MGB: More than a century of championing sustainability in mining and geosciences

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau dates back during the Spanish regime, known as the “Inspeccion General de Minas.” It took charge of the administration and disposition of minerals and mineral lands. The Office, however, was abolished on July 1, 1886 but its functions and personnel were merged with the General Directorate of Civil Administration.

Under the Philippine Revolutionary Republic, the Departamento de Fomento, translated as Department of Public Welfare was created by virtue of the decree signed by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on November 28, 1898. On November 29, 1898, the President signed a decree creating the four (4) divisions of Departamento de Fomento and one of these divisions was the Industry and Agriculture Division. The Mines Section and the Mountains Sections were also formed, wherein the former was under the director of Industry and Agriculture, and latter was under the director of Publicas.

However, when the Americans came, a reorganization was implemented resulting in the emergence of the Mining Bureau by virtue of General Order No. 31, dated March 10, 1900. As part of the reorganization, the administration of mining grants and claims instituted prior to April 11, 1899 was transferred by Act No. 916 from the Mining Bureau to the Public Lands.

In 1905, the Mining Bureau and the Bureau of Government Laboratories were fused under the Bureau of Science, and the Mining Bureau became the Division of Geology and Mines.

By virtue of Memorandum Order No. 5 dated January 25, 1933, the Mineral Lands Division of the Bureau of Lands was merged with the Division of Geology and Mines under the Bureau of Science to form a division known as the Division of Mineral Resources under the Department of Agriculture and Commerce.

The Division of Mineral Resources was charged with functions of carrying out the provisions of three major laws: (1) provisions of the Act of US Congress 1902 pertaining to mineral lands, and the governance of the leasing and development of coal lands; (2) provisions of Act No. 3077, as amended by Act No. 3852, governing the exploration, location and lease of petroleum; and (3) Act No. 2719 governing mineral oils and gas.

On September 19, 1934, the same division was again placed under the direct supervision and control of the Bureau of Science. It was renamed Division of Mines.

With the promulgation of the Commonwealth Constitution reverting the Regalian Doctrine—which particularly asserts that mineral belongs to the State and their disposition, administration, exploitation, and development shall be done through license, concession, or lease—Commonwealth Act No. 136 and 137 were both enacted on November 7, 1936. Commonwealth Act 136 created the Bureau of Mines, while Commonwealth Act No. 137, otherwise known as the Mining Act of 1936, was actually the first major mining law that would stay for about 38 years until Presidential Decree 463.

When the Second World War came, the Bureau of Mines was reconstituted under the Department of Agriculture and Commerce by virtue of Executive Order No. 1 dated January 30, 1942. In 1944, during the Puppet Philippine Republic, the Bureau of Mines shrunk again into a Division of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The Bureau of Mines was restored in 1945 when the Philippine Commonwealth was re-established on February 27 of the same year. Since then, the Bureau of Mines had been under the direct supervision and control of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

It was only in 1974 that the Bureau of Mines was transferred to the Department of Natural Resources pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 461. On the same day, the Mineral Resources Decree of 1974, or PD No. 463, was issued, amending Commonwealth Act No. 137 to provide among others for a modernized system of administration and disposition of mineral lands and to promote and encourage the development and exploration of the mining industry. PD No. 463 was later revised by PD Nos.1385 and 1677.

On June 6, 1978, PD No. 1281 was promulgated revising Commonwealth Act No. 136 boosting the Bureau of Mines and Geosciences Bureau with additional tasks as well as authority to make it more responsive to the objectives of the government for its minerals sector.

A year after, some sections of PD No. 1281 was amended by PD No. 1654 to include renaming the Bureau of Mines as Bureau of Mines and Geosciences further making it more responsive to its varied functions.

On June 10, 1987, pursuant to Executive Order No. 192, otherwise known as Reorganization Act of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the MGB became one of the staff bureaus of DENR. MGB took the functions of the Bureau of Mines and Geosciences but minus the line functions that were transferred mainly to the DENR regional offices. It also absorbed the functions of the abolished Mineral Resources Development Board (MRDB), and the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Board (GMIAB).

The passage of Republic Act 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 on March 3, 1995, and DAO No. 96-40, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7942, transformed the MGB into a line bureau. The staff bureau created under DAO 1, series of 1988 became the Central Office of the MGB, while Mines and Geosciences Development Service created under DAO 41, series of 1991 became the Regional Offices.

In 1997, by virtue of DAO 97-11, the MGB implemented a full reorganization specifically involving the establishment of two new divisions—the Mining Environment and Safety Division, and the Mine Tenement Management Division—thus, essentially operationalizing the sustainable development principles provision of the Mining Act of 1995.

The year after, the MGB commemorated it’s centennial year and from then on celebrated its anniversary every 29th of November. MGB’s acknowledgement as one of the centennial bureaus further underscored the significance of the State’s management of our mineral resources throughout the decades. Likewise, the long history of MGB has only proven its unwavering commitment in championing sustainability in mining and geosciences.