Two days after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources made public the results of its mining audit, officials of the DENR and mining companies agreed to work together to ensure that mining redounds to the common good and improves lives of Filipinos, especially in communities that host mining operations.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez met with officials of mining companies on Thursday during which she urged them to take part in the DENR’s integrated area development approach to create “mini economic zones” that can generate employment, livelihood and income-generating activities in communities where they operate.

“When you do that, we can get our people out of poverty,” she said.

Addressing about 80 representatives of mining companies at the DENR social hall in Quezon City, Lopez explained the policies and thrusts of the department stressing that the bottom line is “for the country’s natural resources to be used in a way that benefits the most number of people.”

Lopez noted that in the case of mining, its benefits have been limited while causing “social fissure” in communities.

“There are people who benefit but many others who don’t and suffer. And they fight with each other. That’s the most painful—when the presence of a business interest creates social fissure,” she said.

Saying the purpose of the meeting was “to move forward and work together for the country’s good,” Lopez said, Ï reiterate sincerely and emphatically, I want to help you (the mining industry) make things right and be on the positive side.”

Lopez presented the Total Economic Valuation (TEV) framework, which she described as a "fair and scientific way to make decisions based on monetary evaluation".

She encouraged them to use TEV to identify and quantify the major environmental impacts of mining and from there decide which programs to implement in their areas.

Lopez cited the social development and management program of mining companies as one that can make significant socioeconomic impact if the money is used to create economic activities for communities under the DENR’s area development approach.

"What if in the areas where you are, we ensure an area development approach, wherein your SDMP money is utilized in the best of ways with great social and economic value," she said. "I can work with you there, in such a way that the entire area where you are becomes a huge economic success."

She said that by doing economically viable programs, the development of the community will continue long after mining has stopped.

The DENR also presented programs on reef protection and preservation and the use of biochar to rehabilitate agricultural lands affected by mining, both of which the mining companies could be involved in.

During the open forum, most of those who spoke expressed support for the DENR’s program—particularly the use of SMDP for total socioeconomic development of host communities. ###