Published May 31, 2017, 10:00 PM By George S. Chua
A lot of controversy has recently been plaguing the mining industry with numerous mines being “audited” and many closed down. The numerous arguments against mining are that they cause pollution, destroy the environment, rob local residents of job opportunities and the contribution of these extractive industries in taxes to the government is a pittance.
There is a strong lobby proposing that instead of having a mining industry in a local com-munity, they would be better off promoting tourism which will create more jobs and pre-serve nature at the same time. While this might address some of the needs of the local residents, it really does not offer much in terms of alternatives to the miners themselves, many of whom are specialized engineers and highly skilled workers. It also does not pro-vide any alternatives to the mining companies themselves who have invested heavily in the mining equipment and the infrastructure.
What can be done about all these resources, both manpower and equipment, we currently have in mining? To begin with, think about what mining companies do. They do a lot of excavation work, such as in making open pit mines or tunneling deep underground. They also crush millions of tons of rock and process them to extract minerals, metals and other precious materials. Mining companies have also been known to construct access roads and bridges to get to the mining site and the power and water systems needed to operate a mine.
One of the priority programs of the Duterte administration calls for the heavy infrastructure development of railways, subways, highways, bridges, sea ports and air ports. There are many foreign companies looking into providing their engineering services, equipment, ma-terials and financing for these projects. Perhaps an opportunity is staring at us in the face! Infrastructure development is probably a bigger industry than mining. Rather than having foreigners dominating that industry in our own country, shouldn’t we look carefully of the expertise of our displaced miners and mining companies?
I think the mining industry can be repurposed to be a major part our push for infrastructure development. Another plus factor is that mining companies are located away from most urban areas, and this is were many infrastructure projects are needed to encourage devel-opment. The mining industry has the expertise needed to dig shafts and tunnels underground and since we are talking about subways in Metro Manila, perhaps they can be tasked to undertake this project without further aggravating our already problematic traffic situation.
If we can repurpose our mining industry towards infrastructure building, we could come up with a win-win situation, where the mining companies can continue to operate and make money, the government gets to have their projects done professionally, on time and on budget, the environmentalists would be happy to see mining reduced, farmers and busi-nesses can operate more efficiently by making use of these new facilities and most of all, the people will have more jobs, a safer and more efficient mass transport and have more time to enjoy life. If this happens, the government can use the tag line of one of our retired senators, “Gusto ko Happy ka!”