor of the state. in the case of associations, partnerships or corporations, the president and each of the directors in shall be responsible for the acts committed by such association, partnership or corporation.
He added the bill also provides that “no person shall engage in the processing of minerals without first securing a minerals-processing permit from the secretary” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Moreover, the Gordon bill provides that “minerals-processing permit shall be for a period of five years renewable for like periods, but not to exceed a total term of 25 years. In the case of mineral ores or minerals produced by the small-scale miners, the processing thereof, as well as the licensing of their custom mills or processing plants, shall continue to be governed by the provisions of RA 7076.”