Responsible mining is possible – BusinessWorld

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SHIBANG / PIXABAY

A few days ago I received a rejoinder from the Mining Chamber of the Philippines (COMP) to my column on mining. Through its Vice President of Communications, Rocky Dimaculangan, COMP shares how mining companies have managed the environmental and social aspects of their business in accordance with the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) standard, first used in Canada. Rocky is also the national coordinator for TSM.

Rocky reassures this column that the mining sector is “implementing strict, independently assured standards based on multi-stakeholder oversight” under the TSM program. He explains that TSM was developed by the Mining Association of Canada in 2004 and is mandatory for its members. And that the program has helped transform Canadian mines for the past 15 years.

“TSM sets a set of expectations or performance indicators that essentially represent the world’s best mining practices in seven protocols: 1.) Safety and Health, 2.) Community Engagement and Intellectual Property (Indigenous Peoples), 3.) Crisis Management and Communication, 4.) Prevention of child and forced labor, 5) residue management, 6) water management and 7) management of the conservation of biodiversity, ”wrote Rocky in an email.

“Every year, each implementing mine evaluates itself against each performance indicator according to each protocol and submits its self-assessment reports to COMP. We will publish such reports so that they are publicly available, which meets the need for transparency. Every three years, each implementing mine undergoes an independent external review, during which qualified inspectors validate the self-assessment reports. You have the power to change the performance level in the self-assessment reports if justified. The results of the external review will also be published, ”he adds.

I believe TSM’s on-site efforts began as early as 2017. However, according to Rocky, it took COMP a few years to align the local mines and “adjust the counters to make sure they comply with our local laws, rules and regulations.” Of course Every global best practice standard for every industry must always take into account the specifics of the local regulatory environment.

The TSM program was launched by COMP in 2020 and began with “voluntary reporting of self-assessment reports so that implementing companies can conduct gap analyzes and adjust their processes and practices accordingly”. In particular, Rocky assures those who are still skeptical that local mining companies are doing things right that “reporting is about to begin [2022]The external review and publication of the self-assessment reports on our website will begin in 2023. “

For me, the TSM program is a step in the right direction. TSM also works with the IRMA or the Responsible Mining Security Initiative, which I have been pushing for since 2017. IRMA is a privately run multi-stakeholder advisory initiative that uses “a multi-stakeholder and independently verifiable responsible mining security system that improves social and environmental performance. “

According to Rocky, TSM has a formal partnership with IRMA “to create more effective interoperability between these two standards”. They are working on an integrated audit trail to integrate the requirements of their respective standards into a single audit trail. In the meantime, the COMP members have agreed to voluntarily adopt TSM standards.

In his email, he also says that local miners “go beyond just complying with regulations and applying best practices” and have also joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to “show our commitment to the highest standards of transparency and Accountability in Business. “

All of these efforts, I think, bode well for the local mining industry. In particular, I think mandatory reporting on miners’ compliance with TSM standards by 2022 is crucial. Self-control and self-regulation through voluntary reporting can only go so far. However, mandatory reporting with publicly published reports by 2023 allows for better transparency and accountability.

According to Rocky, the main strength of TSM is that it has to set up a national multi-stakeholder body called the Community of Interest (COI) Advisory Board in each implementing country. In our case, the Philippine COI body includes representatives from labor, the environment, civil society, science, finance, law, indigenous peoples, the Catholic Church and mining.

One list of the members of the Rocky Show of the Philippine COI panel is Rogelio Francisco M. Bantayan Jr., Executive Director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; UP professors Carlos Primo David and Cielo Magno; Ateneo Dean Ronald Mendoza; former DENR Deputy Secretary Edwin G. Domingo; Catholic Priest Jerome Marquez of the Society of the Divine Word; Attorney Jose V. Mejia; Environmental management professional Liezyl Liton-Relleta; Union leader Gerard R. Seno; Radio journalist Luchi Cruz-Valdes; and finance professional Alexis Benjamin C. Zaragoza III. Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara has retired from the panel, Rocky said, and the COI panel is still considering replacing him as a representative of local government units. Ex officio members of the committee are the directors of the mine chamber, Euls Austin, Gerard H. Brimo and Gloria Tan Climaco.

For the sake of transparency, I choose to publish the names of the members of the COI panel and make it clear who can be involved in the process to ensure that the local mining operations are compliant with TSM standards. In some ways, the same COI body will certainly have a say in setting policy for the industry and is likely to have a say on any proposed law or regulation that affects the industry.

As Rocky notes, “The COI panel can randomly ask the implementing companies to appear before them to discuss their TSM results and answer a series of questions. In Canada’s experience, this has proven extremely valuable as miners can get involved and discover what issues are of concern and interest to members of the panel given the diverse backgrounds they bring to the table. “

I think this is an important factor, although I am not clear to what extent the COI Panel as well as COMP can actually monitor their ranks and enforce compliance among its members. One factor to consider is the power of the COMP or COI panel to reprimand or punish faulty or non-compliant miners and how COMP and the COI panel can work with government regulators in this regard.

“There is responsible mining in our country,” says Rocky. But he adds, “The only problem we see in our country is that there are a number of unregulated, largely illegal operations in our country that spoil the image of the formal large-scale sector as the public is generally not between them distinguishes the two. “

In fact, industry can only go so far as to tackle illegal mining operations. This is more the responsibility of the government. One can only hope that state regulators are up to the task of ridding the ranks of the mining industry of illegals, outsiders and scalawags. In the end, strict adherence to standards by legitimate miners can be in vain if illegal operations only persist.

Marvin Tort is the former Editor-in-Chief of BusinessWorld and former Chairman of the Philippine Press Council

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