Research group IBON said that despite strong opposition from mining companies, the Duterte government should stand firm on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) head’s order on mines closure. The group also belied mining companies’ claims that large scale mining has brought development to the country.
President Duterte has expressed support for DENR secretary Gina Lopez’ order to close down 23 mining firms and suspend five more due to grave violations against the environment. Ordered closed were Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation and Benguet Corporation and four other mining companies in Luzon, 10 in Vizayas and seven in Mindanao.
Lopez has also ordered the cancellation of 75 mining contracts.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philipines (COMP), meanwhile, composed of the country’s mining firms, has questioned the closure and warned of the massive jobs and revenue losses that it will entail. Finance secretary and Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) co-chairperson Carlos Dominguez also cautioned that the DENR orders would cost affected local governments millions in foregone revenues.
IBON however refuted that large-scale mining has been beneficial to the economy. It said that for instance, while mineral exports hit a high US$3.4 billion in 2013, mining contributed a measly 0.7% to gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year. The sector’s contribution grew to this level only from 0.5% after more than a decade of operations. The annual average share of mining revenues to total government revenues in 2009-2012 was only 1.18 percent, the group added. The contribution of the mining and quarrying sector to employment was also negligible at 0.7% of total employment.
IBON also noted the string of mining disasters since the enactment of the Philippine Mining Act in 1995. Aside from human deaths, large-scale mining has caused damaged dams, soil and water pollution due to excessive tailings, siltation, contamination and damage to agricultural lands, fish kill and other damages to marine life, buried or damaged houses in tailings and flash floods, isolated villages, dust fallout and air pollution, massive evacuation and various illnesses. Moreover, said the group, more than 90% of Philippine mineral production is exported for use by other countries’ steel industries while the country has none. This, despite the Philippines being one of the world’s top producers of gold, copper and nickel.
Government should uphold the mining ban, IBON said, and be wary of opposition coming from certain members of the cabinet involved in the mining sector, which could derail efforts to advance the people’s interests.
The closure and suspension orders is a positive step for the protection of the Philippine environment and towards ensuring that the country’s natural resources benefit the Filipino people, the group added. Various groups are pushing for the resumption of the peace talks as these principles are represented in the negotiations’ social and economic reforms agenda. ###