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A different voice

/ 12:45 AM April 21, 2016

Today I’m giving way to my daughter Nikki, an environmental scientist (master’s degree from University College of London) working on getting us a greener world. She works for Cardno, an Australian engineering company in its endeavor to ensure that all its projects meet environmental desires. This is her thinking on that very delicate subject, mining.

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Hi. This is going to be controversial.  But why bother writing about something that isn’t? My name is Nikki and I’m an environmental scientist (two degrees and a whole lot of tree-hugging to prove it) who is not antimining.

Don’t get too excited, there. I’m not promining either. But I’m not so naive to think that the world exists in black and white, and my hypocrisy level will not allow me to stand on my soapbox and lambast the industry that is making it possible for me to type this piece on my smartphone made with mined metals.

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Mining will happen so long as we demand the products of the industry. Just because we aren’t buying them from the miners themselves—there are middlemen that manufacture and market the raw materials into goods we so greedily consume —doesn’t mean we are not the demand that keeps the industry in business.

So if you want to make a stand against mining, make a stand against consumerism. Reduce. Stop buying a new phone every year even though the old one still works. Reuse. Sell your old phone or donate it to be used in disaster risk management initiatives. Recycle. Don’t just dump the old phone in the bin; take it to a recycling center.

In the illegal animal trade they use a great slogan: When the buying stops, the killing can, too. Works equally well for mining, I think.

And then, be smart about fighting the miners. Fight the dirty guys—the ones who don’t minimize impacts and mitigate, the ones who don’t reinvest in the environment and the people, the greedy bastards that rape and pillage our mountains without so much as sharing the profit. Whole mountains get leveled and the dirt is shipped to China for processing, leaving but a tiny sum of money for the local government. Communities don’t see much of the money despite being the ones who pay the price. That’s what is happening NOW. So, instead of banning mining, let’s manage it well.

Demand that the new administration put time and know-how and effort into implementing smart laws that protect us. I’m going to repeat the word one more time because it really is key: IMPLEMENTING. Not just legislating, not just providing propaganda, but real, on-the-ground action. We have some of the best environmental laws on the globe and yet our environment takes an incredible beating because nobody is implementing them.

Three of the presidential candidates have said they’ll support responsible mining. But expressing support is different from ensuring the right kind of support and, importantly, control is in place and working. We need a tough, determined leader who will stand for no nonsense. And it’s going to be an issue following the P-Noy administration moratorium on any new mines. It’s not enough of a campaign answer to say “we will do the studies into impacts of mining.” The impacts will vary dramatically with every mine, depending on the location, the environment, the communities, and, most importantly, the miner.

It amazes me that we think it’s a good idea to ban any real investment in responsible mining while not implementing the ban on the small-scale illegal miners that are doing irreparable damage to our national parks. I have seen it firsthand and witnessed the negative impacts.

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I honestly wish we did not need to mine, as much as I wish every coal plant would shut down operations. But sometimes the head has to come for the ride as the heart bleeds on everything, and apply Band-Aids here and there. And I’m a bleeding heart. I would like nothing more than to save every plant and animal from their demise at our hands. If I could, I’d buy all the land and protect it from humans. I have a cry about it every once in a while. But that’s not the world we live in and I know now that I can’t just wish for better. I have to do the best I can with what I have.

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Just to add to my daughter’s thoughts: It’s sad we haven’t had a president with the same balanced point of view. President Aquino’s stopping of any new mining ventures for the past five or so years has cost the country billions of dollars in lost investment, billions of dollars in lost export revenues, and thousands and thousands of jobs. It’s been a major policy wrong. The whims of a man who didn’t study the facts.

So I’m glad that three of the presidentiables have come out with public statements that they’ll support RESPONSIBLE mining. For some reason, Mar Roxas seems lukewarm to supporting mining—like his present boss, I guess. Perhaps Mar can tell us more definitively where he stands and what he’ll do. It will certainly influence my vote. And that is the key word: “responsible.” The distinction is, as Nikki says, essential to understand. Companies and groups that destroy the land, with no attempt to protect or rehabilitate, must be shut down.

The good guys must be allowed to extract the minerals we must have to maintain the quality of our lives today. Sad, though, that it will be at a time when mineral prices are so low so much of the attraction to invest has drifted away.

But it will come back. Responsible mining will help uplift the Philippine economy and its people. That and agriculture, where there was basically no growth last year, were ignored by this administration. They can’t be by the next.

E-mail: [email protected]; Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com.

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TAGS: coal power, consumerism, Elections 2016, environment, mining
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