BAGUIO CITY — Baguio City hopes to close all small-scale mines within city limits by the first half of 2020 as an environmental-protection measure.

“Two months ago kinausap ko yung DENR at pinasara ko yung mga butas siguro by first semester of next year (Two months ago I spoke with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and I agreed to shut down the mines, which I hope will happen by first semester of next year)” Baguio Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong said on the sidelines of the 66th Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference Thursday.

He noted that there are about 20 small-scale mining operations have been shut down, but cannot give an estimate how many more are still operating.

Mr. Magalong also said that the crackdown on their operations will not affect the city’s economy since small-scale miners do not pay taxes.

Small-scale miners also do not restore the land after completing their digs, and their chemical use is little regulated.

Proclamation No. 414 and Proclamation No. 572 declare some parts of the city, which include Loakan-Apugan, Atok Trail, Kias and some parts of Mines View and Gibraltar, as mineral zones where mining is permitted.

The City Mining Regulatory Board (CMRB) also passed a resolution seeking to repeal these proclamations, citing the potential harm to the environment.

Some members of the city council are also supporting the declaration of Baguio City as a mining-free city to give way to the growing population, noting that sinkholes also pose a serious threat to people living in the areas.

“We cannot sacrifice safety. Yon pa rin ang paramount concern namin. Kinausap ko yung council na we have to declare that Baguio city is a no-mining zone (Safety is our paramount concern. I have spoken to the council for the need to completely declare Baguio City a no-mining zone),” Mr. Magalong said.

The city government is also providing alternative livelihoods to small miners affected by the shutdown, which includes the sale of rice, and vegetables, and hog raising. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang