By: Den Somera - 12:05 AM February 28, 2017
The recent act of Secretary Regina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to suspend or close the operation of 28 mining firms for their alleged failure to comply with environmental laws seem to have all the more heightened the struggle between those who would want to preserve the environment and those who favor mining.
Aside from environmental issues raised by those against mining, they are also critical of the shortcomings of the present revenue-sharing system.
Like elsewhere in the world, mining contributes little to job generation. It has very little contribution to the country’s economy. Thus, critics argue there is not much to lose should the government refuse to give in to the demands of mining.
The Philippines is the fifth most mineral-rich country in the world for its combined deposits of gold, nickel, copper, aluminum and chromite resources with an estimated value of $1.4 trillion.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) also says the country is second and third in the world in gold and copper resources, respectively. The metal deposits are placed at 21.5 billion metric tons while non-metallic minerals are estimated at 19.3 billion metric tons. These resources are located in some 30 million hectares of land areas in the Philippines.
The prevailing mining law allows foreign ownership of mining assets and exploration permits. Available industry’s data show the mining sector has a 0.7 percent contribution to the country’s GDP and comprises 5.6 percent of the country’s total exports. It has created average employment of 236,400 jobs from 2011 to 2015. In 2016, however, it created 218,000 jobs only and produced a gross production value of P100.6 billion. Miners have blamed the previous administration’s mining ban for this.
Bottom line spin
Many seem to take for granted, or maybe simply oblivious, of the fact that at the heart of our daily lives is the mining industry. All the metals and minerals needed and used in agriculture, housing, telecommunications, construction, space exploration, medicine, leisure and—most of all—by the environmental industry, originate from the mining industry.
Even in music, the mining industry is an integral part. The guitars, violins and other string instruments together with the electronic gadgets employed to add richness to the melodies are made of metals and minerals.
Telecom giant PLDT top honcho and pro-mining advocate Manuel “Manny” Pangilinan was even more graphic in driving home the significance of the mining industry to our daily lives when he reminded everyone of the cell phone, which is said to contain about 24 mg of gold, 250 mg of silver, 3,800 mg of cobalt and 9 mg of palladium. This simple example would show the extent of how the mining industry has become a part of our present daily life.
In the same forum, he told his audience that “even to protest against mining,” you need to use materials that come out of mining.
Evidently, the issue on mining is not just about the simple question of whether to favor “No Mining” or “Allow Mining.” The stakes in the issue goes beyond that as both alternatives are but about serving the interest of humanity. It must then be considered beyond the limits of just choosing between the alternative but by striking a balance between them—as in to protect the environment and at the same time foster development.