(PN file photo)

Environment and natural resources secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga called on the country’s mining sector to apply sustainable practices to protect the country’s natural resources while exploiting its rich minerals.

Loyzaga addressed the Chamber of Mines in the Philippines during a summit on July 18 which centered around the theme Pioneering the Green Transition: Advancing Sustainable Mining”, and was organized by the Swedish Embassy and Business Sweden, with the Chamber of Mines in the Philippines as a co-organizer.

Sweden acknowledged that Philippine’s rich mineral resources amounting to almost $ 1 trillion, is critical to the manufacture of in-demand exports for chip-driven gadges and electric vehicle batteries. The abundance of such in-demand minerals as gold, copper, and nickel mined in the Philippines was what Loyzaga pointed out as the number one reason why sustainable mining should be developed in the country.

“This all involves investing in science and technology and in integrating social and ecological considerations into our mining operations, promoting biodiversity, as well, reducing carbon footprints, and implementing effective waste management practices. These must not just be part of our regulatory requirements but must now become essential elements of a progressive and responsible mining sector,” Loyzaga said.

Loyzaga agreed that the Philippines must leverage its natural wealth responsibly in order for the socio-economic benefits of mining to extend to all Filipinos. She acknowledged especially those communities that hosted mining operations and beyond.

Furthermore, she said that the Philippines could learn from Sweden’s history and experience in promoting scientific advancement, transparency, accountability, and sustainability in the mining sector. Loyzaga added that the Philippines can participate in the race to resilience and become a low-carbon society, and that this was possible through sustainable mining practices.

Stewardship, biodiversity protection, low carbon development, and the implementation of the Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (PENCAS) were noted as critical areas for the green transition of the mining industry, under DENR Administrative Order No. 2022-04.

The PENCAS Law emphasized the integration of biodiversity management within mining practices to ensure conservation. Loyzaga stated that the DENR was committed to ensuring that this was a fundamental component of mining operations, and not just a mere regulatory requirement.

As of May 2024, the DENR noted that over 55 million seedlings were planted by mining companies in over 50,000 mined-out areas, all with a survival rate of almost 90%.