The Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) reported that only two Minahang Bayan groups are legally operating in the region.
MGB-CAR regional director Engr. Fay W. Apil said there are actually 13 approved Minahang Bayan sites in the region but only two were able to comply with the stringent requirements to operate while the rest of the approved groups have yet to process their documents or are in the final stages of completing the requirements for their operation.
Of the number of approved Minahang Bayan sites, 6 are in Benguet, 4 are in Apayao and 1 each are in Abra, Kalinga and Mountain Province.
She added that only the Loacan Indigenous a Pocket Miners Association (LIPMA) in Itogon, Benguet and the Northern Sagada Miners Association based in Fidelisan, Sagada, Mountain Province have been granted the permit to operate within their applied areas.
The MGB-CAR official noted that in the case of the approved Minahang Bayan applicants from Apayao, the groups completed their respective free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process with the indigenous peoples in their proposed areas of operation and the subsequent memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the said purpose.
According to her, the small-scale miners associations are now working on the issuance of their Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) to pave the way for the signing of their respective small-scale mining contracts that will legally allow them to operate in their designated working areas.
For the Minahang Bayan applicant in Abra, she claimed that the group is finalizing the FPIC process with the host and neighboring communities so that it will also start working on the issuance of the ECC and other related documents that will allow them to legally operate within their proposed areas of operation.
Apil admitted that most of the Minahang Bayan applicants do not have the complete documentary requirements that will pave the way for the issuance of their respective small-scale mining contract that is why strictly speaking, they are not allowed to operate in their identified working sites until their contract shall have been issued.
She stipulated that there are still Minahang Bayan applications that are being evaluated and assessed by the agency whether or not it will recommend the declaration of the proposed site as a Minahang Bayan area for the applicants.
She expressed hope that the 11 other Minahang Bayan applicants will fully comply with the requirements for the formal declaration of their proposed sites as covered by small-scale mining contracts to be able to legitimize their operations to avoid unnecessary inconveniences in the conduct of their livelihood.
Apil called on the applicants to start processing their requirements so that the agency can proceed with the succeeding processes that will eventually grant them the small-scale contract that will legitimize their operations and for them to comply with the standards in the conduct of mining activities.