A tax won’t work (2) | Inquirer Opinion
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A tax won’t work (2)

/ 04:25 AM October 24, 2022

Last week, I discussed why a 10-percent tax on export of nickel ore won’t lead to local processing. For copper, it is already processed in an initial step with the large mines having a concentrator plant attached to them. The extra step of refining that concentrate is already done here by Pasar, which has a smelter to produce cathodes of copper. The next step of manufacturing products, made of copper, is a financial decision manufacturers, independent of the mines, have to make that a tax — on the mines — won’t influence. There’s no sufficient supply for a second smelter. So, a tax on copper won’t work either. What I think this pretty clearly shows is that a 10-percent export tax is only applicable to nickel, but wouldn’t work or achieve the intended aim. This would, in fact, only lead to further uncompetitiveness of nickel ore from the Philippines, which would then likely lead to the eventual closure of existing mines and no new ones, and, therefore, no prospects for processing, with consequent lack of income for the government, jobs for the people, and development of local communities.

What I’d like to discuss here is something I’ve raised again, and again — and again. Thoughtless people want to ban mining, despite the fact that they use mined products in everything they do. These thoughtless people led to a ban on open-pit mining back in 2011, then again in 2017, after it had been relaxed in 2012, before now being allowed again. This bothers me greatly. How can we guarantee that someone that is willing to invest hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars, won’t suddenly have that investment closed down by a new leader with activist ideas? This is a problem not only for mining, but for everything. How do we break the six-year shifts in policies in a way that will protect any investor willing to put his money into the country? Our leaders might want to think about that. That five-year hiatus, which has now been reversed again, set back the development of a number of mines, including the large Tampakan deposit in South Cotabato that was about to reopen. But the Tampakan mayor apparently revoked the company’s business permit. We seem to be lurching from one problem to another.

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Environmentalists of the local Catholic diocese hailed the delay in the development of Tampakan. I’m particularly disappointed in Fr. Jerome Millan of the Catholic Diocese of Marbel who claimed a victory in stopping open-pit mining. He’s saying NIMBY, Not in My Backyard, let other people suffer, as he sees it, the deleterious effects of mining. He’s going against Catholic teaching where imposing on others is not what the Bible teaches you to do. Accepting responsibility and concern for others is throughout the Bible, just one verse — Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He’s also being hypocritical. He uses a gold cross. He kindly feeds children with food cooked in metal pots. His church is lit by electricity produced by metal generators. Or, for the environmentalists, metal-framed solar panels and windmills. Where does he think the ever so many products he uses that have metal in them get the metal from? Mines. Without mines, our world collapses. The Christian thing to do is to say, “let’s do it here, so others don’t have to suffer the degradation (as he sees it, I don’t for reasons I can discuss) of their environment. We’ll do it for them.” That’s the Christian thing to do.

Activists are too often people with the best of intentions, with the least of knowledge. They fail to consider all aspects of an issue. Mining is a good example of that; they oppose it. And, yes, it does harm the local environment—for a while. But post-mining, the land can be converted into something beautiful (a lake) or useful (a city). Pollution from a mine can be minimal if the mining is responsibly done. It’s the irresponsible mining that causes all the trouble. It’s the irresponsible lot where I thoroughly agree with the environmentalists, that must be stopped. That’s what they should focus on.

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Our modern world is totally dependent on mined products, from iron ore to cement. We have no civilization without it. An activist’s role, and particularly the church’s, with all its power, should not try and stop it, but to actively monitor all mines, and fight to ensure that a mine is operated in a manner that minimizes any negative effect on the environment, and looks after the local people. NIMBY is a thoughtless, selfish, unchristian alternative. Without mining we go back to the stone age, living in huts.

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