‘Responsible mining’ is a form of misinformation, fake news | Inquirer Opinion
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‘Responsible mining’ is a form of misinformation, fake news

/ 05:01 AM February 25, 2022

In his Feb. 17, 2022 opinion piece titled “Them thar hills,” Peter Wallace argues for “responsible mining” to address what he calls the concern of the opposition on the environmental damages that mining brings. There is a need to disabuse Wallace and those from the mining industry who tout “responsible mining” as a way to secure the acceptability of large-scale mining projects. From our experience and perspective, “responsible mining” is a form of misinformation or, simply put, “fake news.”

The latest evidence would be the Responsible Mining Index 2022 report of the Responsible Mining Foundation, which concluded that “The vast majority of the 250 assessed mine sites across 53 countries cannot demonstrate that they are informing and engaging with host communities and workers on basic risk factors such as environmental impacts, safety issues or grievances.” See their report here: https://2022.responsibleminingindex.org/resources/RMI_Report_2022-Summary_EN.pdf.

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Related to the concept of “responsible mining” is “sustainable mining,” which was first floated in 2012 during the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil, by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). In less than a year, global environmental groups denounced and exposed this concept as unscientific and socially unacceptable. The ICMM immediately dropped any pretense about “sustainable mining.”

By 2015, the concept of “responsible mining” was introduced to replace the fully-debunked “sustainable mining.” To this date, there is no legal definition of this “responsible mining.” But the mining industry is trying very hard to sell the idea to allow themselves to be branded as “part of the solutions” of climate change, poverty, environmental destruction, and natural disasters.

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The rebranding effort is interesting, but reality depicts a different story for mining-affected communities in particular and for national sustainable development in general.

Wallace himself posits that for “responsible mining” to happen, “it just needs firm, strict control by both the national and local governments.” He adds that “as we know that won’t happen without pressure” and that “we, the public, must exert that pressure.”

It sounds as if Wallace himself thinks “responsible mining” is far-fetched as he asserts that “if the government only licenses reputable companies (I suggest with an international partner who has an international reputation to protect), the risk is much reduced. If the opposition takes an active stance, any misdemeanors can be brought to attention early on.”

We would like to remind Mr. Wallace that this was specifically done when environmental groups actively engaged the mine audit led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources under Gina Lopez in 2016, which resulted in the closure and suspension orders against 28 operating mines. Sadly, almost all of these mines that violated environmental laws or failed to comply with their own contractual obligations have been allowed to operate again.

There goes effective regulation by the government.

Given the corruption in the government and the presence of corporate capture in government policy and regulation, “responsible mining” is unlikely to happen here in the Philippines.

Latest scientific evidence on climate change concludes that because of human abuse of the environment, the planet is now in crisis as climate catastrophes are expected to happen if nations fail to curb global temperatures. It is imperative that stewardship over natural resources and the environment be exercised in order to preserve it for future generations.

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Certainly, the issue is not only about grabbing the country’s land, as Wallace puts it. But the impact of mining on communities—displacement, land-use change, deforestation, erosion, contamination of soil, local streams and wetlands, water use impacts, among others.

Indiscriminate and destructive mining must be stopped. We need to be rational about mining. “Responsible mining” is a myth. Or fake news, as this generation likes to put it.

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator, Alyansa Tigil Mina, [email protected]

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TAGS: Jaybee Garganera, mining, responsible mining
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