We believe in responsible mining, because…
This is in response to Gideon Lasco’s “I support responsible mining if…” (8/23/18).
Members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), who all constantly strive to be the epitome of responsible mining, share some of Lasco’s views.
His arguments for his conditional support, however, compel us to respond, as they only feed on misconceptions on mining borne largely by misinformation.
The ubiquity in our daily lives of mineral products indicates there is a demand that should be met and supplied. For the Philippines, being part of the supply chain is just one side of the coin.
The other side is that our country needs development and, since we are blessed with abundant minerals, it would be unwise to not take advantage of such resources.
Comparing the Philippines with Singapore, Hong Kong, Belgium and the Netherlands, which have no mining industries but have reached highly industrialized status, is like comparing apples and bananas.
These jurisdictions have found their respective niches and focused their energies and long-term plans on them. We believe we should do the same for responsible mining.
Our mineral wealth, per Mines and Geosciences Bureau estimates, is worth $840 billion — truly a God-given wealth. In economics, there is the question of opportunity costs.
After a long time when substitutes would have been developed to replace minerals and they would no longer be feasible to mine, what happens to the lost potential gains?
Lasco goes on to compare the Philippine land area to the vast expanses of Australia, the US and Russia, pointing out that, because our land area is small, mining should not be undertaken in the country.
Yet, he fails to mention that mining has an insignificant footprint in the Philippines.
Out of the Philippines’ total 30 million hectares, an estimated 9 million ha, or 30 percent, have high mineral potential, but only less than 1 million ha, or less than 3 percent of the the country’s total land area, are covered by mining tenements.
The mining industry recognizes the environmental impacts of mining, which are thoroughly addressed by the enhanced environmental impact assessment system and the corresponding environmental compliance certificate conditionalities.
There are regulations on mitigating mining’s impact on the environment, as well as on rehabilitation of affected areas, including limitations on where mining should be conducted.
These are being followed by large mining companies, strictly regulated and scrutinized by the government, and regularly checked by multipartite monitoring teams.
It is thus preposterous for Lasco to believe that we can deprive communities of clean water, or affect their health in any way, given these stringent laws and meticulous monitoring systems.
It is equally preposterous for Lasco to think that, in this day and age, we can “force” people out of their homes.
Concessionaires can’t even start exploration in ancestral lands, of which there are many, without getting the consent of our indigenous peoples under the Free, Prior and Informed Consent framework.
We are proud that COMP members have demonstrated responsible mining. Two of these members, Nickel Asia Corp. and OceanaGold Philippines, have won top honors in the first Asean Mining Awards.
An overwhelming majority of communities where we operate are happy with what responsible mining operations have provided them.
Sustainability is considered serious business by our members, who have already taken steps to ensure these host communities will continue to prosper even after mining has stopped.
Mining can be an inconvenient truth to some. For us in the COMP who believe and practice responsible mining, it is simply a sensible and rational truth.
ROCKY DIMACULANGAN, Vice President for Communications and National Coordinator Towards Sustainable Mining Chamber of Mines of the Philippines
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