Latest Philippine export data of minerals to major destinations such as Japan, China, US and Canada amounted to $1.59 billion, mostly of copper, gold and nickel.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – When it comes to mineral resources, the Philippines is considered the fifth richest country in the world. It has the largest nickel reserves – which explains perhaps why most of the 35 operating metallic mines in the country as of Oct. 2012 based on data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau are into nickel mining. The Philippines is also rich in gold deposits. It is third in the world for gold; fifth in copper. On top of these, the Philippines is reportedly rich also in non-metallic and industrial minerals such as marble, limestone, clays, feldspar, rock aggregates, dolomite, guano and other quarry resources.
The Philippines has an estimated $840 billion worth of untapped mineral resources according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). That is said to be 15 times the amount of the country’s foreign debt.
Of the 30 million hectares total land area of the country, about a third or nine million hectares have been identified as having high mineral potential, and nearly four percent of these lands (1.14 million hectares as of Jan. 2012) are covered with mining tenements. These areas are still “subject to mandatory relinquishment provided under the law,” the MGB said. It simply means there are still furious and bloody struggles over these lands that the government has approved for mining. Over half of these lands are ancestral domains of indigenous tribes in the Philippines, the Katribu Partylist said. Militarization is happening over these lands such that cases of human rights violations ranging from forced evacuation, harassments and massacres of locals opposing mining operations are being reported.
Defend Patrimony cited data from the Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF-JED) saying that mining-related murders make up three-fourths of the total recorded killings of environmental advocates under the Aquino government. The latest was the murder of B’laan chieftain and staunch opponent to Xstrata-SMI, AntingFreay and his son, Victor, last August 23 at the hands of paramilitary troops under the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Task Force KITACO. His wife, Kiit Freay, survived the attack. Bryan Epa, an anti-mining activist in Nueva Vizcaya, was also the latest victim of enforced disappearance when he was illegally arrested by the local Philippine National Police last August 21 and has not been seen since.
Latest Philippine export data of minerals to major destinations such as Japan, China, US and Canada amounted to $1.59 billion, mostly of copper, gold and nickel. That was just the export data from Jan. to Sept. of 2012. The country’s gross production value of metallic minerals in 2012 reached P100.80 billion ($ 2.3 billion). It was lower by 18 percent compared to the P122.98 billion ($ 2.8 billion) produced in 2011.
These data from MGB suggest the high profitability of mining in the Philippines, given that in just nine months of 2012, a third of the total mining investments from 2004 to first half of 2012 (amounting to $4.630 billion) was already matched by export earnings.
In fact, the total mining investments amounting to $4.630 billion since 2004, when the constitutionality of Philippine Mining Act was being approved by the Supreme Court up to the first half of 2012, have already generated $5.1 billion in gross production value of metallic minerals in years 2011 and 2012 alone. Little wonder then that mining companies desire to continue operating in the Philippines.
In 2011, the mining industry generated P22.079 billion (about $503 million) in national and local taxes, fees, and royalties and employed more than 200,000.
In 2012, the mining sector employed 252,000, a very small percentage of the country’s employed, but the MGB said “it is conservatively assumed that for every job in the industry, about four indirect jobs may be indirectly generated in the upstream and downstream sectors.”
Meanwhile, local communities affected by mining rue the loss of their former livelihood in fishing, agriculture and forestry, as some of them were forced to become mineworkers instead, or service workers for those at work in the mines, including some women becoming prostitutes, reportedly driven to it by the combination of their family’s loss of land, livelihood and influx of men working in the mines.
Environmentalists also blame the liberalized mining sector for the greater destructiveness of natural disasters in the country. Mining companies are blamed for contributing to massive siltation of the rivers, poisoning the waterways and agricultural fields with toxic chemicals and rendering communities more vulnerable to flooding.
“A case in point, Philex’s Padcal mine, has up to now cleaned up only one million metric tons or just five percent of the total amount of toxic mine tailings it spilled from its outdated dam facilities last year. Philex has in fact refused point-blank to pay the P6.42-billion demanded by the National Power Corporation for the rehabilitation of the affected San Roque Dam. It can only be concluded that big mines are unwilling to pay environmental and social costs they entailed to protect their profits in these times of crisis,” Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE, said in a statement.
During the Supreme Court hearings last month on the petitions against the mining act, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, reading from a list of submitted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, reportedly found out that most of the 350 registered mining companies in the country do not have or do not indicate an “environmental work program” in their mining concessions with the government. The DENR cannot even tell the High Court how much is being spent to protect the environment, if any.
Kalikasan PNE and Defend Patrimony, in a protest at the street leading to the confab of large mining companies’ representatives this week, called for the immediate pullout and demobilization of all military and paramilitary troops from mining areas and the immediate filing of criminal charges against military, paramilitary, police and security forces with track records of killings and human rights violations. Finally, they called for the passage of the People’s Mining Bill, a progressive policy on large-scale mining that seeks to reorient the industry towards domestic economic development, genuine environmental safety and a needs-based extraction.